Terpenes and cannabinoids: a simple guide

Posted on Jan 29 , 2021


Once we begin to collectively recognize and understand the many potential benefits of CBD and THC, researchers turn to the page to identify hundreds of more chemical compounds found in hemp plants, many of which may also have therapeutic benefits.

As the terpenes and cannabinoid tables show, these compounds fall into two categories: cannabinoids, which include CBD and THC, and terpenes.

Unless you are using a CBD isolate that only contains cannabidiol, you are likely to run into terpenes and other cannabinoids when using CBD oils or other types of cannabis products.

This table of terpenes and cannabinoids will help you mentally organize some of the more famous compounds that rival CBD and THC in strength, but for more background on these fascinating phytochemicals, let's take a closer look.


What are terpenes?

Just like the cannabinoids CBD and THC, the cannabis glands also produce oily terpenes. These are groups of chemical compounds that have slightly different characteristics and chemical composition than their cannabinoid neighbors.

The biggest disadvantage of cannabis terpenes is odor. In medicine or for recreation, at rock concerts or in nursing homes, few CBD or cannabis users would deny that cannabis-based terpenes give off a pungent odor.

"Skunky" is a descriptor often used to describe the smell of common cannabis strains, which is quite appropriate given that plants use these aromatic terpenes as a defense mechanism against potential predators.

On the other hand, some of the substances in this terpene and cannabinoid table smell like peppermint or even sweet to attract pollinating insects.

Cannabis is not the only plant species that contains terpenes, but it has over 100 of them, many of which have recently been discovered to have medicinal potential.

List of terpenes

Here are just a few of the leaders:

Caryophyllene : Also found in black pepper, rosemary and several other commonly consumed foods, this terpene is unique in that it can directly stimulate the body's natural endocannabinoid receptors. It smells and looks like terpene, but it acts like a cannabinoid to fight inflammation and soothe.

Limonene : A discerning nose picks up citrus notes behind a wave of musk when scenting certain strains of cannabis, for which you can thank limonene. This sweet-smelling terpene is found in various citrus fruits. Preclinical studies cited by cancer researchers at the University of Arizona at Tucson show that limonene terpene may have therapeutic uses for breast cancer patients.

Myrcene : Well established among the most legally distributed cannabis brands / varieties, myrcene emits an earthy, raw and polarizing aroma (love it or hate it). Researchers at the University of Honolulu Chaminade describe in this study how myrcene can relieve both general and neuropathic pain by interacting with a receptor known as TRPV1.

Pinene : While myrcene may be the most abundant terpene in cannabis, pinene encompasses a much wider distribution when it comes to different plant varieties around the world. Again, it takes a dedicated effort to capture this pine scent, but it is not as difficult to detect in common cannabis varieties as it is in citrus fruits. Pinene is believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety effects.

What are cannabinoids?

If the main function of a chemical is to interact directly with the body's natural cannabinoid receptors, then it is a cannabinoid.


Depending on the type of cannabinoid, it will interact with one or both of the cannabinoid receptors found in our brain, labeled CB1 and CB2, which are responsible for fighting inflammation, pain and a range of other problems and pathologies.

Even within their category, CBD and THC are significantly inferior to over a hundred other cannabinoids. Many of these are emerging from the fog and brought to the fore for clinicians and the general public to reflect on their therapeutic benefits.

List of cannabinoids

Cannabigerol (CBG) : A group of pharmacology and neurological researchers from Italy demonstrated in a study that cannabigerol can fight neuroinflammation. Inflamed nerve cells treated with this cannabinoid survived longer than the control group and showed signs of renewed "antioxidant defense".

Cannabigerovarin (CBGV) : The endocannabinoid research team, also from various universities in Italy, confirmed in this 2011 study that cannabigerovarin may be as effective as CBD and THC in combating inflammation and pain.

Cannabidiol (CBD) : We couldn't miss the only cannabinoid found in an FDA-approved drug, especially since CBD is probably the most abundant cannabinoid in existence. Like other substances in our table of cannabinoids and terpenes, non-intoxicating CBD has been shown to be effective as a potential anti-inflammatory and analgesic supplement, among others.

Cannabinol (CBN) : We previously wrote about this cannabinoid, when THC ages and / or oxidizes, it becomes CBN, a moderately psychoactive cannabinoid. THC and CBN combine to have amazing effects, according to this article written by the Departments of Psychobiology, Psychiatry, and Medicine at Escola Paulista de Medicina in São Paulo. Most promisingly, researchers are seeing the potential to combat insomnia emerging, which will hopefully mean more CBN research.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) : Largely responsible for the psychoactive nature of the marijuana plant in its natural form, tetrahydrocannabinol overlaps with CBD in terms of health benefits, but not always. For example, THC is thought to relieve glaucoma, but CBD does not. Conversely, THC is not as commonly used in inflammation as CBD. But, of course, this cannot be called an objective assessment.

Chemical balance and entourage effect

Finally, it is important to note that, in addition to studying the benefits and effects of individual terpenes and cannabinoids, if we are going to extract these compounds and alter them in any way, we must evaluate how they all work together in their natural environment.

Cannabidiol and hundreds of other cannabinoids and terpenes found in hemp-based products interact with each other to deliver meaningful results that can be influenced by changing this natural ratio.

In the case of this “ambience effect,” you can think of cannabinoids and terpenes as colors mixing together. Change one or more paint colors and you get a different result when they all mix together again.

By assessing this difference and focusing more on the medicinally relevant cannabinoid and terpene compounds, researchers and consumers can work together to get more out of CBD and related products.

LEDs help increase the concentration of terpenes and cannabinoids


Many of the more serious and professional growers have replaced their sodium lamps with LEDs. The spectrum of LED grow lights is specially adjusted. In addition, they produce less heat than sodium ones, which means less heat shock due to them. But the levels of cannabinoids and terpenes become noticeably higher. This is one of the main reasons for replacing cheap and inefficient sodium lamps with professional grade LED plant lighting fixtures.

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