As a cannabis enthusiast, you’re probably well-versed in the world of THC and CBD. But have you ever stopped to appreciate the incredible complexity of cannabis terpenes? These fragrant oils are responsible for each strain’s unique smell and taste, but they also have a range of physiological and therapeutic effects. Whether you’re looking to reduce stress, alleviate pain or simply enhance your cannabis experience, understanding terpenes is crucial in customizing your high.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take a closer look at the fascinating world of the most common terpenes found in marijuana. From their distinctive aromas to the psychological and physiological terpene effects — we’ll dive into each terpene and highlight which strains contain the highest levels of these profound compounds.
Whether you’re a cannabis connoisseur or just starting to explore the plant’s vast potential, this cannabis terpenes list will enhance your cannabis consumption with valuable insights.
What terpenes get you high?
While terpenes themselves don’t get you high, terpenes influence the effects of other plant compounds such as THC. For example, myrcene is known to produce the entourage effect, where different compounds in cannabis form a symbiotic relationship to create a more powerful impact. This means that strains with high levels of cannabis terps like myrcene may enhance the effects of THC, making the high more potent and longer lasting.
What do terpenes look like?
Terpenes are found throughout the cannabis plant, but are most concentrated in the trichomes, which are the hairlike structures that cover the plant’s flowers and leaves. While you can’t see terpenes with the naked eye, their shape can be linear, branched or cyclic. Despite their variability in structure, terpenes all share the same basic chemical formula of (C5H8)n, where n represents the number of isoprene units they contain. Isoprene units are the building blocks of terpenes.
How many cannabis terpenes are there?
There are more than 20,000 known varieties of terpenes, making them the largest group of natural compounds found in plants. They’re responsible for the unique aromas and flavors of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. With such a wide range of terpenes available, it’s no wonder they play such a significant role in cannabis. Cannabis contains more than 200 terpenes, but some sources have claimed upwards of 400 terpenes exist in marijuana plants.
Without further ado – here are the top 15 terpenes found in cannabis!
Keep in mind that the percentages of terpenes listed in this article are averages. True percentages vary depending on the specific batch and cultivating conditions, and individual lab testing is required for accurate readings.
Myrcene is the most common terpene found in cannabis, and can make up as much as 65% of the total terpene profile in some strains. Myrcene terps contain an earthy and musky aroma similar to cloves. Depending on the strain, they can also have hints of fruity or citrusy flavors.
Strains with high levels of myrcene are usually indicas with sedative effects, making it a popular choice for those who use cannabis for pain relief or sleep. Myrcene is also helpful in reducing inflammation and chronic pain, which is why it’s frequently used as a supplement during cancer treatments.
Some of the cannabis strains that are rich in myrcene are:
- Mango Kush – 0.5-0.8%
- Skunk XL – 0.5-0.7%
- White Widow – 0.4-0.7%
Bonus tip: If you want to experience a stronger buzz from marijuana, get yourself a mango and eat it about 45 minutes before smoking. Mango contains a significant amount of myrcene, so eating it before consuming cannabis will strengthen the effects of THC and increase its absorption rate.
Limonene is a secondary terpene, meaning it presents in smaller amounts than primary terpenes like myrcene and caryophyllene. That said, it’s one of the most prominent weed terps around.
As its name suggests, limonene is a citrusy terpene found in cannabis, lemons, oranges, limes and grapefruits. It is responsible for the characteristic citrusy smell and flavor profile found in many cannabis strains.
Limonene has many potential health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antifungal and antibacterial properties. One study found that limonene plays a role in reducing tumor size. The pungent terp also carries mental health benefits and is thought to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
Strains that have “lemon” or “sour” in their name are usually rich in limonene and may include:
- Sour Diesel – 0.4-1.0%
- Super Lemon Haze – 0.6-0.9%
- Durban Poison – 0.5-1.5%
- Jack Herer – 0.4-1.2%
This terpene’s spicy and floral notes are responsible for the recognizable marijuana smell. Linalool is also present in lavender, mint, cinnamon and coriander. Interestingly, just like these aromatic herbs, Linalool has powerful relaxing properties and offers a variety of health benefits.
If you’re looking for cannabis strains with linalool, you should look for strains with high levels of CBD. Some well-known linalool strains are:
- Amnesia Haze – 0.3-1.1%
- Lavender – 0.3-1.1%
- LA Confidential – 0.3-2.0%
- Pink Kush – 0.2-1.0%
Caryophyllene is a spicy and peppery terpene found in cannabis, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves and spices like oregano, basil and rosemary. It is abundant in strains high in THC and acts as a cannabinoid, binding directly to the body’s CB2 receptors.
