What Are Terpenoids and Why Do They Matter?

At first glance, terpenoids sound like something from high school chemistry class that you learned, then promptly forgot after the test. Relax, you already know what terpenoids - or terpenes - are because you ingest them in some form every day. Terpenes are the fragrant oils that give herbs, fruits, and plants their unique smell. It’s the same for perfumes - the blend of oils creates a new fragrance profile.

Cannabis has more than 200 terpenes that have been identified. Each one offers its own unique scents and range of physiological and physical effects. In cannabis, terpenes give individual weed strains their signature smells - for instance, sweet, spicy, sour, or floral. That’s why cannabis users love to take a deep sniff to find the weed varieties that appeal most. If you’re not smelling something rich, distinctive, and attractive to you, the weed is likely old or too dry, so it won’t be as potent. Here are the three key things to know about terpenes. Don’t worry, there won’t be a test, outside of trying different varieties to explore the strains that best suit your needs.

  1. The seven major terpenes in cannabis are myrcene, limonene, pinene, beta-caryophyllene, linalool, ocimene, and terpinolene.
  2. Strains of cannabis with singular scents (citrus, spicy, floral, etc.) contain high volumes of a single terpene and much smaller quantities of others.
  3. Cannabis strains with pungent, less distinctive scents have a more balanced concentration of terpene varieties.

Next, we’ll break down the basics of terpenes and how they affect the body and the high.

Terpenes and Their Effects

Without a doubt, there’s so much more to weed than just cannabinoids, potency and silly stereotypes. Scientists have only just begun to uncover the various properties of compounds in the cannabis plants and are discovering new applications and medications every day. 


Heat is one of the biggest concerns for maximizing the terpene properties and the absorption in the body, so many cannabis users report better, more consistent effects when vaping over smoking. When terpene oils are heated too high, they lose a large portion of their essential qualities. They go up in smoke when you want them in your body. Using a lower heat source is best, so consult your budtender for the best ingestion methods and varieties for achieving your desired effects.

How Terpenes Affect the Body

What terpenes do is a fair question; however, it comes with a potentially complex answer. For the average or novice user, the basics are sufficient to discover the right strains for you. Terpenes act in a similar way to cannabinoids - they bind to particular brain receptors to create different effects. This helpful infographic produced by Leafly highlights the effects and scent profiles of different terpenes and strain types, and the various health conditions they may help. Some terpenes produce a calming, relaxing feel, still others help ease inflammation or anxiety. Varieties suitable for easing anxiety or insomnia will likely turn out to be some of the more popular choices for 2020.