Terpenes – distinctive smells and real effects

Terpenes are often described as “smell molecules.” Certainly one characteristic of terpenes is that they usually have a distinctive smell. Sometimes the name even hints of the smell – alpha pinene, for example, smells like pine.

  • Myrcene is the most common terpene in many CBD hemp flowers (and in many other cannabis varieties). It is a sedative, a muscle relaxant, a hypnotic, a painkiller and an anti-inflammatory chemical. Varieties high in myrcene are thought to cause “couch lock” – that feeling that you just can’t get off the couch.
  • Limonene (named for lemons) is a terpene found in citrus as well as in cannabis. It is has been used to treat gallstones, improve mood, and relieve heartburn and gastrointestinal reflux. Limonene is an anticonvulsant and has been shown to destroy cancer cells in lab experiments. It is also antimicrobial.
  • Linalool is found in lavender as well as in some cannabis strains. It reduces anxiety and is used to treat stress. It is also an anticonvulsant. There is evidence that linalool affects serotonin-receptors and may have antidepressant properties. Linalool has been used to treat acne and burns.
  • Beta-caryophyllene is a terpene that also acts as a cannabinoid. It is the only terpene that has been found to directly bind to the CB2 receptor. Beta-caryophyllene is found in black pepper, cloves, oregano and other herbs and in some green leafy vegetables. It is good for treating some ulcers and shows promise as a treatment for inflammatory conditions and autoimmune disorders. It smells like purple gum drops.
  • Alpha-pinene is a bronchodilator potentially helpful for asthmatics. Pinene also promotes alertness and memory retention by inhibiting the metabolic breakdown of acetylcholinesterase, a neurotransmitter in the brain that stimulates these cognitive effects.
  • Phytol is a lesser-known terpene that shows sedative effects and anticonvulsant activity in rodents.
  • Trans-nerolidol – Contributes to relaxation.  One of the “fingerprints of chill” in a Canadian study (along with beta-caryophyllene and D-limonene).
Information on terpenes is based on material from PubMed, 
Leafly, Project CBD and from Terpenes and Testing magazine.
It is updated from time-to-time as we learn more.