A Guide To Terpenes

At the end of this introduction to terpenes you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What are terpenes?
  • How do terpenes work with cannabis medicine?
  • What effect do terpenes have?
  • Are terpenes safe to consume?
  • What is the entourage effect?


Terpenes are the sleepers of the cannabis world. They underpromise and over deliver every time. 

Terpene education is much more than simply knowing what they are and how they smell; it’s understanding how cannabis may or may not affect each individual. From there, you can walk your own path of self exploration with cannabis and hone in on exactly how this plant can be harnessed for its medicinal properties.

Understanding is the first step in respecting cannabis, which will enable you to explore its full potential.

Terpene molecules are responsible for the wonderful (and sometimes, not so wonderful) smells in nature. From peppermint to lavender and carrots to melons, terpenes give plants their own unique smell, colour and flavour. 

Scientists have identified over 20,000 terpenes, including over 150 in the cannabis plant. Terpenes only make up a small percentage (1-4%) of the cannabis plant’s overall chemical breakdown but play a massive role in dictating how a strain tastes, smells and, as we’re beginning to learn, how it makes you feel. 

Terpenes also play a major role in the plant’s overall development and survival. They act as a defence mechanism to ward off pests as well as attract beneficial organisms to nourish and aid in the plants growth and longevity. 

Terpenes are developed and stored in trichomes of the cannabis plant. Glandular trichomes develop terpenes in different categories. Monoterpenes are the main ones found on cannabis and used in our mull drinks. They are the most studied and best understood forms of terpenes, as well as the most abundant in nature. 

Here is a breakdown of the main terpenes that you’ll find on most cannabis strains.

Here are the strains currently offered by Releaf along with a terpene and effects breakdown of each one. 

NameTerpene profileEffects
Green gelato (indica dominant hybrid)THC: 19%Pinene, myrcene, limonene, Beta caryophyllene, humulene. Uplifting, anti anxiety, analgesic, anti depressant, appetite suppressant. 
Critical kush (indica)THC: 25%Myrcene, limonene, pinene, Ocimene, Beta caryophyllene. Sedating, analgesic, anti depressant, anti anxiety, appetite stimulant, anti inflammatory. 
Slurricane (indica dominant hybrid)THC: 20%Beta caryophyllene, limonene, linalool, Humulene. Relaxing, analgesic, anxiolytic, anti inflammatory, cerebral stimulation (imagination) 

Studies over the years have indicated a direct link to terpenes and our endocannabinoid system, along with multiple other systems in our bodies. Recent findings suggest that terpenes play an integral role in the medicinal side of cannabis. Terpenes can be a powerful supplement, and an amazing food additive for their great taste and smell. 


What is a Terpene?

Quick answer: The molecules responsible for smell.

Long answer: Terpenes are naturally occurring compounds produced in the trichomes of the female cannabis plant, as well as most other plant botanicals, they are responsible for the smell, look and taste of most botanicals. 

The details: terpenes are hydrocarbon molecules that are unique to different plants. They are produced primarily as an immune response from a plant in order to protect it from pests and disease. 

Are Terpenes Safe? 

Short answer: Yes, terpenes are approved by the TGA as safe for human consumption. 

Long answer: Food grade terpenes used in proper TGA approved amounts are considered safe for human consumption. Overdosing is possible but takes a much higher amount than what’s available on the market. 

The details: ingesting large amounts of pure terpenes has been seen to cause liver and kidney damage in healthy adults, as well as immediate symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, fainting, and heart palpitations. 

Will Terpenes get me Stoned?

Short answer: No, terpenes have no direct psychoactive effect. 

Long answer: Terpenes do not act on the CB1 receptor in the same way THC does. Therefore, the traditional feeling of being stoned cannot be achieved by terpenes alone. Terpenes work more indirectly to alter mood through interaction with the serotonin and dopamine systems.

The detail:  Terpenes can interact with cannabinoids and enhance their abilities inside of your endocannabinoid system but do not selectively bind to CB receptors. Terpenes have also been seen to help modulate the brain’s production of serotonin and dopamine (the happy hormones). 

What Effects will Terpenes Have?

Short answer: Depending on the terpene, potential physiological effects, including pain reduction, anti anxiety and neuroprotective. 

Long answer: Terpenes may be able to provide multiple physical effects as studies have demonstrated their ability to act on multiple receptors throughout the body as well as work directly with endo/phytocannabinoids in the endocannabinoid system. 

The detail: Certain terpenes can act on opioid receptors, initiating a pain relief response, and others can act on immune cells regulating inflammatory responses in the body, with over 20,000 different types, each having different physiological effects, the possibilities are endless. Cannabis scientists have identified an interplay between terpenes and cannabinoids. Molecules from these two families appear to work together to produce enhanced benefits. This is a phenomenon known as the entourage effect.

How Much can I Have?

Short answer: All terpene formulations are diluted to be within the safe consumption threshold set national Health & Food Agencies. 

Long answer: In high concentrations, terpenes can relax the blood vessel walls and cause hypotension (low blood pressure) and dizziness. Concentrated forms can be toxic to our cells, causing irritation, pain, inflammation, and in high dosages can be toxic to our liver and kidneys. 

What do Terpenes Taste Like?

Short answer: All terpenes taste different, some are fruity, some floral, some earthy and some gassy, their names are associated with their taste/smell. 

