Why Are Terpenes Important?

Terpenes are aromatic oils which contribute to the fragrance and taste of marijuana. They are a vital part of cannabis therapy for several reasons. Not only do they have a range of benefits of their own, but they may also influence the way your body utilizes cannabinoids such as THC and CBD.

See our breakdown below for more information on different terpenes and the ways you can best utilize them in your medical practice

Spice, Girl

While you have likely never heard of it before, Sabinene is ranked as the single most important ingredient in essential oils because of the antiseptic nature of this therapeutic terpene. While it is adored for its scent and flavor, the medicinal uses of this terpene har outweigh those purposes.

A natural antioxidant, Sabinene may serve as a potential weapon against the oxidation believed to cause the skin to age more rapidly.

It acts as an antimicrobial as well! Specifically, the presence of Sabinene showed potential against the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumonia), and Staphylococcus aureus (meningitis and toxic shock syndrome).

This spicy terpene contributes to the savory flavor of black pepper, so you have likely encountered Sabinene during a spicy meal, or in your pantry! You can also find Sabinene in Norway spruce, black pepper, basil, and nutmeg.

  • Super Silver Haze
  • Arjan’s Ultra Haze #1

Beyond Aromatherapy

A common constituent of herbal essential oils, Cymene stands out for its potential to treat inflammation and combat tumors. Though more research is needed regarding the medical benefits of Cymene, studies continue to show promise for the terpene’s effectiveness on the human body.

A 2013 study in the Journal of Inflammation demonstrated that Cymene acts as an anti-inflammatory agent through several of the body’s cellular messaging pathways. An important component of pain, another study in the Journal for Nature Research confirmed these anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits in mice.

Further, a growing body of science supports Cymene’s role in fighting cancer. Most of this research has been done using human cells grown in laboratories, but researchers have found that Cymene inhibits tumors in connective tissue, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, and others.

Characterized by some as exuding a flavor profile of orange or carrot, this terpene is found in more than 100 different plants such as anise, oregano, eucalyptus, cilantro, and mace.

  • Mango Haze
  • King Mamba
  • Blue Banner

Cooling Menthol

Also known as cineole, eucalyptol isn’t one of the most common terpenes in Cananbis. However, it makes up for its relative scarcity with powerful analgesic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory qualities. In fact, studies have shown that eucalyptol can help with inflammation-causing pain, respiratory diseases, pancreatitis, and more. It also has antioxidant, antibacterial, anticancer, and antifungal properties.

As for its mental benefits, eucalyptol helps enhance memory while boosting cognitive energy. Research has shown eucalyptol as a promising treatment for those with Alzheimer’s, as it decreases the inflammation caused by amyloid beta plaques.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of eucalyptol is the molecule’s anticancer action. A 2002 paper from Oncology Reports details that eucalyptol suppressed the growth of leukemia cell lines by inducing apoptosis, a potential therapeutic for cancer treatments.

Further, the Journal of Asthma showed that eucalyptol can improve lung function and health, and can reduce shortness of breath in asthma patients with its anti-inflammatory properties.

This terpene has a strong, cooling, minty fragrance responsible for the pleasurable scents within eucalyptus, mint, tea tree, and sage. Outside of Cannabis, it is used in everything from cough drops to mouthwash to pain-alleviating massage balm!

  • Girl Scout Cookies
  • Bubba Kush
  • Super Silver Haze

Of the Trees

Nerilodol is the primary scent compound of Mexican Orchids and has found its way into many lotions and perfumes. It’s also present in essential oils such as lavender, jasmine, and tea tree.  You’ve probably ingested Nerilodol before, as it is commonly present in candy and chewing gum, where it is used as a flavoring and scent component.

Common in many plants and flowers, Nerilodol has shown to have antifungal, sedative, anticancer, antibacterial, and anti-anxiety properties. Of these, its sedative effects seem to be its greatest asset, lauded as a natural sleep aid and relaxant.

This terpene has also shown potential to treat some neurological conditions, namely Parkinson’s. And while further research is needed, studies suggest Nerilodol may have the ability to make some bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics and could be used as a tool against malaria.

Characterized by a woodsy profile similar to fresh tree bark, Nerilodol is the primary scent compound of Mexican Orchids and has found its way into many lotions and perfumes.

  • Jack Herer
  • Blue Dream
  • Skywalker OG

The Lurker

Terpinolene isn’t a major player in modern Cannabis, as it’s usually present in small amounts, but its benefits are not to be overlooked! As an essential oil, Terpinolene has shown antibacterial and anti fungal qualities. Emerging research also shows its potential to reduce heart disease and calm the nervous system.

