Learn about terpenes and terpenoids, and how they play a significant role in the potential therapeutic applications of cannabis.

Terpenes and terpenoids are the compounds in cannabis that give the plants and their flowers their aromatic diversity and distinct flavors. They’re essential oils that are secreted in cannabis flower’s sticky resin glands, where cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are also produced.

While regular cannabis consumers take note of terpenes and terpenoids primarily because of their pungent, aromatic distinctions, the compounds offer more than an intense bouquet. According to a 2001 report from renowned researcher Dr. Ethan Russo, terpenes have wide-ranging therapeutic attributes.

Over 200 different terpenes and terpenoids have so far been identified in the cannabis plant, although they’re not unique to cannabis. They exist throughout the botanical world and are found in many other plants, herbs, and fruits. Common in the human diet, terpenes arerecognized as safe to consume by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Terpenes and Terpenoids: What’s the Difference?

Terpenes and terpenoids are essentially one in the same and the two terms are often used interchangeably. The difference between the two is that terpenes are organic hydrocarbons, while terpenoids contain additional atoms that have been altered during a process called oxidation, which occurs once cannabis has been dried and cured.

To simplify, think of terpenes as “wet” and terpenoids as “dried out.”

Why Terpenes and Terpenoids are Important

Like cannabinoids, terpenes bind to receptors in the brain to stimulate various effects and affect the chemical output of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Among thewide-ranging effects of terpenes that researchers have so far discovered include:

Evidence also suggests that terpenes work with cannabinoids like CBD and THC to enhance their natural balancing properties in what’s referred to as an “entourage effect.”

The entourage effect, introduced in 1998 by Israeli researchers Shimon Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam, maintains that all the natural constituents found in cannabis – terpenes, cannabinoids, and natural other compounds – work together synergistically to magnify their beneficial properties. The theory suggests that isolated cannabis compounds aren’t as effective as when all the natural constituents work together harmoniously.

what are cannabis terpenes

Most Common Terpenes Found in Cannabis

Each strain of cannabis has a unique terpene profile, producing its own distinct line-up and concentration of terpenes. Here’s a look at five terpenes that occur most commonly in the greatest concentrations in cannabis.


Described as having a musky, clove, or earthy aroma, myrcene is the most abundantterpene produced by cannabis, sometimes composing up to 50 percent of the plant’s terpene volume. Myrcene, or β-myrcene, produces what is considered the stereotypical smell of cannabis.

When myrcene levels in cannabis are high, they’re responsible for eliciting the common “couch-lock” euphoric effect, or a strong sense of sedation. A 2014 study also found evidence that myrcene has anti-ulcer properties.

Myrcene is commonly found in other plants such as:

  • Mango
  • Lemongrass
  • Thyme
  • Hops
  • Eucalyptus


Cannabis varieties that are high in the terpene limonene have a strong citrusy smell like orange or lime. Highly absorbed by inhalation, limonene promotes a general uplift in attitude and mood, and it assists in the absorption of other terpenes through the skin.

According to WebMD, limonene may block cancer-forming chemicals and kill cancer cells, though more research is still needed. Limonene is also found in:

The peels of citrus fruits

  • Rosemary
  • Juniper
  • Peppermint


There are actually two types of the terpene pinene — alpha and beta. The alpha variety, found in pine woods and balsamic resin, produces a scent of pine needles or fir. The beta type, found in a variety of herbs, smells like dill, parsley, rosemary, or basil.

Studies indicate that pinene possesses anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator effects. At least one study suggests pinene has anticancer activity.


The only terpene known to interact with the endocannabinoid system, caryophyllene produces a scent that’s been described as peppery, woody, or spicy.

Studies show that caryophyllene binds to the cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) to elicit an anti-inflammatory response. When administered with cannabinoids, particularly CBD, it’s shown to safely reduce chronic pain.

Caryophyllene is also found in:

  • Thai basil
  • Cinnamon
  • Black pepper


Found in over 200 plant species and most abundant in lavender, linalool has a floral aroma and has been known to promote calming, relaxing effects. It’s known best as a beneficial sleep aid and a precursor in the formation of vitamin E.

Studies also indicate that linalool may significantly reduce lung inflammation caused by smoking as well as potentially reverse the histopathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

Check Out www.mrterps.com to purchase terpenes directly.

Lagunitas’s newest IPA doesn’t just smell like marijuana — it contains actual cannabis extracts

Brewers like to describe super-hoppy IPAs the way that they might talk about marijuana: “dank,” “resinous,” “sticky.” It makes sense, after all: Both cannabis (pot) and Humulus lupulus (hops) are members of the Cannabaceae family of flowering plants, and both rely on compounds called terpenes to provide their essential flavors and aromas.

