Unlocking the Power of Terpenes: How They Impact Cannabis Effects

If you’re like most cannabis connoisseurs, then you’ve probably heard the word “terpene” tossed around a lot lately. Yet most of us don’t know much about these fascinating aromatic molecules, which are responsible for the (sometimes surprisingly) diverse flavor and aroma profiles found in different cannabis varieties. Moreover, terpenes are believed to exert significant influence on the subjective effects of cannabis, meaning the same strain can produce different results in different people. In short, they are integral to the unique expression of each cannabis strain–and understanding how they work is key to unlocking the power of cannabis.

In this post, we will dig into the science of terpenes to get a deeper understanding of what they are, how they interact with the brain, and why they matter. We’ll discuss the various types of terpenes and ways to tailor your cannabis experience to achieve the desired effects. In the end, we hope you’ll come away with an appreciation for the deep science behind still-unexplored aspects of some of the most exciting plants on the planet. So, let’s get started!

Quick Answer to Key Question

Terpenes are compounds found in cannabis that can add flavor, aroma and medicinal benefits. They can also alter the effects of THC and other cannabinoids, making them more intense or milder depending on the combination.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are the aromatic compounds found in the essential oils of plants, and they are mainly responsible for each species’ unique smell. While terpenes are found in every living organism, they can also be synthesized artificially and used in a variety of products.

In the cannabis plant, terpenes boost cannabinoids like THC and CBD. In fact, there may be up to 200 different types of terpenes present in a cannabis sample—each contributing to its aroma, flavor, and physiological effects. In addition to their impact on the overall efficacy of cannabis, terpenes also influence how cannabinoids interact with our bodies. As our understanding of terpene profiles continues to expand, more studies are being conducted that measure the potential therapeutic value of individual terpenes and their combinations.

The debate surrounding hemp vs marijuana terpene profiles is ongoing. Many researches attest that hemp contains higher levels of some monoterpene varieties, while marijuana generally has more sesquiterpenes. However, tests analyzing the concentration of individual terpenes have produced contrasting results from strain to strain depending on both cultivator practices and environmental factors like temperature or soil composition.

With the increasing popularity of products like live resin extracts that preserve natural terpene profiles, maintaining “true-to-strain” aroma is becoming an industry standard for measuring the quality of cannabis products. By unlocking the power of terpenes within each strain, consumers can make an educated decision when selecting between similar products in order to receive desired effects, aromas, and flavors.

Now that we’ve established an understanding of what terpenes are and their potential influence on cannabinoid processing, let's move on to explore how bioavailability and aroma attraction are impacted by these fascinating compounds.

Essential Points

Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in plants, and they can contribute to the smell and physiological effects of cannabis. Specific terpene profiles differ from hemp to marijuana, depending on factors like cultivator practices and environmental pressures. By understanding these terpene profiles, consumers can choose cannabis products that are designed to deliver desired aromas, flavors, and effects. Bioavailability and aroma attraction can be changed by terpenes as well.

Bioavailability & Aroma Attraction

Bioavailability and Aroma Attraction are two important facets of unlocking the power of terpenes in the cannabis experience. Bioavailability refers to compounds’ ability to enter the bloodstream, with an oral route having higher bioavailability than topical or inhalation-based administration. Terpenes can significantly increase the absorption and bioavailability of cannabinoids, leading to enhanced efficacy. For instance, when THCA is converted to THC through humidification, it is attacked by beta-caryophyllene, a terpene found naturally in cannabis plants which acts as a catalyst and accelerates the decarboxylation process.

A pleasant aroma is another major benefit of utilizing terpenes in cannabis products. Terpenes are volatile oils that vaporize at low temperatures, releasing pleasant aromas when heated. As such, the scent emitted from vaporizer pens offer natural flavors that are much more satisfying than many synthetic options. Moreover, terpenes have been credited with providing therapeutic effects that promote relaxation and/or focus – depending on the specific strain – and some even claim they can provide extra euphoria as compared to plain THC. Contrary opinions suggest that no scientific evidence currently exists to support these claims but research conducted by Swiss scientists showed how certain terpenes could produce subtle differences in effect due to their direct action on our bodies.

In summary, bioavailability and aroma attraction remain two fundamental advantages of using terpenes in cannabis products; not only are they argued to increase absorption rates of cannabinoids but they also bring with them desirable aromas that attract users to use them more often. Nonetheless, further research is needed on the function and properties of these compounds if we want to unlock their true potential. In the next section, we will discuss how terpenes enhance aroma in various cannabis products.