In a 2013 study, findings found that Terpinolene to be a potent anti-proliferative agent for brain tumor cells and may also provide defenses against inflammation and oxidative damage, which are both associated with cancer. As an essential oil, Terpinolene has shown antibacterial and anti fungal qualities. Emerging research also shows its potential to reduce heart disease and calm the nervous system.

Piney, floral, herbaceous, AND citric, Terpinolene’s flavor is characterized by a little bit of everything. You’ll also find it in lilacs, cumin, apples, nutmeg, and many other plants.

  • Dutch Treat
  • XJ-13
  • Golden Pineapple

The Tumor Terminator

Though Humulene is typically present in Cannabis in smaller amounts than other terpenes, its benefits are expansive and well-researched.

However, research has also shown its ability to produce Reactive Oxygen Species, making it an active mechanism for fighting tumors. When combined with phytocannabinoids, it may help terminate cancer cells all together!

Characterized by an herbaceous, floral profile, it’s found in many plants used in holistic Eastern medicine. 

  • Girl Scout Cookies
  • Original Glue
  • Sherbert
  • OG Kush

Man of Mystery

Though Phellandrene shows therapeutic potential, research on this terpene is still quite limited. As a secondary terpene, there’s just not much information available, but let’s dive in anyway!

Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat digestive disorders, Phellandrene is one of the main compounds in turmeric leaf oil, which is used to prevent and treat systemic fungal and bacterial infections. This was tested as recently as 2017, when researchers showed its ability to control the Penicillium cyclopium fungus in post-harvest tomatoes. Eastern health practitioners have also developed herbs with this terpene to reduce phlegm and boost energy.

A 2014 study found that alpha-Phellandrene significantly decreased the viability of human liver tumor cells, and similar results are shown in more recent studies with leukemia. Other studies have shown Phellandrene’s ability to relieve pain and inflammation in animals. Many patients using cannabis to manage pain and fight cancer may receive subtle benefit from phellandrene’s anti-tumor and analgesic effects.

Characterized as pepperminty and slightly citric, it’s also present in herbs such as cinnamon, garlic, dill, ginger and parsley. 

  • Jack Herer
  • Trainwreck
  • Ace of Spades

Sun-kissed & Juicy

Research has shown Valencene to have a variety of medicinal benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties and anti-allergic effects, and also acts as a bronchodilator.

Valencene shows potential to fight damage made to the skin due to sun exposure, and may boost the efficacy of a chemotherapy drug called doxorubicin. Another interesting characteristic of Valencene is its ability to repel insects, such as mosquitoes and ticks.

Boasting a sweet, citrus-like scent, Valencene is commonly found in Valencia oranges, as well as grapefruits, nectarines, mangoes, and tangerines. 

  • Agent Orange
  • Tangie
  • Sour Diesel 


A Heart-Healthy Diet

More effective than linalool, myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene at lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, Camphene has the potential to aid those suffering from heart-related medical issues.

From the medical point of view, camphene shows great promise. It is widely used in conventional medicine as a topical for skin issues like eczema and psoriasis. Camphene has the potential to fight heart attacks and strokes. However, its greatest potential lies in its ability to lower the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, further lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

With a flavor of fir needles, earth, and damp woodlands, you’ll also find it in citronella, sage oil, ginger oil, neroli, and valerian.

  • Ghost OG
  • Strawberry Banana
  • Mendocino Purps

A terpene with surprising benefits

Studies have shown that Myrcene can block the cancer-causing effects of aflatoxins that find their way to our food. These anti-mutagen properties stem from myrcene’s inhibition of the liver enzyme, CYP2B1, which induces aflatoxin’s ability to damage our DNA. Myrcene also protects against DNA damage from toxins such as t-butyl-hydroperoxide. 

This terpene has a long history in folk medicine, used internationally for centuries as a natural sleep aid. It also has muscle-relaxant properties, as well as anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving effects. 

Characterized by a peppery, spicy flavor, it’s present in many other plants, such as thyme, mango, and lemongrass. 

  • Blue Dream
  • Rosetta Stone
  • OG Kush
  • Granddaddy Purple

Sweet, fruity, & anti-“everything"

Ocimene has shown to suppress our immune system’s production of several inflammatory substances. However, further research suggests this terpene could help treat symptoms of both Type 2 Diabetes and Hypertension by inhibiting the proliferation of key enzymes.

In addition to treating symptoms of Diabetes and Hypertension, it  also has shown anti-oxidative, anti-fungal, antiviral, and decongestive properties.

Characterized by an herbaceous, aromatic profile, it’s a monoterpene present in many other plants, such as kumquats, hops, and orchids. 

