24 Common Terpenes And Their Effects
Updated: Jan 26
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes and Terpenoids (isoprenoids) are hydrocarbon molecules and the largest and most diverse group of naturally occurring chemical compounds. Found primarily in plants, these compounds are responsible for the aromas, flavors, and color of plant vegetation. There are four common types of terpines/terpenoids found in the cannabis plant, sesquiterterpenes, diterpines, and triterpines depending on the number of carbon units in the molecule. Each of these groups are biosynthesized for a unique purpose. Terpenes are simple hydrocarbons while terpenoids are modified class of terpenes with an oxidized methyl group. Cannabinoids which are phenol terpenoids are similarly biologically synthesized from diterpene structures.
Examples of Cannabis Monoterpines include myrcene, linalool, menthol, eucalyptol, pinene and camphor. This group is classified by two isoprene units. Pinene is known to inhibit the activity of acetylcholinesterase in the brain and may aid memory or inhibit cognitive dysfunction by THC intoxication. Another monoterpine myrcene is known to have analgesic (pain reducing) effects by stimulating the release of endogenous opioids.
Cannabis Sequesterterpenes like Caryophyllene, hummulene, and franesene contain three isoprene units. Caryophyllene is one of the most bioavailable sequiterterpines in cannabis especially after decarboxylation and is a direct agonist of CB2 receptors. Because of this unique interaction it is responsible partially for the anti-inflammatory effect of cannabis. This sequiterpine is also known to have gastoprotective, analgesic, anticancerogenic, anti-fungal, antibacterial, antidepressant, anti-inflamatory, anti-proliferative, antioxidant, anxiolytic, analgesic, and neuroprotective effects.
The cannabis plant is very unique in its ability to produce a wide variety of terpenes and terpenoids that create the profile unique to the variety. Over 150 different types have been identified in cannabis. Although most terpenes are only present in small amounts, the more prominent ones give rise to the fragrance found in cannabis. Different stages in cannabis growth can express considerable variations in terpene compositions. Terpenes are produced by resin glands and found in greatest concentration on the trichomes of the female cannabis plant. These aromatic compounds support the plants immune system by conveying information about the surrounding environment, protecting plants from stressors and pathogens and helping to trigger immune responses.
Terpenes have been shown to influence neurotransmitters in the brain. They are small enough to pass the blood brain barrier, whether inhaled, ingested, or applied topically. In amounts lower than .05% terpenes have little to no effect in the human body. In large concentrations they can be toxic. Terpenes have demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting various pro-inflammatory pathways. They may therefore have potential medical applications for edema, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, skin inflammation, and osteoarthritis. Certain terpenes have been found to have Antiviral, Anticancer, Antidepressant, Antimicrobial and Analgesic Properties.
In 1942 Simonsen and Todd were the first researchers to distinguish terpenes from cannabinoids in Egyptian hashish reporting p-cymene as another main constituent of cannabis. Since then the terms synergistic and entourage effect have have been coined to describe the interaction between terpenes and their regulation and effect on cannabinoids. This phytocannabinoid - terpenoid synergy could enhance treatments for pain, inflammation, depression, addiction, anxiety, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections.
Many terpenes are volatile compounds and are easily destroyed. In an effort to preserve the medicinal value of terpenes during harvest, extra care must be taken. Curing cannabis properly and processing with minimal damage from solvents or oxidation from the elements.
Terpenes are measured using Gas Chromatography. Organic compounds combust under high temperatures detected and the presence of each chemical quantified. The response calibrated in the machine typically correlates to the number of hydrocarbons in the molecule.
TERPENES IN CANNABIS
Caryophyllene is found in the essential oils of many plants such as rosemary, black pepper and hops. It can have a fruity, citrus, woody, and spicy odor and tastes earthy and slightly minty. It is known to have analgesic, anti-bacterial, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, antioxidant, anxiolytic and neuroprotective properties.
Delta 3 Carene features a sweet, pungently herbal, and earthy scent found in citrus, cypress, and pinewood. It is known for its antidiarrheal and antibacterial effects. One of the most distinctive effects of this monoterpene is its ability to dry body fluids like mucosa, sweat, tears, saliva, and even menstrual blood. In fact, Delta 3 Carene is mainly responsible for the cottonmouth, red eyes, and dry throat effect apparent in some cannabis strains.
Camphine has a very pungent camphoreaceous odor with notes of mint and spice. It naturally occurs in smaller concentrations in many essential oils including cypress, camphor, citronella, neroli oil, ginger, fennel, and valarian. It is currently being studied for its effectiveness in reducing cholesterol and triglycerides and prevention of fatty liver.
Borneol like Eucalyptol, has a distinctively camphor-like aroma but slightly earthier and funkier. It is found naturally in mint, rosemary, mugwort, and camphor. Borneol has many biological effects. It has been shown to be an effective sedative, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-nociceptive, antithrombotic and vasorelaxant. It may be a effective preventative for blood clotting or vascular conditions including migraines.
