What are Terpenes?

Terpenes: More Than Just Bag Appeal

Those pungent aromas you get when peeling pine sap off your pants or when a summer breeze hits a lavender field just right are but two examples of terpenes at work in nature and in our nostalgia.

However, very few people knew the technical term for these natural scents until the recent wave of cannabis and hemp reform that is now well underway.

Cannabis and hemp plants come in thousands of varieties called cultivars. Each cultivar expresses a semi-unique array of cannabinoids (like CBD, THC, etc.) as well as terpene blend which gives that cultivar its semi-unique aroma and flavor.

The more we learn about the hemp plant, the more we understand about the importance of terpene production and preservation when it comes to helping people achieve the Entourage Effect that most are seeking from the plant.


Terpenes are bioactive compounds found in many plants and even some animals across the globe. Many are extracted from those natural sources to enhance household items like perfumes, soaps, and foods.

Though most of us have a distinct odor in mind when we think of cannabis, there are thousands of cultivars and probably about a dozen general but distinct aroma categories that those could be filed into.

When conjuring that mental aroma, do you smell citrus? Pine? Gas? Melon? Floral? Candy? Lavender? Maple? Nuttiness? Pepper?

These are just some of those potential categories that cannabis cultivars may fall under, and that distinction is all thanks to their terpene content.

Terpenes play a wellness role in the cannabis or hemp plant as it grows, so it stands to reason that they would do so in us humans after the fact!

Peer-reviewed studies have shown that full spectrum CBD extracts have proven to be more effective than pure isolates in some epilepsy patients. This is further evidence that the full spectrum of naturally occurring cannabinoids and terpenoids is most often the ideal combination.


Ha! The terms ‘terpene’ and ‘terpenoid’ are often used interchangeably, however, they do have two different meanings.

Even in this article we are guilty of falling back on the more recognizable term of ‘terpene’, but here is the difference.

While the cannabis plant is growing, it develops terpenes that help it stave off disease internally and predators externally.

After the plant is harvested, both the terpenes and the cannabinoids begin to oxidize, or age. Some begin to transform.

Acidic forms of cannabinoids become the more familiar and bioavailable versions of CBD, THC, etc.

Terpenes become terpenoids.


For too many years, the focus for both medical and recreational cannabis or hemp consumers was on THC.

Even to this day, many cannabis dispensaries are pricing products based solely off their THC content.

Anyone selling – or buying – cannabis using that model is doing it wrong.

Today’s curious cultivators are growing not just for THC, but for that full spectrum of active cannabinoids and for the mouthwatering, mind bending, and mood-altering effects of a robust terpene ratio.

Even a minimal amount of Delta-9 THC can be enough to activate the highly sought-after Entourage Effect if the rest of the cannabinoid content is on point and as long as the terps come correct!

While the government ties itself in knots trying to overregulate THC, simply sniffing a fresh or aged (terpene vs. terpenoid) cannabis bud can reduce stress and anxiety and, in some cases, can even offer minor pain relief.


Limonene – Lemony, citrusy aroma. May help treat anxiety, inflammation, depression, pain, cancer.

Pinene – Fresh pine aroma. May help treat asthma, pain, inflammation, ulcers, anxiety, cancer. The most abundant terpene in the world. One study suggests that the amount of pinene in the air of a healthy forest is enough to be therapeutic as high concentrations of pinene can act as a bronchodilator, allowing more air into the lungs. The anti-inflammatory effect of pinene could even combat infectious germs.

Linalool – Lavender, ‘Purps’ aroma. A powerful neuroprotectant, linalool may also help treat anxiety, depression, inflammation, cancer, insomnia, appetite stimulation.

Myrcene – Earthy, herbal aroma. The most abundant terpenoid found in most commercially cultivated cannabis and hemp. May help treat anxiety, inflammation, pain, insomnia, appetite stimulation. Also a powerful natural antioxidant. Myrcene is why many people report enhanced effects from hemp and cannabis consumption after eating some myrcene-packed mango fruit.

Beta-caryophyllene – Peppery, woodsy aroma. May help treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain. It is believed to be the only terpene that can interact directly with our endocannabinoid system to deliver its anti-inflammatory effects more effectively. Does this mean that other terps do not activate the ECS? Nope! We are learning more every day!

Humulene – Earthy, hops-like aroma. May help treat inflammation, anxiety, cancer. Also may prove to be a breakthrough medicine in future asthma and allergy treatments. You heard it here!

There are many more terpenes found in hemp, cannabis, and all throughout nature but these are the ones that we see most often in our work at Humboldt’s Cabinet.

Third-party lab testing allows us to see exactly what the terpenoid content is on our harvested hemp plants as we apply our expertise to then preserve those terps throughout the harvest and processing phase to deliver them as nature intended in our final products.

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