  • Green Crack
  • Dutch Treat
  • Amnesia

Peace of mind and body

This terpene has long used in medicine for its sedative and anti-epileptic properties, but linalool has also been found to reduce anxiety and depression. Linalool has the ability to block glutamate receptors, which accounts for its anti-epileptic effects; it also reduces the strength of acetylcholine, lessening muscle contraction and movement and reducing pain signals to the brain. 

Linalool acts as a nervous system depressant, offering sedative, anxiety-reducing, and pain-relieving benefits.

Characterized by a floral, spicy flavor, it’s found in hundreds of well-known plants, such as lavender, mint, citrus and fungi. Without knowing it, you likely consume two grams of linalool a year! 

  • Starbet
  • Rosetta Stone
  • Skywalker OG
  • Pink Kush

A Staple of Asian Medicine

Known to Chinese physicians for at least 2,000 years, Borneol has historically been used to facilitate digestion, improve circulation, and ease pain brought on by rheumatic diseases. Chinese herbalists also use the bitter tasting terpene to treat bronchitis, coughs, and colds while recognizing its stress-relieving qualities.

Like many other terpenes, it has powerful pain-fighting applications. The difference, though, is an absence of sedation. While it numbs physical pain, it won’t numb your mind. For this reason, Borneol is an effective topical, but it’s shown to act as an anticoagulant and neuroprotectant as well. Some studies have shown its role in preventing strokes and fighting against toxicity on the cellular level.

Characterized as earthy with distinct notes of camphor and a cooling quality, it’s also present in plants such as ginger, rosemary, sage, camphor, marjoram and mugwort.

  • K-13 Haze
  • Golden Haze

Honey Bee Approved

Geraniol is a terpene found in numerous species of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Like almost all other major terpenes in cannabis, geraniol has powerful antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Among the most promising therapeutic uses for geraniol is its potential contribution to cancer treatment, namely for its tumor-reduction properties in cancer cells and its possible inhibition of growth of colon cancer cells. A 2005 study showed that Geraniol inhibited the proliferation of MCF-7 breast cancer cells, and a 2016 study showed the terpene’s ability to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells by altering cell proliferation.

Studies have also shown the potential of geraniol to manage diabetes and hyperglycemia, as well as to help mitigate the symptoms of atherosclerosis, a condition that causes the formation of plaque in the arteries.

Geraniol is known for its delicate rose and floral profile. Though the name is derived from the geranium plant, you can find elsewhere, including in rose oil, lemongrass, peaches, coriander, and blackberries.

  • Agent Orange
  • Tahoe OG
  • Black Cherry Soda

The Multi-tasker

People have been extracting limonene from citrus fruits for centuries, and we find it in many strains of Cannabis today. When it comes to the terpene’s medical benefits, the real question is what Limonene CAN’T do!

Limonene delivers on an elevated mood and stress relief, and it has anti-fungal and antibacterial effects as well. Studies have shown that it could also relieve heartburn and gastric reflux, and there’s promising evidence for limonene’s anti-tumor effects. This is true specifically for breast and mammary tumors, as it has been found to silence a protein that promotes breast cancer tumor growth. Additionally, Limonene may lower your risk of heart disease by reducing certain risk factors, such as elevated cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglyceride levels.

Rich in citric flavors like tangerine, grapefruit, and lemon, you’ll also find it in everyday items, such as cosmetics, cleaning products, and fruit rinds.

  • Strawberry Banana
  • Do-Si-Do
  • Tahoe OG

Like strolling through a forest

Working in synergy with THC, alpha-pinene acts as a bronchodilator, opening up airways at low exposure levels to help conditions like asthma. Alpha-pinene can also counteract the less desirable effects of THC, such as anxiety and short-term memory. It works by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase activity in the brain, which helps you retain memories more efficiently.

Cannabis users also know Pinene for its extensive effects on the mind and body. Anti-inflammatory, -cancer, -microbial, and -depressant; it’s also effective for respiratory issues, AND it’s neuroprotective. ⠀

Characterized by a—well, you guessed it—“piney” flavor, it’s one the most abundant terpene in modern Cannabis. I’s also present in many other plants, such as pine, rosemary, and basil. 

  • Blue Dream
  • Snoop’s Dream
  • OG Kush
  • Grape Ape

Underdog of the terpene world

Caryophyllene is the first known, non-cannabinoid to bind directly to our bodies’ CB2 (Endocannabinoid) receptors, primarily located in the spleen, white blood cells, and endocrine gland. Caryophyllene also binds to our reproductive, gastrointestinal, and urinary tracts.

Powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect, with proven ability to ease pain, reduce substance dependence and gene stress, and aid with anxiety and depression

Characterized by a spicy, sweet, warm flavor. It’s also the main terpene found in popular spices such as pepper, cloves, and basil!

  • Purple Bud
  • Hindu Cream
  • OG Kush
  • Girl Scout Cookies