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What are Cannabis Terpenes?

January 7th, 2022

There have been hundreds of studies that have proven the health benefits of well-known cannabinoids found in cannabis. Everyone is familiar with THC, CBD, and even up-and-coming cannabinoids like CBG. Now research is being focused on the benefits of “lesser-known” substances found in cannabis. At the top of the list are terpenes. Here’s why. 

What are terpenes? 

Terpenes are “aromatic compounds” that are found in cannabis as well as in many other plants in the natural world. Examples of other plants besides cannabis that contain terpenes include pine, lavender, rosemary, and orange. Basically, any plant that has a pungent odor is going to contain terpenes! 

Terpenes are responsible for the aroma of plants, but that is not all. For the plant itself, terpenes serve as a survival mechanism. The strong odor they put out as well as their high antimicrobial content protect them against grazing animals, bugs, fungal organisms, and infectious germs. 

Terpenes also have immense health benefits for humans on all levels, even more so because of their small molecular structure which allows them to bypass the blood-brain barrier. This is why people have been using pungent plants and herbs, including cannabis, for centuries.

Modern researchers have been taking terpenes seriously for decades as well. The Royal Swedish Academy of Science awarded the 1910 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Otto Wallach specifically for his work with terpenes. (1) 

A quick example of the healing power of terpenes, in general, is limonene. Since the 1990s, studies have shown it to contain anti-tumor effects, especially against skin, breast, prostate, pancreatic, and other forms of cancers. (2) 

Why are terpenes important in medical cannabis?   

While terpenes are found in hundreds of healing plants, they are most prevalent and concentrated in medical cannabis. In 2020, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) awarded Dr. Ziva Cooper, research director at the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, $3.9 million dollars to study the interactions between THC and cannabis terpenes. Her work is currently focused on how terpenes in medical cannabis can reduce opioid use for those who are in pain. (3) 

Earlier research has also proven the importance of terpenes for the overall benefits of medical cannabis. When THC and CBD are extracted for use in synthetic cannabinoid blends, they often will not have the same therapeutic effects as versions that contain terpenes and other substances. 

The proven medical benefits of cannabis flower and whole plant varieties of medical cannabis are because of the “entourage effect.” This is a term that was coined by pioneering cannabis researchers S. Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel in the 1990s. The entourage effect describes the synergistic way that all substances in medical cannabis work together to produce powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, immune-boosting, pain-reducing, and body balancing effects.

What are some of the healing terpenes found in medical cannabis?

There are over 400 substances (that we know of right now) that make up a single cannabis plant, including potentially hundreds of different terpenes. All of these substances work together to strengthen the endocannabinoid system, which in turn helps the whole body.

While dozens of cannabis terpene types may be present in a particular strain of cannabis, there are a few that are the most common. These are: 

  1. Limonene: Limonene has been shown to elevate mood, have an anti-anxiety/anti-depression effect, and lower inflammation in general. It is a super antioxidant that has also been shown in several studies to have an anti-cancer/anti-tumor effect (as we mentioned earlier). Strains that contain limonene available at WholesomeCo include Do-Si-Dos and Boojum lemon up.
  2. Pinene: Pinene is also a powerful anti-inflammatory terpene that can help with lung health and is also known for its effects on anxiety. (4) It is also an anti-cancer agent, with studies showing its effect on cancers of the adrenal glands (neuroblastoma cells) as well as others. Strains available in flower form as well as other products that contain pinene available at WholesomeCo include Jack Herer, Dutch Treat, and Blue Dream strains and in the Boojum Hibiscus lime gummies.
  3. Caryophyllene: Caryophyllene is a “sesquiterpene” found in cannabis that is characterized by a “woodsy” smell. It is a relaxing terpene that can help with chronic pain and insomnia. Some studies also suggest that it can be especially calming for neuropathic pain. (5) Products that contain caryophyllene available at WholesomeCo include Boojum Cherry All Day gummies.
  4. Linalool: Linalool has a sweet aroma, and this is why it can also be found in many flowering plants besides cannabis, such as lavender. Linalool can calm the nervous system and is also effective for pain connected to inflammation. Some studies indicate that it can have an “anxiolytic,” effect which may be beneficial for regulating deeper psychological conditions such as OCD. (6) Flower and other products available at WholesomeCo that contain linalool include wedding pie and kush cake.
  5. Myrcene: Finally, there is myrcene, which we will talk about in more detail in the next section. Myrcene is found in many cannabis strains and plays a unique role in the activation of many other substances in medical cannabis. 

Myrcene: A foundational terpene for pain relief and more 

Myrcene is a “monoterpene.” It is often called the “mother of all terpenes” because it is a “precursor” that can lay the foundation for many other terpene types in cannabis. Some studies also suggest that myrcene can instigate “membrane permeation.” (7) This means that it can help other beneficial compounds, such as other terpenes and cannabinoids like THC and CBD, enter cells in a more efficient way. 

Studies have shown that myrcene can help with: 

Myrcene does seem to have a relaxing effect, which is why it can be found in many strains and legal medical cannabis products designed to help with sleep, relaxation, and pain relief. Contrary to popular belief, however, myrcene is not found only in indica strains and it is not solely responsible for the “couchlock” effect connected with some cannabis strains. 

In fact, data analysis finds that myrcene shows up as the dominant terpene in roughly 40% of all cannabis flower on the market today and is also found in strains across the board. It appears in roughly equal percentages in indica, sativa, and hybrid strains alike

Common medical cannabis strains that contain high amounts of myrcene include OG Kush, Harlequin, Tangie, and Blue Dream. Myrcene has a spicey, peppery, and slightly fruity aroma. It is also found in large amounts in hops (the plant that beer is made from) as well as in lemongrass and mangos. 

What are some ways medical cannabis cardholders can benefit from terpenes in Utah? 

In the state of Utah, terpenes will be present in some way in pretty much all legal medical cannabis products, except for those which contain synthetically extracted cannabinoids only. You can find products and flower that contain specific terpenes in any state-licensed Utah medical cannabis dispensary, and especially at WholesomeCo! 

WholesomeCo follows Utah’s UMCA guidelines for legal medical cannabis consumption methods. Product types that contain cannabis terpenes available at WholesomeCo include:  

All of these dosing methods are available in our store as well via fast, discreet delivery. We serve 99% of all Utah-based card-carrying medical cannabis patients so, odds are, you will be able to get your terpene-specific medical cannabis product delivered right to your front door. 

How do I know which cannabis terpenes are best for me? 

The very best way to discover which medical cannabis products are right for you (including which flower strains and terpene qualities will work best for your particular situation) is to speak with one of our WholesomeCo pharmacists about your particular needs. Our pharmacists are Doctorate-level, certified professionals that have experience working with hundreds of patients in both pharmaceutical as well as medical cannabis capacities. 

CLICK HERE to schedule an appointment today. In most cases, you will be speaking with a highly qualified professional about your specific medical cannabis needs within 24 hours! 



  1. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1910
  2. Novel R-(+)-limonene-based thiosemicarbazones and their antitumor activity against human tumor cell lines
  3. Researcher receives $3.9 million grant to study how cannabis chemicals can help with pain
  4. Daily inhalation of α-pinene in mice: effects on behavior and organ accumulation
  5. β-Caryophyllene, a Natural Sesquiterpene, Attenuates Neuropathic Pain and Depressive-Like Behavior in Experimental Diabetic Mice
  6. Linalool Odor-Induced Anxiolytic Effects in Mice
  7. Myrcene

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