Knowing how terpenes work is an important part of understanding cannabis—and personalizing your experience. Learning the different terpene profiles is beneficial in helping you identify the potential for therapeutic and psychological effects of cannabis, along with its aroma, flavor and color.

The organic compounds found in terpenes provide different benefits, such as anti-inflammatory or anxiety-reducing properties. Cannabis plants showcase about 40 terpenes each, and a total of 200 have been identified in different strains. This guide will help you better understand how these important parts of the cannabis plant can enhance your overall experience.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are organic compounds found in the essential oils of the female cannabis plant that determine each strain’s unique scent and flavor. They are essential for the plant’s growth and survival by not only producing unique aromas, but also creating the plant’s colors in their buds and leaves. This pigmentation attracts certain creatures to spread pollen—and deters others that could cause harm—all while strengthening the plant’s immune system.

Terpenes are volatile compounds—organic chemicals that evaporate easily at room temperature—so extraction must occur with extreme care. Three main extraction processes include: solventless (steam or hydro-distillation), solvent (using hydrocarbons and gases) and mechanical (using pressure and heat).

What is the difference between CBD and terpenes?

Three of the most commonly discussed naturally occurring compounds of the cannabis plant are terpenes, CBD, and THC. Cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, is the second most active ingredient (to THC) found in cannabis—and cannot cause a high. Instead, the chemicals in CBD have a different effect on the brain and body, which can help aid in pain relief and stimulate relaxation.

Pure THC (isolated delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, will provide a generic high—one without character profiles like “anti-anxiety” or “pain relief.” Instead, these characters develop from the terpenes and CBD as they work in concert with THC. This so-called “entourage effect” is what ultimately enhances the THC’s physical and psychoactive properties for the unique effects experienced from strains of different cannabinoid blends.

How do terpenes affect the body?

Terpenes can have a direct physiological effect on the body—and cannabis is one of the most common sources for wellness terpenes. They interact with our endocannabinoid system and assist cannabinoids in entering our bloodstream through the entourage effect—the biological synergy of these and other compounds like flavonoids.

Terpenes’ many therapeutic properties include fighting pain, lowering stress and anxiety, and helping with depression and bipolar disorder ( Additionally, terpenes can help with insomnia, focus and memory, epileptic seizures, and reducing systemic inflammation, amongst other benefits (

What are terpenes good for?

Terpenes found in cannabis can have many “anti-“ benefits for the body, including:

  • Analgesic
  • Anti-cancer
  • Anti-convulsant
  • Anti-depressant
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-hyperglycemic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-microbial
  • Anti-parasitic
  • Anti-viral
  • Pain relief

What are some examples of terpenes in cannabis?

The top six terpenes found in cannabis are:

 Humulene. This terpene smells like earth, woods, and spice—it’s what gives cannabis its identifiable scent, along with the distinct flavor of hoppy beers. Humulene has several benefits including anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-tumor, along with being an appetite suppressant for weight management.

Limonene. This terpene’s scent reflects its name—citrus, lemon, fruity. Limonene has been known to elevate moods, relieve stress, reduce inflammation, and reduce pain: It holds antioxidant and anti-cancer properties and has been shown to effectively treat anxiety, breast cancer, depression and acid reflux.

 Linalool. This terpene smells like lavender with a bit of spice. Linalool is best known for its anti-inflammatory and sedative properties, and therefore helpful for anxiety and insomnia. Linalool has also been shown to be a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

 Myrcene. This terpene smells like cloves, spice and earth. As the most common of cannabis terpenes, myrcene is best used to promote relaxation and sedation. It has also been used to help inflammation and reduce pain.

 Pinene. This terpene is available as alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. Alpha smells like pine needles and rosemary, while beta conveys basil, dill, hops, and parsley. Pinene provides mental focus and clarity, while offering anti-inflammatory relief for fibromyalgia and arthritis. Pinene is also a known Bronchodilator, which may open airways in the lungs, and it has also claimed to combat short-term memory loss in conjunction with THC use.

 Terpinolene. This terpene smells floral, piney, herbal and a little citrusy. It’s commonly used for its anti-bacterial and antifungal properties. Still, terpinolene reports to possibly reduce the risk of heart disease and growth of cancer cells, while acting as an effective treatment for anxiety, insomnia and panic attacks.

Knowing what terpene profile is right for you

Determining your personalized terpene profile can be a fun and educational way to explore cannabis usage and its benefits. Here are some tips to help you:

Read the terpenes above and determine your scent preference and/or effects or wellness needs.
Explore strains by dominate terpenes. Most cannabis products include terpene profiles in their descriptions or packaging labels. (Be sure to check for freshness/expiration dates, too.)
Visit your local Ascend store to try your new selections. You can buy a small amount of different strains to test how each feels. (Avoid dabbing or cannabis oil when experimenting.)
Ask your Ascend budtender if you’re still looking for advice.


Identifying terpenes will not only round out your cannabis know-how, but can help you to personalize your cannabis experience to indulge your senses, benefit your mind, and even potentially aid your health. Ascend carries a range of terpene-profile products for you to explore, know and love.