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Terpenes 101

We encourage you to continue exploring the nuances of these exciting compounds!

Olena Zaskochenko

Terpenes are a class of hydrocarbons that occur naturally in plants and animals. They are produced in nature for a range of reasons, from attracting pollinators to deterring danger. Terpenoids are the oxygenated derivatives of terpenes – although the terms often get used interchangeably.

Together these compounds provide a vast range of smells, flavors, and effects. Their history with humanity dates back to our very beginnings, from fragrances to flavoring. But to the modern-day consumer, terpenes represent the very variety that we crave from Cannabis. They are (after all) largely responsible for what makes your favorite cultivar your favorite!      

Before diving into some of the more common Cannabis terpenes below, it’s important to note a few facts. Much like in nature, each plant will encounter an array of conditions during its life that (inevitably) alter outcomes. This can range from genetic sourcing to production practices, unplanned circumstances, and everything in between. So, while we hope you’ll find a promising start here today, we encourage you to continue exploring the nuances of these exciting compounds on your own. 


  • Attributes: Mild, but earthy and sweet
  • Found in (nature): Hops, Thyme, Mango
  • Found in (cultivars): OG Kush
  • Fun fact: Myrcene is the most abundant terpene found in Cannabis. As a monoterpene, its simplistic molecular structure is a precursor to an array of more complex aromatic compounds.
CLAUDIA OTTE, C.Otte A lot of red fresh mango fruits


  • Attributes: Floral and fruity
  • Found in (nature): Geranium, Rose, Coriander
  • Found in (cultivars): Harlequin
  • Fun fact: Honeybees produce geraniol-containing pheromones to mark hive entrances and nectar bearing flowers. 


  • Attributes: Gentle, woody and floral
  • Found in (nature): Lavender, Birch, Chamomile
  • Found in (cultivars): Amnesia Haze
  • Fun fact: Linalool has been studied many times in the medical community, producing a wide array of promising results (particularly when it comes to neurological health).  
Olena Zaskochenko Beautiful close up shot of lavender flowers at the field.


  • Attributes: Citrusy and bright
  • Found in (nature): Orange, Lemon, Caraway
  • Found in (cultivars): Sour Diesel
  • Fun fact: Limonene’s solvent qualities make it a popular compound for use in industrial cleaning agents. 
Fresh yellow lemon


  • Attributes: Camphorous, minty and green
  • Found in (nature): Eucalyptus, Bay Leaf, Cardamom
  • Found in (cultivars): Super Silver Haze
  • Fun fact: Eucalyptol exhibits cooling properties, and as such, is a common additive in products like mouthwash and cough syrup.
Fresh eucalyptus leaves. Flat lay, top view. Nature green Eucalyptus leaves background


  • Attributes: Fresh and forest-like
  • Found in (nature): Pine, Sage, Rosemary
  • Found in (cultivars): Romulan
  • Fun fact: α-Pinene is the most commonly found terpene in nature.
Pots with fresh rosemary on table against a blurred background


  • Attributes: Woody with a complex cleaner-like profile
  • Found in (nature): Tea Tree, Lilac, Fir
  • Found in (cultivars): Durban Poison
  • Fun fact: According to some studies (in mice), inhalation can produce sedating effects.


  • Attributes: Vegetal and woody with a subtle spice
  • Found in (nature): Hops, Ginseng, Balsam Fir
  • Found in (cultivars): Stardawg
  • Fun fact: Humulene is largely responsible for the “hoppy” aroma of beer. 
Glass of beer with hops and raw material for beer production


  • Attributes: Spicy and peppery
  • Found in (nature): Pepper, Cloves, Oregano
  • Found in (cultivars): GSC
  • Fun fact: β-Caryophyllene was one of the first Cannabis-based compounds outside of THC, CBN, and CBN shown to interact directly with our endocannabinoid system.


  • Attributes: Woody and sweet with floral notes
  • Found in (nature): Basil, Bergamot, Orchids
  • Found in (cultivars): Pink Lemonade
Glass Perfume Bottles

Fun fact: This elusive terpene often constitutes only a small portion of a cultivar’s profile.

This article was originally published in the September 2021 issue of all Leaf Magazines.

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