How Terpenes Enhance Aroma

The aroma of cannabis is an important aspect of its appeal, mainly due to the presence of terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbons that give cannabis its distinctive scent and flavor, as well as its medicinal properties. Outside of cannabis, these compounds can also be found in common plants and herbs like lavender, thyme, and rosemary. Terpenes are responsible for creating a wide range of aromas from floral, fruity, woody, minty, and citrus-like tones. Not only does this make cannabis more enjoyable, but it can also help to stimulate the user’s senses and improve their overall experience.

The power of terpenes in enhancing the aroma of cannabis has been known for centuries. Ancient texts from Egypt and India used the word “terpene” to describe essential oils made from aromatic substances extracted from plants. Furthermore, some ancient cultures even used these terpene containing oils for religious ceremonies in order to create certain moods or states of mind. This shows that terpenes have had a long history of being used as powerful ritual tools with psychological effects.

However there are still some opposing arguments regarding the benefits of terpenes in enhancing aroma. Some arguments suggest that they actually dull the aroma due to their strong odor. On the flip side, research indicates that cannabinoids interact with terpenes to create pleasant aromas that have significant impacts on our olfactory system events.

By understanding how the addition or subtraction of certain terpene profiles can impact smell and taste, cultivators are able to aim for specific scents when growing their cannabis plants. With this knowledge about the way these compounds interact with each other in different strains, users can do a better job at selecting aromatic buds that best suit their preference. With all this said, we now turn to how these terpene aromas affect our cognition and mental state when consumed.

Effects of Terpene Aromas on Cognition

The effects of terpene aromas on cognition can be widespread and varied. Though more research is needed to verify anecdotal evidence, many people report feeling different after the consumption of different terpenes. In the narrow definition of “cognition”, which includes attention, memory, verbal fluency, executive functioning, learning, problem-solving and decision-making processes, terpene aromas may have significant impacts.

There is ongoing debate as to whether terpenes act directly on the brain to alter or enhance cognitive performance or simply create a heightened sense of relaxation and well-being that sets an ideal platform for cognitive tasks. On one hand, some studies have demonstrated specific effects of certain terpenes to improve mental clarity and focus following inhalation or ingestion. A 2017 study found that β-pinene inhalation enhances alertness in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Another study in 2019 showed that certain essential oils containing limonene were able to aid cognitive functioning in older adults with MCI both immediately and over time.

On the other hand, some research suggests that the psychological effects of cannabis are due to its cannabinoid profile more than its unique aroma profile. For instance, cannabinoids such as CBD appear to protect nerve tissue from oxidative stress damage while terpenes have not been shown to possess this specific property. It’s also been suggested that cannabinoids bind to CB1 receptors in the brain more strongly than their associated volatile compounds due to their lipophilic properties; thus implying that direct contact with neurons is necessary for active sedation or stimulation.

Overall, more research is required in order to determine if direct, lasting effects of terpene aromas on cognition occur beyond pleasure and contentment. In any case, the presence of certain smells can aid in setting a conducive atmosphere for ease when completing mental tasks or engaging creative projects as certain pleasant scents evoke feelings of motivation and freshness.

Regardless of whether aroma alone has a direct line on cognition, there is synergy between certain combinations of terpenes and cannabinoids which can create profound and effective experiences when consumed together. This will be discussed further in the next section.

Synergy between Terpenes & Cannabinoids

The Entourage Effect, a term coined by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, is the combination of interactions between cannabinoids, terpenes and other compounds in the cannabis plant that work together to create novel effects on the body — greater than the sum of its parts. Terpenes have long been known to interact with cannabinoids to form a synergistic effect. When cannabinoids are alone, they can have either subtle or significant effects, depending on concentration and individual body chemistry. But when combined with terpenes, its strength can be amplified.

The terpenes found naturally in marijuana have a variety of therapeutic properties: some act as antioxidants, others reduce inflammation and stress, and still others can affect cognitive functions like memory and attention. It’s believed that their synergy with cannabinoids helps to enhance their individual benefits. Research has suggested that certain combinations of terpenes and cannabinoids can provide more effective treatment options than either compound alone. For example, the terpene myrcene boosts THC’s psychoactive abilities while reducing anxiety; another terpene called pinene helps counteract some of the mental effects associated with THC while amplifying CBD’s potential anti-inflammatory benefits.