Bisabolol has a sweet floral aroma that is a common fragrance in many products. Only a few species of plants contain this compound and is limited mostly to the candeia tree and several species in the genus Asteraceae (asters), including Tansy, Common Daisy, arnica, and most notably chamomile. Bisabolol is known to have anti irritant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.
Valencine is sweet and citrusy, sometime woody sesquiterpene and a precursor to nootkatone which gives grapefruit its distinctive smell and taste. It is found mostly in fruit, tangerines, bayberry, and most notably valencia oranges. Research has shown valencene to have a variety of medicinal benefits. It is a bronchodilator, has anti-inflammatory properties and anti-allergic effects.
Trans-nerolidol has a woody, fruity citrus aroma reminiscent of citrus, apples and roses. Many botanicals contain high levels of trans-nerolidol, including lemongrass, jasmine, tea tree, ginger and neroli oil. Trans-nerolidol has been used traditionally for its relaxing, slightly sedative effects. Its has been extensively studied for a variety of therapeutic uses, particularly for its anti-parasitic, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.
Terpinolene smells piney, floral, herbaceous, with a hint of citrus. It is naturally present in lilac, sage, rosemary, nutmeg, cumin, apple conifer trees, and tea trees. Traditional terpinolene uses include natural antiseptic, anti-fungal, antibacterial applications, and mild central nervous system depressant, exhibiting sedative effects, mainly when combined with Linalool.
Terpineol display floral notes with citrus-woody profile and lemon nuances. Terpineol occurs in more than 150 plants, including flowers, fruits, and spices such as apples, basil, limes, lilac, grapefruit, rosemary, eucalyptus, and pine trees. studies have shown it to reduce pain without affecting motor ability. Terpineol also carries antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti-seizure properties.
Phytol is the isoprenoid alcohol that binds chlorophyll in plants. During leaf senescence, large amounts of phytol are released as chlorophyll degrades. Phytol is a naturally found in Elodea canadensis and Wendlandia formosana. This diterpene is used in making synthetic forms of vitamin E and vitamin K1 in a laboratory environment and known to have Antihyperalgesic, Anti-inflammatory, and Anti-arthritic Effects.
Beta Pinene (β-pinene) is a monoterpene with s a woody-green, pine-like smell. It is produced naturally inNepeta nepetella, Teucrium montanum. Beta-pinene has been shown to be an effective anti-inflammatory, a bronchodilator, pain reliever, anxiety-reliever, and may even help prevent short-term memory impairment.
Alpha Pinene (α-Pinene) has a woody-green pine-like smell and occurs naturally in the oils of many species of many coniferous trees, notably the pine. Much like its close isomer, a pinene acts as an anti-inflammatory, promotes pain relief and relaxation, aids in memory and respiratory function, and may reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses.
Ocimene has a warm-herbaceous, citrus, tropical, green, woody odor found in many products. It occurs naturally in mint, parsley, basil, tarragon, kumquats, mango fruits, lavender, orchid flowers, Hops, and bergamot. Its therapeutic properties include anti-convulsant, anti-fungal, and anti-tumor activity. It has also been shown to act as an effective decongestant. Ocimene may induce coughing when inhaled.
Myrcene smell is earthy, musky, fruity, red grape-like aroma. It is naturally produced in hops, lemongrass, verbena and bay as well as in citrus fruits and citrus juices. Myrcenes effects include anti-inflammatory properties, pain relief, and a sedative effect on the system. Cannabis trains high in Myrcene are known to produce "couch-lock" and sedation.
Linalyl Acetates odor is described as floral, sweet and citric, and minty. It can be found many flower and spice plants produced in higher concentrations in Bergamot Orange. Found in many products it is a key ingredient in beregemont and lavender essential oils. Its has known physiological effects such as inducing calmness and enhancing sleep.
Linalool has complex odor and flavor properties. Its odor has a fresh sweet floral fragrance, with woody undertones. Many garden herbs naturally contain Linalool including jasmine, lavender, rosewood, basil, thyme, lavender, and rose. Linalool has a powerful effect on the serotonin receptor. It helps treats conditions such as anxiety and depression and can help to combat insomnia.
Limonene is so distinctive that its smell can only can be described as citrus.This terpene however is present in many other plants other than citrus including rosemary, chamomile, ginger and turmeric. Extensive research on limonene shows anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antinociceptive, anticancer, antidiabetic, antihyperalgesic, antiviral, and gastroprotective effects.
Isopulegol has a distinctively fresh, minty odor and is found in found in plants such as mint, eucalyptus, lemongrass, lemon balm, geranium, and parsley. Isopulegol has also been shown to effectively inhibit convulsions, suggesting a potential therapeutic application in reducing seizures. The terpene additionally acts as a gastrointestinal protectant as well as anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anxiolytic.