Long answer: Most terpenes are named after the most abundant botanical they are found in. For example, limonene is named after lemon, myrcene after mango, pinene after pine needles etc. Terpenes are smell molecules (essential oils), so what they smell like, directly correlates to their taste. 

The details: Being an essential oil molecule, terpenes dictate the smell and taste of what they are found in. The best way to understand the taste of a terpene is to sample varieties high in the terpene of your choice and develop a palette understanding of what they taste like alone and in conjunction with one another. 

How are Terpenes Extracted?

Short answer: Steam extraction from botanicals. 

Long answer: Terpenes are volatile hydrocarbons that do not need much to force oxidation. Therefore, solvent-based extractions are not favoured. Using a steam extraction method allows you to extract the monoterpenes and preserve the majority of them in your final yield. As cannabis contains a small amount of overall terpenes, many individual terpenes (for example pinene), are taken from their most abundant botanical (pine needles), and are then added to whatever product that needs them. 

throughout the years, and not only for cannabis, but for cosmetics and cleaning agents too. Upon testing, many methods were found to have degraded the terpene sample, rendering it useless in multiple applications. Steam extraction has been seen to have the least damaging effects on terpenes, allowing scientists to extract terpenes individually, as well as terpene profiles, and then reintroduce them into products without tainting them. 

How do Terpenes Work Within the Body? 

Short answer: Terpenes work in multiple different ways depending on the type and method of consumption. The body absorbs and uses these compounds in different ways. 

Long answer: There is strong evidence that terpenes directly interact with multiple systems in our body (hence the proposed medicinal effects of each). Systems such as our endocrine system, immune system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system and digestive system all come into play in the presence of terpenes. There are multiple different mechanisms that contribute to these responses, but the overall consensus is that terpenes can work either in conjunction with one another or solo in helping the body to maintain and balance homeostasis (balanced health).

Do Terpenes Show up on Drug Tests? 

Short Answer: No they will not, as drug tests usually test for cannabinoids and metabolites of cannabinoids (what the body processes them into). 

Long answer: These molecules are found everywhere, and chances are you unknowingly ingest plenty of terpenes each day. It would be silly for a drug test to look for terpenes as we unknowingly ingest them every single day. 

What is a Terpene Profile?

Short answer: A group of aromatic molecules working together to produce certain smells and effects. 

Long answer: Terpene profiles refer to the unique cocktail of aromatic molecules within each plant. Every strain possesses a unique terpene profile made up of varying percentages of different molecules. Terpene profiles are usually broken down into types of terpenes and their percentages. For example, the most abundant monoterpenes found on cannabis (myrcene, pinene, limonene) are usually at the forefront of most profiles, followed by secondary di and sesquiterpenes, all interacting with one another to create the unique smells, flavour and effects of different cannabis varietals. 

Can I use Terpenes if I’m on any Medications?

Short answer: No, if you’re taking medication, it’s best to avoid them. 

Long answer: Terpenes have been seen to interact with certain medications, more research is needed to fully understand the severity of the interactions but if you’re taking medication, especially for issues related to the heart/blood, best to avoid them. 

Can I Overdose on Terpenes?

Short answer: Very difficult but there are potential dangers, so be careful

Long answer: Pure terpenes in concentrated forms can be deadly if used inappropriately. If you are ingesting terpenes it is safest to use something to dilute them before consumption (such as a carrier oil). Allergic reactions are also a factor, so if you experience any symptoms of a reaction, seek medical help immediately. 

What are the Benefits of Terpenes? 

Short Answer:  Different types of terpenes have different positive effects on both the body and mind. 

Long answer: Terpenes alone have been studied and proven to have multiple physiological benefits such as anti inflammatory, analgesia, anxiolytic, anti cancer, bronchodilation, anti bacterial etc. they have been seen to enhance the medicinal properties of phyto and endocannabinoids (THC and CBD), and are a key driver as to why different cannabis strains have different medicinal properties. If you would like to learn more about specific terpenes and how they can help you, pop over to our dispensary next door and our friendly pharmacy staff can assist you further. 

What is the Entourage Effect? 

Short answer: A phenomenon where all parts of the cannabis plant (cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids etc) work together to achieve an overall response in the body (ie pain relief) 

Long answer: The entourage effect takes place within the endocannabinoid system and occurs as a result of the culmination of phyto/endocannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and every other molecule on the cannabis plant,all working together and  affecting the body in different ways, in order to achieve the overall goal of homeostasis (balance) inside the body. A perfect example can be seen in the pain response mechanism of cannabis within the endocannabinoid system. someone consumes a strain of cannabis that has 25% thc and a high % of myrcene and beta caryophyllene (BCP) in its terpene profile. 

The myrcene will work synergistically with THC to increase its ability to pass the blood brain barrier and bind to CB receptors, promoting its well documented analgesic response, at a faster rate. The myrcene also has binding affinity to certain opioid receptors, promoting further analgesia and pain relief. The BCP can selectively bind to CB2 receptors allowing it to in some ways mimic CBDS influence on this receptor and promote further pain relief and anti-inflammation responses throughout your immune system, along with slowing down signal transduction of pain throughout synaptic gaps in your central nervous system and brain stem. All the pieces to this puzzle working together in real time inside one’s body to achieve the goal of pain relief, can be described as the “entourage effect” at work.