While breweries have tried to mimic the flavors of marijuana in beer – see Lagunitas’s the Waldos, DC Brau’s Smells Like Freedom and Oskar Blues’s Pinner Throwback IPA – few have actually attempted to brew with marijuana extracts.

Last week, Lagunitas debuted SuperCritical, an IPA made with marijuana terpenes provided by CannaCraft, a California company that makes cannabis vape cartridges called AbsoluteXtracts.

“These are created using a combination of dozens of terpenes that we isolate and refine during cannabis extraction, and they are what give our strains their unique flavor and sensory profiles,” says Kial Long, the vice president of marketing for AbsoluteXtracts.

Long says a number of terpene blends were prepared “with the Lagunitas-style taste in mind,” and Lagunitas brewer Jeremy Marshall selected one that was a mix of the Blue Dream and Girl Scout Cookies strains, and then picked six different kinds of hops, including Summit, Tomahawk and Zeus, to match and balance the flavors of the cannabis terpenes.

In return, Lagunitas, which infamously had its license suspended by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in 2005 after an employee was caught rolling a joint at a brewery party, collaborated on a line of vape cartridges flavored with a mix of hop terpenes and cannabis oils.

“We really just wanted to pool our resources to see what we could create,” Long said.

Because SuperCritical is made with the terpenes that AbsoluteXtracts removes from cannabis plants, it doesn’t contain THC, so any pleasant buzz that drinkers might feel comes from the alcohol, not the cannabis. Karen Hamilton, Lagunitas’s director of communications, wrote in an email that the beer is tested in the brewery’s lab, and “lots of people have had the beer, at this point, and NO ONE has experienced any psychotropic effects (to the dismay of some!)”

The beer itself is a dank, odoriferous IPA, checking in at just 6.8 percent alcohol by volume, with grassy flavors, a decent amount of earthy hop bitterness and a noticeably sticky finish. It’s not much different from other IPAs designed to mimic weed’s characteristic flavors, though the taste is slightly greener.

Lagunitas is viewing SuperCritical as an experiment and produced only one batch of 60 barrels, or 120 kegs. Those went to bars across California, primarily in the San Francisco area, by late last week. (A full list is available on the Lagunitas website.) “There may be more SuperCritical coming in the future, and this time to other areas in the U.S.,” Hamilton said.


What Are The Side Effects of CBD?

CBD has just a few mild side effects, and does not affect the major functions of the body.

In recent years, cannabidiol (CBD) has become a popular remedy for many conditionsincluding anxiety, epilepsy, pain, and MS.

CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD does not cause a euphoric high or mind-altering effects.

CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, which has far-reaching effects on the whole body. It has antiemetic, anticonvulsant, antipsychotic, and analgesic properties, among many others.

As interest in CBD’s benefits has surged, so has interest in its potential side effects. Overwhelmingly, research suggests that CBD has only a few mild side effects including fatigue, appetite changes, diarrhea, and changes in the metabolism of other drugs.

When compared to other drugs, CBD’s list of side effects is quite short. They are also more common if you’re using a very high dose.

Risks and Side Effects of CBD

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Overall, CBD is considered to be well-tolerated in humans, even at high doses or when taken for long periods of time. Unlike THC, CBD does not have any psychoactive side effects.

Most people do not experience side effects from using CBD. Several animal and human studies have reported no side effects of treatment with CBD. However, other studies have reported a few minor side effects that may affect some people.

The most common side effects of CBD include:

  • Fatigue
  • Appetite changes
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in the liver’s ability to process drugs

Other possible side effects:

  • Worsening of HIV symptoms
  • Reduction of fertility

CBD can be safely used at high doses without negative effects. Doses of up to 1500mg per day have been reported as safe. For reference, some people benefit from doses as low as 15mg.

Studies show that the lethal dose of CBD is very high. Scientists are not sure of the exact lethal dose of CBD in humans, as there are no known reports of death caused by CBD. A 1981 study found that a dose of 200mg per kg of body weight caused death in rhesus monkeys.

What Do Studies Say?

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2011 review of 132 scientific studies concluded that CBD has very few side effects and does not majorly impact bodily functions.

Essential bodily functions such as heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, motor functions, psychological function, and gastrointestinal transit were found to be unaffected by CBD.

The major side effects included CBD’s impact on liver metabolism of certain drugs, a possible worsening of HIV symptoms, and a possible impact on fertility.

Another group of researchers reviewed the safety and side effects of CBD in 2017. Many studies on CBD were conducted between 2011 and 2017, so the researchers were able to review an additional 74 articles.

