What Are Terpenes

What Are Terpenes

Hemp is comprised of a variety of chemical compounds that help determine how the plant will affect its users. In fact, the hemp plant contains over 500 known compounds! These compounds include omega fatty acids, flavonoids, cannabinoids, and terpenoids. This article will focus on terpenoids, or oxidized terpenes.

         What are terpenes? First and foremost, terpenes are not exclusive to the hemp plant. Terpenes are found in most plants and even some animals. Aromatic compounds that influence scent and flavor, terpenes are responsible for creating the signature smell that accompanies a specific plant. For example, the terpene limonene gives citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and limes their distinctive fragrance. Likewise, lavender gets its calming floral scent from the terpene linalool, and alpha- and beta-pinene terpenes provide pine trees with their characteristic aroma. It is worthwhile to note that most plants do not get their scent from one terpene alone: a particular terpene may be most influential in creating a plant’s unique scent, but it is often a cocktail of terpenes that builds that scent as a whole.

         Terpenes affect more than just the senses. For plants themselves, terpenes draw in pollinators, drive off predators, aid in recovery from damage, and protect the immune system from infections. For consumers, bioactive terpenes may directly impact the body, as well. They may boost mood and mental states, ease inflammation, and alleviate pain, among other health benefits.

Hemp plants carry terpenes in the trichomes, or resin glands, of their flowers. Cannabinoids are also found here. Combined with cannabinoids, terpenes play an important role in the entourage effect, which helps determine how specific hemp strains will affect users. Check out Hemp Learning Channel’s article on the entourage effect to learn more about this topic!

Understanding terpene profiles and the ways in which they influence you helps in choosing hemp strains specific to your needs. Seven common terpenes found in different strains of the hemp plant include:

  • Alpha- and beta-pinene: These two terpenes produce a pine scent and can be found in pine trees as well as rosemary, parsley, and basil plants. Pinenes act as potent anti-inflammatories and as such have been found to improve respiratory function. Because of their anti-inflammatory properties, hemp plants featuring pinene terpenes are often sought by patients suffering from inflammatory issues like arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, and cancer. The main difference between the two terpenes is that alpha-pinene is water-soluble whereas beta-pinene is not.
  • Beta-caryophyllene: This terpene is one of the most prevalent found in the hemp plant. It smells distinctly spicy and peppery and is found in black pepper, cinnamon, oregano, and basil. Caryophyllene fights pain and inflammation, offers mood-stabilizing properties, and mitigates alcohol and opioid cravings.
  • Humulene: Found in hops, black pepper, sage, and cloves, this terpene is known for its spicy, earthy, woody scent. Humulene acts as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and analgesic, or pain-relieving, agent. Patients battling cancer may seek this terpene out in hemp products because it is known to prevent cancer cell growth.
  • Limonene: This terpene carries a distinctive citrus smell and is found in fruits such as oranges, lemons, and limes. Limonene is well-known for improving mental states by boosting moods and reducing stress levels. It is also a powerful antifungal and antibacterial that is commonly added to cleaning products for these purposes. Additionally, this terpene has been found to diminish the size of tumors.
  • Linalool: This terpene gives lavender its signature scent. Floral and slightly spicy, it is perhaps best known for its muscle-relaxing, calming, and sedative properties. Although linalool is strongly associated with lavender, it is also found in mint, cinnamon, and coriander. Hemp plants containing large quantities of this terpene are used to treat epilepsy, stress, anxiety, and depression. It also strengthens the immune system.
  • Myrcene: This is the most common terpene found in the hemp plant. In fact, myrcene is itself found mostly in hemp plants, though mangoes, bay leaves, and thyme also possess large amounts of it. It is notably musky, earthy, and fruity in scent. This terpene is a great sedative and sleep aid, and it also acts as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-anxiety. Many patients use it to treat insomnia as well as inflammatory illnesses like multiple sclerosis and arthritis.
  • Trans-nerolidol: This secondary terpene offers subtle floral, fruity, citrus aromas and is found in jasmine, lemongrass, and tea tree plants. Trans-nerolidol works as an anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and anti-parasitic treatment. It may also treat neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease due to its ability to protect against oxidative stress.


While ongoing research into terpenes is being conducted, it’s clear to see that terpenes can benefit your wellness, especially when combined with other beneficial compounds and cannabinoids, like CBD. If you love learning about terpenes, hemp, and your own personal wellness, stay tuned to the Hemp Learning Channel for more great articles like this one. 

time Apr 6, 2023

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