What are terpenes?


If you’re a cannabis lover, you’ve probably noticed that terpenes are trending. Cannabis producers have devoted plenty of time to the study of “terps” in recent years. Innovations geared towards the preservation and extraction of these beloved compounds have become increasingly popular. Perhaps you’ve even heard friends describe particularly flavorful strains as “terpy.”

So what are terpenes? 

Technically speaking, terpenes are “volatile, unsaturated hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of plants.” They’re chemical compounds that protect plants from insects and bacteria, attract pollinators, and serve as a sort of immune system.

For the purposes of cannabis use, all you really need to know is that these compounds are extremely aromatic. Terpenes carry notes of pine, fruit, pepper, citrus, lavender, and rosemary. They’re the flavor-giving molecules that make your favorite strains distinct and delicious. Terpenes bring complexity and character to cannabis.

Accordingly, the terpene profile of any given strain is what determines how that strain tastes and smells. Whether your favorite strain is piney, peppery, herbal, or fruity depends on the levels and types of terpenes found in the plant.

Some common terpenes and their aromas 

  • Myrcene is a terpene that brings fruitiness and earthiness to cannabis. It’s no coincidence that myrcene is also found in mangoes.
  • Piney strains that smell like rosemary, sage, and thyme contain high levels of pinene, which is also found in rosemary.
  • Caryophyllene is a terpene found in cloves, cinnamon, and cannabis. High levels of caryophyllene are often found in strains that are peppery and sweet.
  • Limonene is found in citrus fruit and cannabis alike. Yes, it gives cannabis that cirtusy, lemony aroma.
  • Linalool is at the heart of that trademark cannabis smell. It’s floral and weedy. It’s also found in mint and lavender.


Why do terpenes matter? 

The more we learn about terpenes, the more flavorful our experiences with cannabis become. Cannabis lovers can finally give a name to the characteristics that draw them to certain strains. Not to mention, we can now harness the aromas and flavors that make cannabis special.

In a world where one can separate the flavors of the plant from the plant itself, the possibilities are endless. Terpene-rich extracts like live resin allow plant lovers to taste their favorite strains without smoking them.

Cannabis beverages and other edibles can be infused with the flavors of the flower like never before. When it comes to creating complex cannabis products that honor their point of origin, the sky’s the limit.

You don’t have to be a chemist to love terpenes, you just have to be a plant lover.