This group of researchers found mild side effects of CBD, including fatigue, diarrhea, and changes in appetite.

Effect on Drug Metabolism

CBD can affect the liver’s ability to process certain drugs and medications.

In a 2011 review, scientists found that CBD was a “potent inhibitor” of liver enzymes involved in drug metabolism.

A class of liver enzymes called cytochrome P450 is involved in metabolizing many drugs. CBD inactivates specific forms of this enzyme, making the liver less effective at processing certain drugs. This is very similar to the way that grapefruits can interact with medications.

This means that if you take any prescription medications, it’s important to talk to your doctor before combining them with CBD.


2014 study of medical marijuana users found that patients treated with high-CBD strains experienced fatigue.

However, the marijuana used in the experiment contained some THC, so it is not clear to what extent the drowsiness can be attributed to CBD. THC is known to induce sleepiness.

2015 study on CBD’s effectiveness for epilepsy found that tiredness was the most commonly reported side effect of the drug.


Diarrhea was reported as a common side effect of CBD treatment in a 2015 study on CBD for epilepsy.

However, it is not clear whether this side effect is specific to those with epilepsy, as it was found in other studies that CBD does not impact gastrointestinal transit time (which would be shortened in the case of diarrhea).

It’s also important to note that the doses used in the study were extremely high.

Appetite Changes

A few studies have reported changes in appetite resulting from CBD use.

In a Dutch study from 2014, people who used a high-CBD strain of marijuana reported mild changes in their appetite. However, appetite changes were stronger in those who used a high-THC strain.

Since there was still THC in the high-CBD strain, it’s difficult to tell whether the effects are due to CBD.

Effect on HIV Patients

In a 2011 review, researchers concluded that CBD may worsen the disease progression of HIV. They also found results that suggested it could make it easier to become infected with HIV if exposed to the virus.

The researchers note that some studies found a biphasic effect: a beneficial effect at low doses, and a negative effect at high doses.

However, these side effects only impact those who have been exposed to or infected with the HIV virus.


1986 study found that male rats who were exposed to CBD produced 20% less sperm than controls. They also produced significantly fewer live offspring.

Even more interestingly, male offspring of female rats exposed to CBD also produced 20% less sperm, even if they were only exposed in the womb.

Other studies have reported that CBD can impact levels of sex hormones such as including progesterone, testosterone, and estradiol.

Overall, it’s a good idea to avoid the use of drugs, including CBD, if you are trying to conceive.

How To Reduce Side Effects

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If you would like to reduce your chances of experiencing side effects from CBD, it’s important to use the correct dose and make sure any medications you are taking do not interact with CBD.

When trying to determine the correct dosage for patients, doctors often use a process called titration. Titration involves slowly increasing the dose until the patient achieves the most relief of symptoms with minimal side effects.

If you are experiencing side effects, you may be using too high of a dose. You can use dose titration to find a dose that works for you, but does not produce side effects.

When it comes to any medication, it’s always better to use the smallest dose that works. Since side effects increase with dosage, a smaller dose means you will have a lower chance of experiencing negative side effects.

It’s also important to talk to your doctor about any drug interactions between CBD and any medications you are currently taking.


CBD can be helpful for a number of conditions, but it may cause mild side effects in some people. These include fatigue, appetite changes, diarrhea, and changes in the liver enzymes responsible for drug metabolism.

For those who have been exposed to HIV, or who are trying to conceive a child, CBD may have negative side effects. It’s recommended to avoid using CBD if you are in one of these categories.

It’s important to get the dose right to minimize your risk of side effects from CBD. If you always use the smallest dose that gives you relief, you will be less likely to experience side effects.

Because CBD can interfere with the metabolism of some drugs, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before combining CBD with other medications.

Trending: Cannabis Terpenes in the Kitchen

Terpenes are the oils in various plants, such as basil and lavender, that give them their signature scents and flavors. Cannabis boasts over 100 different terpenes that vary from strain to strain. They differ from THC in that they don’t get you high, but, like CBD, are thought to have a variety of health benefits. For instance, limonene has a pleasant citrus aroma, and may also elevate your mood. Myrcene is an earthier terpene, which is believed to have a calming effect.

Terpenes: The Flavors of Cannabis Aromatherapy

Terpenes derived from other plants—that basil, for instance, or an orange essential oil—have long been one of many items in the chef’s arsenal, and thanks to their natural pungency, terpenes are now popping up more and more often in the culinary scene. Specifically, chefs are discovering cannabis terpenes as useful additives to food, cocktails, beer, and more.

