Cannabinoids and Terpenes: What is the Difference?

Terpenes and cannabinoids are two buzzwords that are frequently bounced about the cannabis industry. Both serve specific purposes, being somewhat similar, yet vastly different. If you’re not sure of the difference between cannabinoids and terpenes, you will hopefully be able to discuss it at your next vaping party – get out that Volcano vaporizer – because we are here to educate you so you can sound like a true connoisseur.

Most people are more familiar with cannabinoids than terpenes. After all, the cannabinoids THC and CBD are making a big splash in the industry. These are the two – among the many compounds in the cannabis plant – with medicinal value. However, if you really want to look into how marijuana affects you, the terpenes have their own jobs.


Have you ever noticed how even among the same strains, cannabis can smell different? How it has different notes, different aromas? Those are the terpenes doing their work. Of course, they do more than just provide aromatics, but like the notes in a good wine, terpenes give cannabis its aromatic and flavor profile.

The oils are secreted in the resin gland of the plant, which also produce the cannabinoids THC and CBD. However, terpenes are not unique to cannabis and are found in other plants and fruits as well as herbs.

When you combine different terpenes with different cannabinoids, you get what is called the “entourage effect.” This effect describes how different cannabinoids and differing terpenes, sometimes referred to as terpenoids, combine and lock onto different receptors in our brains to produce a unique high.


This can explain why people can feel different highs, even from the same harvest – because the amounts of terpenes secreted – and the kinds of terpenes can differ from plant to plant, even in the same strain from the same harvest. In this, CBD and THC cannabinoids are typically similar – so there would be little difference in the amounts of the cannabinoids among the same strain.

Basically, these terpenes bond with the cannabinoids to ‘turbo charge’ them, creating synergistic effects with the cannabinoids you know and love. For example, if you’ve noticed the difference between an indica that is packed with the terpene limonene, and a sativa that is enriched with linalool, then you’ve found the purpose of terpenes and how these little flavonoids can enhance your cannabis experience.

As knowledge of terpenes, and the testing of cannabis for the amounts of specific terpenes, become more widespread, you will see dispensaries and stores being able to cater to specific tastes and to specific highs.  People will be able to pick and choose cannabis for the amount of terpenes and THC or CBD or other cannabinoids present. This will allow for a more customized experience, all based upon what the consumer – or the patient – wants and needs.