What You Need to Know About Medical Cannabis Terpenes

Terpenes are a large part of what makes up medical cannabis, yet many patients don’t know much about them.  That’s why we’ve created this guide, to help patients understand the usefulness of cannabis terpenes.

Cannabis Terpenes: What Are They?

Terpene molecules are oils which reside within the resin glands of cannabis flowers.  Terpenes are the molecules responsible for the smell and taste of individual strains, while cannabinoids and THC are odourless.  Terpenes may also influence the effects of varied strains.  Outside influences on the cannabis as it is grown do not alter the smell or flavour, but will affect the amount of terpenes each plant generates.  This has led Licensed Producers (LP’s) to choose strains that exhibit a desired terpene profile, while they try to achieve the highest number of terpenes through their cultivation process.  As terpenes are extremely potent, just a small number of these molecules will have the cannabis smelling strongly.  It should be noted that terpenes are not specific to cannabis.  They are found in other herbs, fruits and even coniferous trees.

How do terpenes work in cannabis?

The terpenes found in cannabis bind with the receptors inside the human body.  These include the scent receptors found in your nose and mouth, as well as your brain and nervous system cannabinoid receptors.  The terpenes bind to your receptors, causing you to experience smell and taste.  They might even have a maximizing effect on the cannabinoids through what is known as the “entourage effect.”

The effects of medical cannabis terpenes

Medical cannabis gives patients it’s beneficial effects when the cannabinoids bind with the cannabinoid receptors, (CB1 & CB2), in your brain and nervous system.  While terpenes have not been proven to affect the medical properties of cannabis, they may be responsible for raising dopamine and serotonin levels in your brain.  Research is ongoing into the exact effects of terpenes and how they influence patient treatment.  There seems to be a lot of synergistic potential happening between terpenes, cannabinoids and the human body which we don’t fully understand.

So far, research suggests that terpenes will bind to your cannabinoid receptors as well, possibly affecting chemical activity and how your body reacts to cannabinoids.  As there are many types of terpenes, each may bring with it a differing effect, such as feelings of euphoria, focus or even altered THC absorption.  Some terpenes also appear to have no measurable effect whatsoever.

Types of cannabis terpenes

To date, researchers have identified 100 terpene types, with 6 being classified as primary terpenes.


As its name suggests, Pinene has been found in coniferous trees and gives a tart, piney aroma when smelled.  Cannabis strains that promote pinene production include Indica, Sativa and Hybrid strains.


Found in the highest volumes within mostly Indica cannabis strains, Myrcene produces an earthy, fruity smell that can come off as quite strong and musky.


Found in its highest concentrations within Sativa cannabis strains, Linalool delivers crisp notes of citrus that are sometimes almost sweet and floral.


Humulene is also found mainly in Sativa cannabis strains and brings a pleasant woody, earthy aroma.  Its smell has been compared to wood or whiskey and tobacco.


Found across the board in Indica, Sativa and Hybrid cannabis strains, this terpene results in a spicy or peppery aroma.  It has also been described as woody in some instances.


As the name suggests, this terpene carries an unmistakable citrus aroma.  This terpene is often used as a flavouring for food and drink.  Limonene is often found in its highest concentrations within Indica and Indica dominant Hybrid cannabis strains.

Do terpene effects change with different consumption methods?

Terpenes are sensitive to heat, so raising their temperature past their own boiling point will prematurely vaporize them out of your medicine.  Getting the most out of your medical cannabis’s terpene profile requires low heat extraction.

The medical cannabis side of terpenes

While cannabis terpenes are not directly correlated to increased treatment effects, many patients consider the terpene profile of their medical cannabis to be very important.  The only sure way to know what terpene profile exists within your medicine is to buy from a LP such as INDIVA, that charts the terpene profile for every available strain.  The terpene profile will vary from strain to strain but will remain the same from one batch (of the same strain) to the next.  Only the volume of terpenes will fluctuate depending on how the cannabis was grown.  It is important to purchase your medication through a Licensed Producer so that you know what strain you’re getting and what it is constituted of.  Always choose products that are lab tested for strain accuracy and the best medicinal results.

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