Aaron Ziegler of Bull & Dragon is a Los Angeles-based chef who specializes in private dinners and events, and, on occasion, offers private cannabis-infused meals. He said he experiments with cannabis terpenes in the same way he might incorporate any other herb or plant, noting that chefs are trained to use their nose and tongue as a science lab, quickly sussing out how a particular item might be used. “It’s a lot like discovering any other unique ingredient, like a spice from Malaysia or Peru or something, where you haven’t used that smell or flavor profile before. It’s like, ‘let’s explore this,’ and ‘how many ways can I work this into my food?’” he said.

How 3 Pro Cannabis Chefs Think About Infused Cooking

Ziegler might use a controlled heat extraction method for a “cooked” quality, or a CO2 extraction, which can work with a clean flower that has been grown with absolutely no sprays or chemicals. Those latter terpenes “have this bright, wonderful flavor,” he said. “Some of them—in particular, some of the indicas I’ve found—can be spicy, [with a] really peppery note to them.”

For instance, he’s found success using the strain Green Crack, which contains the terpene myrcene, when making mozzarella cheese. “I use a CO2 extraction, so it’s the natural oil of the plant,” he said. “I bloomed that in lemon juice, and I used that as my culture to make mozzarella cheese. So now, I have this terpene and sativa-infused cheese that has this herbaceous mozzarella flavor. It’s really floral, and it works just like any other herb-infused cheese.”

Recipe: How to Make Cannabis-Infused Cheese

He’s also used the Grape Ape strain, along with lavender, to make an ice cream that he says tastes just like blueberry ice cream, despite the fact that there are no blueberries in it. Ziegler even sees potential in fresh, uncured flowers as a garnish on various dishes. “There’s no transfer of [THC] at that point; the body can’t digest it in that form,” he said. “To use [cannabis] in that sense is really fun, and that’s all about the terpenes.”

At Prank Bar in downtown Los Angeles, owner Dave Whitton first learned about terpenes via his brother-in-law, who opened one of Nevada’s earliest dispensaries. Prank Bar now uses them in cocktails, like the Mon Frere, with gin, orange bitters, and limonene terpenes. They also add them to three different house-made kombuchas, which are available on draft. Though Prank’s offerings contain no THC or CBD at this time, Whitton says his staff enjoys them primarily for the health benefits they seem to produce.

The Leafly Guide to Pairing Tea and Cannabis

He also said he’s noticed an elevated mood and increased energy since becoming a daily drinker of terpene kombuchas. Their house kombucha, for one, is made with mango, ginger, peach, and coconut with limonene terpenes added. “There’s a really sharp edge to the ginger without the terpenes, but when you put the terpenes on top, it creates a cover,” Whitton said. “It’s different from bitters. Bitters create a body underneath, but with terpenes, the oils hover on top and add this delicate softener to those edgier ingredients.”

Prank’s “Calm Booch” is a delicious blend of tart cherry, lavender, and myrcene, a terpene also found in mangoes that studies indicate may have a sedative effect; their “Cross Fizz,” a pineapple mint kombucha, incorporates limonene and pinene terpenes. “That pinene terpene is a bronchodilator, along with the anti-inflammatory [properties]. It’s great for breathing which is why we call it Cross Fizz. If you’re going to go work out, you’re going to get that boost,” Whitton said. “Not only are the flavonoids really fun to play with, but the health benefits [of terpenes] are extraordinary.” Whitton said that in the last six months, Prank has sold twice as much kombucha their most popular beer.

The Leafly Beer & Cannabis Flavor Pairing Guide

That isn’t to say you can’t pair beer and terpenes. It’s an avenue Prank is looking to explore in the near future, and it’s one that California-based Lagunitas Brewing Co. already has. In August, Lagunitas released SuperCritical, an IPA brewed with terpenes. Lagunitas Director of Communications Karen Hamilton says the beer has “a faint cannabis-ish aroma,” but is a still “smooth, flavorful IPA-style beer” that’s been getting a great response from their customers. The same has been true at a bar called Flore in San Francisco, where CBD beer is on draft, and CBD and terpenes add flavor and wellness benefits to cocktails and mocktails on the 4:20 Happy Hour menu.

“You can consider terpenes like a new spice in your spice rack,” says Hamilton. “It brings an interesting flavor to the beer that we have not used before.”

Cannabis Terpene Cocktails—Healthy and . . . Herbal

At this point, it’s hard to be surprised by any ingredient in a cocktail made by a creative mixologist. Duck fat? It’s been done. Peanut butter? Why not. Charcoal? Absolutely. Every veggie in the garden? Old hat. So it only makes sense that these bartending Picassos have to dig ever deeper to find additives that will not just stand out but add that something extra-special to their Instagram-worthy concoctions.

