Terpenes, explained.

Anyone who’s ever spritzed on perfume before a date knows the power of scent. From alluring white florals to energizing citrus and mint, fragrance has power to set the tone for a situation and even elicit memories and nostalgia (madeleines, anyone?). It just so happens that cannabis is known not only for its distinctive effects, but also its unmistakable aroma. But what gives cannabis its signature smell?

Enter terpenes.

Terpenes are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that are responsible for its unique odor. They’re also found in a lot of other plants, including flowers, herbs, trees, and fruits. Orange peels, pine trees, parsley – all have terpenes. In addition to scent, terpenes are also associated with flavor. Put another way, they’re basically part of the building blocks for plants.

According to cannabis information resource Leafly.ca, there are more than 100 different kinds of terpenes, and every strain of cannabis boasts its own unique combination. Some researchers speculate that these varying combinations of terpenes (or “terpenes profiles”) could in part explain why different cannabis strains can have different effects.  

To boost your Terp IQ, here are six terpenes frequently found in cannabis, with more information about their scents, origins, and alleged properties.



Terpene: Caryophyllene
Aroma: Peppery
Reputation: Gut-healer
Also found in: Pepper, cloves, spices



Terpene: Humulene
Aroma: Woody, spicy
Reputation: Appetite-regulator
Also found in: Basil, hops, cloves


Terpene: Limonene
Aroma: Citrus
Reputation: Mood-booster
Also found in: Fruit rinds



Terpene: Linalool
Aroma: Floral
Reputation: Stress-reliever
Also found in: Lavender, coriander