Terpenes: How They Work and Their Effects

Terpenes gives Hemp plants their unique taste and smell. Researchers now show that they could also play a role on the effects of each variety, so let’s take a look at what they are and how they work. Terpenes give the industrial hemp varieties their characteristic flavors. These are the aromatic oils that the plant produces and which give a variety a fruity or mint taste, an aroma of earth or citrus or a cheese smell. Industrial Hemp plants produce terpenes in the same glands in which they produce Delta 9 and CBD, yet the terpenes until recently did not get too much attention. Farmers and medical researchers in the past have focused on Delta 9 and CBD, which means that knowledge of terpenes and their function is not widespread. Only recently has it been discovered that terpenes play an important role in the particular effects of cannabinoids.

Why do plants produce aromatic compounds like terpenes?

As it often happens in the plant world, terpenes are used by plants to defend themselves from predators. By emitting a pungent aroma, plants can repel some insects, but they can also attract the beneficial insects they need for pollination. The amount and type of terpenes that a Hempplant produces depends on various factors. The same variety does not necessarily always produce the same aromatic compounds. This may depend on factors such as the climate, soil and fertilizers used, the age of the plant, and other elements.  Nowadays, we have discovered about 100 different terpenes in Hemp Plants. Each variety has its own particular types and combinations of terpenes in various concentrations.  The most interesting thing about terpenes, however, is not that they are responsible for the multitude of flavors and aromas of Hemp, but they work in synergy with cannabinoids, such as Delta 9 . A confirmation of this is that some varieties may have the exact same levels of Delta 9 and CBD, but their effects can be very different from each other. Researchers now believe that terpenes can be responsible for the specific effects of a variety.

How do the terpenes work?

We know that Delta 9 binds to the receptors in our brains causing the psychoactive effects of Hemp extract. A terpene can actively influence those brain receptors and their way of functioning. It has been discovered that terpenes can influence the amount of Delta 9 entering the brain through the blood-brain barrier. More importantly, science has shown that terpenes can directly influence brain neurotransmitters in various ways.  It is also important to remember that not all types of terpenes work the same way. Some types can influence the brain to make us relax, while others have the opposite effect, increasing our mood and energy levels.  Some  users may know the effect of eating a ripe mango 45 minutes before smoking. It is said that doing so can greatly increase the effect of the cannabinois. One theory is that mango contains mircene, a terpene found in some fruits. The myrcene acts in synergy with Delta 9 and directly alters the effect on our body.


Myrcene is the terpene most commonly found in marijuana, and creates most of the aromatic oils in Hemp plant varieties. Myrcene can also be found in some other plants such as hops. Some compare the aroma of myrcene to that of cloves. It is known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and pain-relieving (analgesic) properties. Myrcene has a sedative, calming and relaxing effect. It is known to increase the psychoactive effects of Delta 9.


After myrcene, limonene is the second most common terpene we find in marijuana. As the name suggests, it has a strong citrus smell. It is known for its antifungal and anti-bacterial properties. Research suggests that limonene also functions as an anti-carcinogen and may help prevent the growth of tumors. Limonene can easily enter the blood-brain barrier. It is known to help increase mental focus and attention, as well as promoting general well-being. Some unscientific evidence indicates that it is also beneficial for sexual health. Some products on the market today use limonene to treat depression and anxiety. It is a natural repellent against insects, one of the aromatic terpenes that plants use as a natural defense against insects and other predators. Haze varieties are a great source of this type of terpene.


The linalool is reminiscent of fresh flowers. It has a floral lavender smell with a slight spicy touch. Induces a sedative and calming effect and is used for the treatment of nervousness and anxiety. It is thought to have analgesic and anti-epileptic properties. Furthermore, its effectiveness in the treatment of certain types of tumors is currently the subject of research. Linalool is the terpene in part responsible for the calming and sedative effects of some Industrial Hemp strains.


Beta-caryophyllene is a spicy flavor that is often found in herbs and spices such as black pepper. It is known to be a strong anti-inflammatory and local analgesic. Cloves, known as a natural remedy for toothache, contain good amounts of this terpenum. Beta-cariophylene is also said to have antifungal properties.


The name could be misleading; the pinene has a scent that is reminiscent of pines and firs. Many plants contain pinene; for example, rosemary and sage. This terpen is known to have local anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. It is also known as an expectorant and has an enlargement effect on the bronchi. Research has shown that pinene can positively affect our memory. Among the varieties of Hemp plants with a high level of pinene are the various Skunk strains. Pinene can increase energy and is said to improve concentration.


The terpineol (-alpha) has the scent of linden flowers, as well as the pleasant scent of lilac. It is often used to make perfumes and cosmetics. The terpineol is one of the terpenes with a sedative and relaxing effect. Industrial hemp strains that have high levels of terpineol often also contain high amounts of pinene. Pinene can make it difficult to detect terpineol only through the sense of smell


The nerolidol is found in ginger, lemongrass and niaouli. It is used as a flavoring agent and in perfumery. It has a woody aroma, of fresh earth, reminiscent of the bark. In terms of therapeutic benefits, it is thought that nerolidol can be antifungal and is effective for the treatment of malaria. Nerolidol has a sedative and relaxing effect.


The borneol, which is abundantly found in rosemary, has a fresh aroma of mint and camphor. This terpene has a long history in Chinese medicine, in which it is used for the treatment of stress and fatigue. It is a local anesthetic with sedative and antispasmodic properties. It is also a natural insect repellent.


Eucalyptol is the terpene found in the essential oil of eucalyptus. It has a fresh mint flavor. It is thought to have pain-relieving properties as well as the ability to improve concentration. For this reason, it is often found in plants used for meditation.