This synergy between terpenes and cannabinoids has led to much excitement in the medical marijuana industry, with research suggesting that this entourage effect could improve upon existing treatments for a variety of conditions such as PTSD, Parkinson’s disease and cancer-related pain. While research into these specific applications of cannabis is ongoing, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that further exploration into the role played by terpenes would be beneficial in identifying new ways to maximize the therapeutic potential of cannabis-based therapies.

But not all experts agree on how much benefit this synergy between terpenes and cannabinoids really provides. Some point out that there have been few clinical studies conducted on this matter, making it difficult to quantify exactly how beneficial it could be for existing treatments and therapies. Others suggest that cannabinoid ratios are far more important than adding isolated compounds such as isolated terpenes — something which has yet to be proven conclusively in any meaningful sense.

Regardless of varying opinions, it's clear that cannabinoids and terpenes interact in complex ways which aren't yet fully understood. And what science does know suggests there's great promise in investigating further how these two powerful compounds can work together to enhance therapeutic effects. With this in mind, let's turn our attention now to exploring how different types of terpenes affect cannabinoid efficacy within cannabis products – something we'll cover in detail in our next section titled: “Effects of Terpenes on Cannabinoids.”

Effects of Terpenes on Cannabinoids

The relationship between cannabinoids and terpenes is complex and still relatively unknown. That said, there are several ways in which the two substances interact to create a variety of effects.

One theory is that the combination of terpenes with cannabinoids contributes to the “entourage effect”, which suggests that each component in cannabis works synergistically to produce an improved overall therapeutic effects. This can include the enhancement of certain aspects, such as flavor and intensity of smell, as well as contributions to the overall desired effect. For example, some studies have found that terpenes may enhance or inhibit the psychoactive properties of THC or CBD by influencing how quickly they pass through the cell membrane or how strongly they bind to receptors.

At the same time, other research has suggested that many terpenes have little to no impact on cannabinoid activity. For instance, certain types of terpenes have been linked with producing unique flavors and aromas but do not seem to add much else in terms of physical or psychological effects from cannabinoids. Furthermore, some experts argue that any anticipated entourage effect is heavily dependent on specific chemistry interactions between cannabinoids and terpenes—meaning it could be difficult to reliably predict their effects without understanding those interactions more thoroughly.

Overall, more research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn about how terpenes interact with various cannabinoids across different products. Until then, the full effects of combining terpenes and cannabinoids remain enigmatic—and most likely quite complex.

As a result of this complexity, the next section will explore some of the most commonly isolated terpenes found in cannabis products so readers can gain a better understanding of what beneficial effects they might bring when combined with specific cannabinoids.

Commonly Isolated Terpenes

Terpenes are an increasingly popular area of cannabis research and use, as they hold the potential to unlock many herbal medicines. Unfortunately, many terpenes are naturally unstable and highly susceptible to environmental degradation. To combat this, some laboratories have begun isolating and recombining individual terpene molecules together in order to create a more stable form of them called “distillates.”

Common isolated terpenes found in cannabis include myrcene, limonene, linalool, and pinene. Myrcene is generally used for sedative effects and often found in indica-leaning varieties. Limonene has also been associated with calming effects but can also act as an antimicrobial agent against bacteria and fungus. Linalool is another popular terpene that is thought to provide various benefits such as pain relief and reduced stress levels. Lastly, pinene is known for its stimulating effect but has also been linked to bronchodilator qualities.

There has been debate around these isolated terpenes, specifically whether their effects are diminished when separate from their whole-plant source. Some experts argue that isolating the molecules weakens their natural synergistic benefit with other compounds—such as cannabinoids—and reduces the efficacy of their medicinal properties while others feel it is no different than extracting essential oils from plants in traditional aromatherapy. At this point, there is still much unknown about the implications of isolate terpenes versus ones derived from who plant material and more research needs to done on the topic.

Now that we have discussed commonly isolated terpenes, it's time to move onto how they are being used in traditional aromatherapy. In the next section we will discuss how different combinations of terpenes are believed to elicit specific therapeutic effects through scent alone…

  • Studies have shown that certain terpenes play a role in determining the effects of cannabis when consumed.
  • Of the 200+ known terpenes found in the cannabis plant, myrcene and limonene are two of the most researched and medically studied compounds.
  • Recent research has suggested that terpenes may contribute to what is known as “the entourage effect,” where they work together with other cannabinoids to produce an improved therapeutic effect on symptoms from a variety of medical conditions.

