What Are Terpenoids and Terpenes?

crowned hemp-terpenoids and their pharmacological activities chart

What are terpenoids and terpenes? You’re already very familiar with terpenoids and you probably didn’t even realize it.  Every time you smell perfume, you’re smelling terpenoids or terpenes. It’s also the same thing when you smell cannabis-you’re smelling the terpenes since cannabinoids have no aroma. terpenes are naturally occurring compounds found in nature that give plants their medicinal and aromatic quantities. Consisting of hyrocarbon units called isoprene and these isoprenes are grouped according to the number of isoprene units in the molecule.

There are over 200 terpenes that cannabis produces, however, most are in traces amounts. terpenes are the most common plant chemicals found in nature. To date, 30,000 terpenes have been identified. terpenes are the aromatic compounds found in all essential oils, spices, vegetables, and fruits. The FDA recognizes terpenes as safe food additives, are considered pharmacologically active, and work in unison with cannabinoids

Terpenes and Terpenoids 

In most cases, frequent cannabis users often notice subtle differences in the psychoactive effects among different cannabis varieties. Research of terpenes and their interaction with cannabinoids has shown a new light on how different varieties of cannabis produce an array of effects, despite the fact that they may share almost identical cannabinoid profiles.  

What Are Monoterpenes? 

Monoterpenes are the major components that make up essential oils. Monoterpenes contain 2 hydrocarbon units. Studies have shown that both natural monoterpenes and synthetic forms are enriched with various pharmacological properties which include several positive health effects: anticancer, antibacterial, anti-fungal and antioxidant are just a few of these effects. Monoterpenes act also as regulators in insect repellents, feline & canine attractants & anti-diabetics to name a few. Monoterpenes are not just used for pharmaceutical purposes, but are also used in the food and cosmetic industries. 

What Are Sesquiterpenoids 

Sesquiterpenoids contain 3 hydrocarbon units. Sesquiterpenoids are thought to play a huge role in our health such as a balanced diet and pharmaceutically. This is due to their ability to possibly treat cancer and cardiovascular disease. 

Five Predominant Terpenoids and Their Pharmacological Activities 

Several significant terpenes are found in the cannabis plant. Each cannabis variety has a unique mix of terpenes, which is referred to as a terpene profile. terpene profiles can even vary among plants that have originated from the same seeds. This influencing factor determines how a particular cannabis variety will bestow its therapeutic effects.

Five predominant terpenoids are produced by cannabis and include the following:

These particular terpenes are found primarily in the cannabis plant’s trichomes. terpenes are very unstable (especially the monoterpenes) and can be lost quite easily from dried cannabis, if it’s not stored correctly. terpenes are pharmacologically active even in small amounts and concentrations. An interesting thing is that cannabinoids might actually increase terpenes ability to cross the blood/brain barrier. It does this by increasing the membrane permeability. terpenes have two very specific characteristics: they’re fat-loving (lipophilic) and they’re water-hating (hyrophobic), just like cannabinoids. They have the ability to interact with a large variety of receptors throughout our body and brain


Beta-pinene and alpha-pinene are monoterpenes found in conifers (pine trees). The pinene terpene is what gives the smell of Christmas trees and is also a main ingredient in turpentine. Since pinene produces solvent activity, this in itself is enough reason not to store cannabis in plastic bags. The reason for this is due to the fact that light terpenes can dissolve the plastic. pinene is said to help with short-term memory because it inhibits enzyme activity in the brain associated with aiding short-term memory. This may also be the very reason high-pinene cannabis varieties don’t end up causing memory issues associated with other concentrated THC varieties. Kana Gold is a cannabis variety that is associated with this terpene


Take a guess as to what this next terpene smells like. If you guessed citrus fruits or lemon, you are absolutely correct. limonene is common in citrus fruits-especially in the rinds of oranges, lemon, mandarins, limes, and grapefruits. limonene and terpinolene gives a citrus smell of certain cannabis varieties. These aromas are associated with stimulating the brain, elevating mood, and calming effects. It also can help alleviate symptoms caused by depression and anxiety.  


Among cannabis varieties, as of now, myrcene reaches the highest concentration of any terpene. Myrcene makes up more than 30 percent of the total essential oil. Myrcene can produce sedative effects such as relaxed muscles and can also increase the effects of sedative drugs. Outside of cannabis, myrcene is also found in hops


beta-caryophyllene is most common amongst the heavier sesquiterpenes found in cannabis. beta-caryophyllene is also found in cinnamon, oregano, basil, hops, rosemary, black pepper and cloves. It is a dominant terpene in industrial-or-fiber type cannabis.

They are responsible for more stimulating effects. beta-caryophyllene has the following health properties:

It’s also the most common terpene found in decarboxylated extracts because it’s able to survive extraction temperatures that monoterpenes are not able to survive. beta-caryophyllene is a terpene that interacts with the CB2 receptor. It’s thought by some that since it binds to the CB2 receptor, that it’s a secondary cannabinoid. Due to this interaction, this makes beta-caryophyllene a “dietary cannabinoid”.

beta-caryophyllene is actually the first phytocannabinoid (learn more about phytocannabinoids by reading our article phytocannabinoids Explained) that was isolated outside of the cannabis genus. The oxidation byproduct of beta-caryophyllene is caryophyllene oxide which is what K-9 drug detecting dogs are trained to smell.  


It’s common knowledge that lavender provides a mild psychoactive effect and the reason for this is due linalool that’s found in lavender. It’s a naturally occurring chemical that is associated with calming effects. linalool is also found in several purple indica strains, as well as Bubba Kush. In medicine form, linalool is anesthetic, analgesic, and sedative.  

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