These CB2 receptors are primarily located in the immune system and regulate inflammation and pain, making caryophyllene a key ingredient in anti-inflammatory topicals and creams. Additionally, studies have shown it is helpful for arthritis and Crohn’s disease and may also help treat alcoholism and the depression-like symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal.
You can benefit from caryophyllene’s terpene effects by consuming strains like:
- Girl Scout Cookies – 0.5-1.4%
- Sour Diesel – 0.3-0.9%
- Super Silver Haze – 0.3-0.6%
Alpha-pinene and Beta-pinene
These two cannabis terpenes get their name from their pine-like aroma and flavor. They exist in strains with high THC levels. Alpha-pinene and Beta-pinene are also heavily concentrated in pine trees (hence the name), rosemary, orange peels, basil and parsley.
Like many others, pinene terpenes have an anti-inflammatory effect on humans and are often used to treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. They also carry bronchodilator properties, making them helpful in treating respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis.
You can find pinene in strains like:
- Jack Herer – (0.5-1.5%) A-pinene, (0.2-0.8%) B-pinene
- Blue Dream – (0.3-1.2%) A-pinene, (0.1-0.8%) B-pinene
- Dutch Treat – (0.2-0.8%) A-pinene, (0.1-0.5%) B-pinene
Alpha-bisabolol, also known as levomenol and bisabolol, has a pleasant floral smell and can be found in several plants, including cannabis, chamomile flowers and Candeia trees. This terpene rose to popularity through the cosmetics industry, but recent studies on cannabis terpenes suggest alpha-bisabolol is packed with medicinal benefits.
One of the fascinating things about alpha-bisabolol is that it has been found to enhance the absorption of other compounds when applied topically. Alpha-bisabolol has also been demonstrated to be effective in treating bacterial infections and wounds, and is an excellent antioxidant with anti-irritation and analgesic properties.
If you’re interested in trying a strain high in alpha-bisabolol, check out:
- Harle-Tsu – 0.1-0.3%
- Pink Kush – 0.1-0.2%
- OG Shark – 0.1-0.2%
Eucalyptol, also known as cineole, is the primary terpene of the eucalyptus tree. This cannabis terp has a refreshing minty smell and is known to have a cooling effect on the body. Eucalyptol is found in marijuana strains with high THC, but most do not contain large amounts. It usually makes up around 0.06% of a strain’s complete terpene profile.
When it comes to eucalyptol’s medical value, eucalyptol relieves pain and slows the growth of bacteria and fungus. Additionally, its cooling effects can help reduce inflammation and promote relaxation. Although it is still in the early stages of research, this terpene has demonstrated the ability to enhance memory and cognitive energy, making it promising for Alzheimer’s patients.
Eucalyptol is highly concentrated in the following strains:
- Super Lemon Haze – 0.1-0.4%
- Girl Scout Cookies – 0.1-0.3%
- Headband – 0.1-0.3%
Trans-nerolidol is a secondary terpene found primarily in flowers. It is a natural component of essential oils derived from plants like jasmine, lemongrass and tea tree oil. The smell of trans-nerolidol is a mixture of rose, citrus and apples with a hint of wood.
Trans-nerolidol is best known for its antiparasitic, antioxidant, antifungal, anticancer and antimicrobial properties. Because of its widespread occurrence in nature, trans-nerolidol is a vital terpene with many potential uses in various industries, including fragrance, cosmetics and medicine.
For those looking to reap some of the befits of trans-nerolidol, check out these strains:
- Sweet Skunk – 0.1-0.3%
- Island Sweet Skunk – 0.1-0.2%
- Skywalker OG – 0.1-0.2%
Humulene was the first terpene found in hops. It’s also commonly found in ginseng, sage, cloves, black pepper and cannabis. Humulene contains earthy and woody notes with a hint of spice and, like most terpenes, carries potential medical and therapeutic properties.
Early research has shown humulene to be anti-proliferative, meaning it prevents cancer cells from growing. It has also been demonstrated as an effective tool in suppressing appetite, making it a potential weight loss aid. Furthermore, like many other cannabis terpenes mentioned above, humulene reduces inflammation, relieves pain and fights bacterial infections.
Some strains that are high in humulene cannabis terps are:
- Sour Diesel – 0.5-1.5%
- Girl Scout Cookies – 0.5-1%
- Headband – 0.5-1%
- White Widow – 0.2-1%
Delta 3 Carene
This terpene is present in plants like rosemary, basil, bell peppers, cedar and pine. Delta-3-carene has a sweet, earthy aroma and a flavor reminiscent of pine and cedarwood with subtle hints of citrus and spice. When consumed, it can leave a refreshing and cooling sensation in the mouth, making it an enjoyable experience for many.
