What You Should Know

Do you use your sense of smell when selecting your medical cannabis products?

Then you are familiar with terpenes – aroma and taste molecules in the essential oils of plants. Terpenes provide each plant’s distinctive scent, or essence, and are used to attract pollinators, repel pests and discourage herbivores. Humans have used them for therapeutic purposes and in a wide range of products – from perfumes to soaps and pharmaceuticals.

Like roses or spices, different strains of Cannabis have unique odors ranging from sweet to acrid and skunky to floral – the chemical signatures of terpenes. Terpenes are also building blocks of chemicals such as THCA, the acidic version of THC. They are major components of Cannabis resin and extracts produced from these resins. Up to 30% of the resin in Cannabis smoke consists of terpenes.

Scientists believe that terpenes account for some of the medical benefits of Cannabis including painkilling and anti-inflammatory effects. They also exhibit other useful effects. For example, terpene content is one of the biggest differences between Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. The general rule that patients often prefer sativa for daytime use and indica for nighttime use suggests that the sedative effects of Cannabis are influenced by terpenes.

Patients should take into account the content of major terpenes when evaluating various strains of medical Cannabis. This information can help you select the best medicine, with your desired therapeutic effects.

The presence of all the major cannabinoids should be taken into account by patients when evaluating a strain of medical Cannabis.

Terpene Benefits


  • Russo, E. B. (2011), Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid‐terpenoid entourage effects. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163: 1344-1364. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x

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