Terpenes: In the Mood for Love

Fragrances play such an integral part in our lives. Some attract our attention, while others repel us. This is  often dependant on our own references. Aromatherapy, is a popular modality to either assist in relaxation, or focus, depending on the essential oils utilised. This also applies to botanical terpenes when we vaporise  certain cannabis strains.

Nature Environments
Our olfactory systems are immediately overcome and intoxicated by the potent terpenes emitted by the trees, when walking in a pine fores. This an instant effect on how we feel. In an indigenous context, South African fynbos has the same result.

Antibacterial Properties

Keep in mind that essential oils are known for their antibacterial and antifungal qualities which further  enhances their medicinal abilities. This is  apart from the pleasant aromas. One of the most elusive terpenes, terpinolene (found in cumin), for example, assists in reducing the risk of heart disease. It is even know to inhibit the proliferation of Cancer cells.

Terpenes in Cannabis
Over 100 cannabis terpenes have been identified so-far, and every strain has an unique terpene profile. Aromas are so intrinsic to the human experience that we name our cannabis strains after them. Cheese and Blueberry, for example, come to mind. The development of terpenes (otherwise known as the aromatic oils of the cannabis plant) are influenced by a multitude of factors, including climate, weather, age and maturation, fertilisers or composts, soil type, and even the time of day.

Terpenes 101
Terpenes give cannabis their distinct flavours and aromas: from citrus to pine, to berry and mint. B-Myrcene (eg, ylang ylang) tends to have a musky, earthy scent which  assists in inducing sleep. Limonene (eg, in oranges) which has a distinct citrus aroma, elevates mood and relieves stress.

Some of the other popular terpenes include Linalool (eg, lavender), caryophyllene (found in cinnamon), a-Pinene (eg, in pine trees) and humulene (found in basil), ocimene (eg, in mint), and terpinolene (found in tea tree).


While terpenes and terpenoids occur widely, their extraction from natural sources is often problematic. Consequently, they are often produced by chemical synthesis, usually from petrochemicals. Others are prepared from those terpenes and terpenoids that are readily isolated in quantity, say from the paper and oil industries. For example, α-pinene, which is readily obtainable from natural sources, is converted to citronellal and camphor. Citronellal is also converted to rose oxide and menthol.

Terpene Adoptogens
Latest research shows that terpenes interact synergistically with other cannabis molecules in complex and facilitating ways. The effect of THC and CBD is thus mediated, as cannabinoids do.

Terpenes also bind to receptor sites in the brain, and affect their chemical output, influencing how much THC passes through the blood brain barrier. Terpenes are known to even affect neuro-transmitters like dopamine and serotonin.

A study shows that the terpene ocimene, derived from flowers of the Citrus Unshiu plant (a close relative of the mandarin orange) exhibits anti-oxidative properties, with an ability to inhibit key enzymes connected to type 2 Diabetes and hypertension1.

Cannabis Plant Alchemy
Keep in mind that it’s not always as straight forward as you may think, in determining which strain suits you best. One has to consider how each strain’s cannabinoid ratio interacts with its terpenes.

There’s no doubt that terpenes, as their own class of molecules, offer therapeutic and experiential qualities over and above the benefits from THC and CBD, and so, are highly-likely to become the next frontier in cannabis connoisseurship. §


1 Chemical Composition and Anti-Inflammation Activity of Essential Oils From Citrus Unshiu Flower
2014 Study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25026734

What Are Cannabis Terpenes and What Do They Do?

Antioxidative Properties and Inhibition of Key Enzymes Relevant to Type-2 Diabetes and Hypertension by Essential Oils from Black Pepper
2013 Study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24348547

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