Regarding the medical side of delta-3-carene, research suggests it may aid in healing broken bones, promote bone growth and improve cognitive function. Delta-3-carene gives hope to patients who have osteoporosis, arthritis and even fibromyalgia.
Incorporating delta-3-carene into your cannabis consumption can provide a delightful and flavorful experience while offering various health benefits. Some strains high in delta-3-carene include:
- Arjan’s Ultra Haze – 0.1-0.4%
- Bubba Kush – 0.1-0.3%
- Amnesia Haze – 0.1-0.3%
Camphene is a terpene that offers potential health benefits with a delightful and unique flavor experience. It has a sweet and earthy aroma, with subtle hints of pine and musk reminiscent of a forest walk on a crisp autumn day.
The flavor of camphene is similar, with a slightly herbal and floral note that will leave your taste buds watering. Camphene is often mistaken for myrcene which carries the trademark marijuana smell as most of us know it. Interestingly, camphene is often synthesized from pinene, which may explain their similar flavor profile and health benefits.
From the medical point of view, camphene has excellent potential. When mixed with vitamin C, it becomes a powerful antioxidant. It’s widely used in conventional medicine as a topical for skin issues like eczema and psoriasis, but its greatest potential lies in its ability to lower the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, further reducing a consumer’s risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Camphene is present in the following cannabis strains:
- Ghost OG – 0.3-0.5%
- Strawberry Banana – 0.1-0.3%
- Mendocino Purps – 0.1-0.2%
Borneol terpenes are locked and loaded with refreshing, minty, herbal scents and flavors. This terp is common in herbs like rosemary, mint and camphor. On average, most cannabis strains contain anywhere from 0.01% to .5% borneol. However, some strains (such as Kali Mist) can hold up to 1% of borneol.
Thanks to its citrusy nature, borneol is an excellent natural insect repellent, which can help prevent diseases often passed by ticks, fleas and mosquitoes. Borneol is also widely used in Chinese traditional medicine and acupuncture. But its most impressive potential is killing breast cancer cells.
If you want to try out the borneol terpene effects, here are some cannabis strains high in borneol:
- Kali Mist – 0.5-1.0%
- Hindu Kush – 0.2-0.4%
- Golden Pineapple – 0.1-0.3%
- K13 Haze – 0.1-0.6%
Terpineol provides a delightful and refreshing flavor, aroma and cannabis experience. It has a sweet, floral scent with hints of lilac, apple blossom and pine that will transport you to a vibrant garden filled with blooming flowers. Similar to anise and mint, terpineol flavors are sweet, piney and leave a smooth sensation in the mouth.
This terpene provides a relaxing, calming experience when combined with other cannabis terps and is notorious for the couch lock effect. Terpineol includes anti-depressant and neuroprotective properties, providing its users with terpene effects that may help reduce anxiety and depression.
You can find high levels of terpineol in the following strains:
- Jack Herer – 0.1-0.5%
- White Widow – 0.1-0.4%
- OG Kush – 0.1-0.5%
Valencene is a terpene that offers a delightful and stimulating experience for cannabis enthusiasts. Its sweet, citrusy aroma with notes of oranges and grapefruits can instantly lift your mood and instill feelings of a tropical paradise. The flavor of valencene is zesty with slightly tangy notes that leave a pleasant sensation in the mouth.
Similarly to borneol, valencene is rich in citrus, making it a highly effective bug repellant. Valencene also has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties as well as the potential benefit of treating cancer. These terpene effects are ideal for those struggling with skin-related conditions such as dermatitis and melanoma.
The following strains have high levels of valencene:
- Tangie – 0.1-0.4%
- Agent Orange – 0.05-0.2%
- Pineapple Express – 0.01-0.1%
Geraniol is a rare terpene in cannabis and is primarily found in strains with high levels of CBD. The terpene exists in geraniums, roses, peaches, oranges, lemons and tobacco. Geraniol has a sweet and floral scent with notes of rose grass, peaches and lavender. It is primarily used in aromatic bath products and body lotions, but has recently demonstrated significant medical properties.
Geraniol has shown a lot of potential as a neuroprotectant and antioxidant. It may also improve cognitive function and memory by promoting the growth of new brain cells, making it a potential therapeutic agent for Parkinson’s Disease.
Some examples of strains with high levels of geraniol are:
- Afghani – 0.1-0.4%
- Amnesia Haze – 0.05%-0.2%
- Lavender – 0.03-0.1%
This article was originally contributed by Helena Miles at Greencamp and published Feb. 23, 2018. It was updated by the CannaCon team April 10, 2023.
Greencamp is a cannabis advocacy, education, and informational service. They have created an impressively complete informational regarding cannabis terpenes and their varied effects alone and in conjunction.