Terpenes in Traditional Aromatherapy

Terpenes are widely used in traditional aromatherapy for their therapeutic quality and ability to produce scents that evoke peaceful and calm feelings. Terpenes are essential oils found in many plants, not just cannabis, including flowers, spices, herbs, fruits, roots and even trees. In aromatherapy, terpenes are often combined with other essential oils to create a powerful blend that helps induce relaxation, reduce stress, boost moods and stimulate the senses. Terpenes have also been linked to potential medicinal benefits and may have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and sedative effects when used topically and inhaled.

With research into terpene’s increasing, arguments over their safety and effectiveness have become more commonplace among practitioners of aromatherapy and the scientific community alike. While some believe that terpenes are an effective tool in aromatherapy treatments with few risks, others feel that they lack sufficient evidence to prove their efficacy beyond producing desired scents. Supporters argue that highly concentrated forms of terpenes can be hazardous due to their potency; however these claims have yet to be backed up by medical-grade trials or research studies.

Despite ongoing debates about their safety and effectiveness, terpenes remain popular components within the world of aromatherapy. As the research on cannabis continues to grow, so too does the evidence backing up its potential therapeutic value when used in aromatherapy applications. With this newfound knowledge of terpenes emerging from both scientific study as well as anecdotal sources, it is only logical that patients look towards its use for relief from conditions such as stress, anxiety and insomnia. With this being considered one can confidently conclude that unlocking the power of terpenes has the potential to open new doors with regards to traditional aromatherapy methods.

As this article has explored the versatility of terpenes within traditional aromatherapy applications, the next section will focus on providing a conclusion to this key topic.


The research on terpenes and their influence on cannabis effects is continually growing and new findings are continuing to unlock more of the plant’s potential value. As a result, it can be concluded that terpenes likely have an important role in the full spectrum of cannabis effects. By understanding the basics and taking a closer look at strain-specific terpene profiles, consumers can better identify which products will most closely match their desired experience.

That being said, as much as current research offers promising insight into the impact of terpenes on cannabis effects, there is still much to learn yet about unlocking the true power of these compounds. The complexities observed in both individual variations amongst users and between different strains continue to drive the need for further experimentation with different ratios of cannabinoids and terpenes. As such, this area of research is well worth continued investment and exploration so that consumers can count on an optimal level of satisfaction with every purchase they make.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions with Explanations

What concentrations of terpenes are necessary to have an effect on cannabis?

The concentration of terpenes necessary to have an effect on cannabis depends on the individual species of cannabis, but in general, concentrations of between 0.05 and 5% are generally believed to be sufficient for producing a noticeable effect. Higher concentrations may lead to intensified effects, but further research is needed to provide a more precise answer. Terpenes interact with each other in complicated ways and vary from strain to strain, so it is important to study the specific terpene profile of each plant in order to understand how particular levels of terpene content will affect the overall effects produced by cannabis.

How do terpenes interact with the compounds in cannabis to affect its effects?

Terpenes are an integral part of the cannabis experience, and interact with the compounds found in this plant in a variety of ways. By combining with cannabinoids like THC and CBD, terpenes can affect the way the body absorbs these chemicals, increasing or decreasing the overall strength of their effects. Additionally, they can contribute to the taste and smell of cannabis while also influencing how quickly it moves through the nervous system. Lastly, they can modulate many common effects associated with varying strains, such as whether a strain produces feelings of relaxation, pain relief, focus or creativity. In sum, terpenes play an important role in enhancing, dampening and manipulating all aspects of the cannabis experience.

Is there any evidence of the effects of terpenes on the medical benefits of cannabis?

Yes, there is a substantial amount of evidence indicating that terpenes can have a significant impact on the medical benefits of cannabis. Studies and anecdotal evidence have shown that terpenes can play an important role in modulating and enhancing the medicinal properties of cannabis, including reducing inflammation, providing analgesic effects, and even assisting with mood regulation. For example, a study published in the journal Phytotherapie found that limonene – a citrus-scented terpene commonly found in cannabis – has both antibacterial and antifungal activity. Another study observed that exhibiting an anti-anxiety effect when administered orally to mice. These are just a few examples of how terpenes can influence not just the taste and smell of cannabis, but also its potential therapeutic properties as well.