Humuline can smell earthy, woody, with spicy, with herbal notes. Most prevalent in hops humuline gives beer its distinctive flavor. It is also present in marsh elders, sage, basil, clove, black pepper, coriander, and balsam fir tree. Its is known to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and mild sedative effects.
Guaiol presents a refreshing piney and woody aroma with some undertones of rose in it. Found in many plants like nutmeg, tea tree, conifers, apples, cumin, and lilac, it is a common additive to foods and household items for aroma. Guaiols greatest health benefits is its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. This powerful terpene is adept at treating conditions as diverse as arthritis, constipation, gout, sore throat, and syphilis.
Geraniol can have a rose-like odor, sweet floral, citrus, and even fruity nuances. It is biosynthesized by a number of plants including geraniums, roses, lemongrass, citrus fruit, coriander, and berries. Honey bees and E.coli bacteria also produce geraniol as an essential oil. Geraniol has direct effects on the central nervous system. Among them neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and antidepressant.
Eucalyptol smells of fresh spicy mint and has the effect of cooling taste. Most common in eucalyptus is is also present in tea tree and artemesia species such as sagebrush and wormwood. Eucalyptol is a promising compound for treating such conditions as respiratory disease, pancreatitis, colon damage, and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
P-Cymene can smell harsh like chemical, with woody with oxidized citrus lemon notes. It is what gives thyme its antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. It is also found in ajowan, allspice, angelica, anise, basil, bay leaf, and bergamot. P-Cymene has shown analgesic, antinociceptive, immunomodulatory, vasorelaxant and neuroprotective effects in studies.
Citranellol is fresh, floral, and rose like. Most common in citronella grass and scented geranium it is used in many products including bug repellants and rose oils. Additionally Citronella oil can be used used to expel worms or other parasites from the intestines. It is also used to control muscle spasms, increase appetite, and increase urine production (as a diuretic) to relieve fluid retention.
Analgesics, are painkillers, medications that relieve different types of pain , from headaches, injuries to arthritis. Anti-inflammatory analgesics reduce inflammation, and opioid analgesics change the way the brain perceives pain.
Anti-Bacterial medications, antibiotics, destroy or slow down the growth of bacteria. They are used to treat diseases caused by bacteria.
Antidepressants work by balancing neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood and emotions. These medicines can help improve mood, sleep quality, and increase appetite and concentration.
Anti-Inflammatorys inhibit the effect of enzymes that help make other chemicals called prostaglandins. Some prostaglandins are involved in the production of pain and inflammation at sites of injury or damage.
Anti-proliferative drugs inhibit the growth of tissue cells. In many diseases, abnormal cells can be prolific in response to injury. Cancer cells especially have high rates of cell division.
Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against free radicals in foods, tobacco smoke or radiation. Antioxidants may play a role in preventing heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
Anxiolytics are used to prevent or treat anxiety symptoms or disorders.
Neuroprotective drugs affect mechanisms that defend the central nervous system (CNS) against injury due to both acute and chronic neurodegenerative disorders. Neuroprotectants therefore may be effective in treating trauma, stroke, dementia, parkinson's, alzheimer's, and epilepsy.
Anti-nociceptive activity inhibits the body's response to potentially toxic stimuli, like harmful chemicals mechanical injury, or adverse temperatures by the sensory nervous system and the sensation of pain.
Anti-thrombotic drugs reduce the formation of blood clots (thrombi) in the blood stream and can be used therapeutically for prevention or treatment of acute vascular thrombosis.
Vasorelaxant can reduce vascular tension and may be useful in treating migraines, which can occur due to changes in blood vessels in the head or neck. Often involving throbbing pain and swelling or dilation of the blood vessels.
Anti-Irritants reduce the bodies sensitivity to irritants especially to the skin.
Bronchodilator causes widening of bronchi in the lungs opening the airflow, typically taken by inhalation for the alleviation of asthma.
Anti-allergics prevent an allergic response used to relieve or control allergic symptoms.
Anti-parasitics are used in the management and treatment of infections by parasites, including protozoa, helminths, and ectoparasites.
Antihyperalgesics prevent hyperalgesic activity where pain is felt mush more severely.
Anti-arthritic can be any member of the group of drugs used to relieve or prevent arthritic symptoms, such as joint pain and joint stiffness.
Antinociceptives block the detection of a painful or injurious stimulus by sensory neuron.
Vasorelaxants reduces of vascular tension
Rosenkranz M, Chen Y, Zhu P, Vlot AC. Volatile terpenes - mediators of plant-to-plant communication. Plant J. 2021 Nov;108(3):617-631. doi: 10.1111/tpj.15453. Epub 2021 Aug 28. Erratum in: Plant J. 2021 Dec;108(6):1849-1850. PMID: 34369010.