It’s not shocking that Gracias Madre—the Mexican-themed cousin of L.A.’s cultish plant-based Café Gratitude chain—made digital waves last year when introducing CBD-infused cocktails, which don’t exactly not taste of marijuana. By now, many people are familiar with CBD (also known as cannabidiol), the trendy part of cannabis or hemp that’s being increasingly touted for medical use as an anti-inflammatory, pain-easing mood elevator said to not elicit a true high, since it has lower levels of THC (the psychoactive portion of the plant that largely comes from the flower). The herbal supplement brand Torii Labs has even been mixing its CBD-laced Re-Leaf tonic with Gem & Bolt’s mezcal distilled with damiana (a heart-opening medicinal shrub), lemon, honey, and ginger for the High Frequency, designed to connect the heart and mind and leave the drinker with lingering positive energy.

The bar at Prank

The bar at Prank

Photo: Courtesy of Prank

At this point, CBD is relatively old news, and it’s all about terpenes, a term wellness junkies and the rest of the world may soon begin hearing more of, especially if Los Angeles’s Prank bar has any say in the matter. One thing to note: CBD is generally only allowed where medical or recreational marijuana is legal, while terpenes are legal in the U.S. You can think of terpenes as similar to the flavonoids inside any plant—they are in everything from lavender to basil to cannabis and help give something its flavor, whether it’s in a certain strain of weed or a sprig of rosemary. The reason the rise of these incredibly refined terpenes is so exciting, says Prank co-owner and veteran L.A. barman Dave Whitton, is they have hefty health benefits alongside interesting flavor profiles.

Terpenes from cannabis have some of the strongest anti-inflammatory properties of any plant, according to proponents, and a good number of doctors are now studying their effects and benefits in replacing opioids. “When you toss in CBD, you’re getting the different terpenes but not really distinctive ones,” says Whitton. “Once you dive in and distill it down, you clean out the terpene itself and keep cleaning it and cleaning it using CO2 extraction until you get this very distinct strain line that’s an oil.”

A few of the more than 140 identified thus far include limonene, a pungent citrus-oriented terpene, which, in addition to the mighty anti-inflammatory benefits they are all said to carry, is credited as being stress relieving, mood elevating, relaxing, antibacterial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, and has been used to treat acid reflux and gallstones. At Prank, which opened earlier this year as L.A’.s first walk-up bar (the airy neighborhood-friendly industrial space features vibrant tile work and a display case of terpene chocolates, kombucha, and CBD lotions, among other related products), it’s the softly acidic note that rounds out the bright and boozy Mon Frére, which combines Plymouth gin with Cocchi Americano and orange bitters. “You’re taking a depressant, alcohol, and putting in a mood lifter,” says Whitton, “so hopefully it evens things out a little bit. That’s why we like using it in cocktails.”

All it takes is a drop or two to have an effect on the person and the flavor. Limonene also features in the instantly addictive Fizziotics House Original Kombucha. It’s fermented into the health beverage in-house, along with flavors of mango, peach, coconut, and ginger. (Another called Crossfizz, with pomegranate and ginger, is new this month.) The piney-tasting pinene terpene—said to be a bronchodilator good for those with asthma that can be used as an expectorant and to increase alertness—also factors into that brew.

Another key terpene for Prank is myrcene, with a distinct clove scent and flavor and a higher viscosity than the others. “It’s more of a sedative effect, a muscle relaxer,” says Whitton, adding it’s also a great sleep aid. In the Blue Hilaria, with root honey, citrus, Johnnie Walker Black Label, and a floater of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, it’s evident from the first sip—no straw comes in the glass, so the drinker tastes the myrcene and top-shelf booze lingering on the surface. A new kombucha with this terpene is in the works, too: “Ten minutes into drinking a Calmbucha, if you’re cognizant, you’ll start to notice you’re a little more relaxed. Your shoulders will move down, you’ll feel a little bit better,” says Whitton.

While it’s by no means advised to drink terpene cocktails on the daily, Whitton says the potent wonder ingredient is something that should be taken regularly for optimal results: “If you do, the less inflammation you’ll have and the better you’re going to feel, especially the seventh day compared to the first.” But come fall, drinkers at Prank will be privy to even more of these finely crafted cocktails, especially with the seasonally appropriate pinene and myrcene, which Whitton is excited to pair with pumpkin and ginger. And next year, some of the organic and healthy yet totally delicious dishes may be served with dressings or sauces infused with the oils, too. “We have about 15 more terpenes we’re playing with,” Whitton says, “but we want to be able to talk about them intelligently, so people understand the benefits to the body.”