What Are Terpenes? A Better Way To Choose a Cannabis Strain

Imagine For a Moment

As you read this, imagine clearly the exact smell that comes to mind when you read the following words:

  • Pine
  • Lemon
  • Lavender

As you thought of these smells, you were psychologically linking them to the physical items that your mind has associated with them. However, the smells themselves are from the essential oils that are contained by those items. People have been using those essential oils for centuries to create perfumes.


Terpenes are those essential oils, or more specifically, they are aromatic organic hydrocarbons, or smell-related, naturally occurring compounds consisting of hydrogen and carbon. They exist in plants and some insects in order to deter animals that would eat them or attract animals who would eat those that would.

Since smell is directly linked to taste (this is why children hold their nose when eating something they don’t like), terpenes have the distinct capability to enhance two of your five senses when it comes to experience.

Why is This Important?

Since you have found your way to Mary Jane Gardener, we will now explain why this pertains to marijuana and what it does for you.


The first and definitely most obvious benefit that terpenes add to marijuana is the smell. There are hundreds of different combinations, spread over thousands of strains that people have developed, creating many different smells you could enjoy when you open your bag of green.

A few of the most common ones are:

  • Myrcene – the terpene that gives marijuana it’s very exclusive “I smell weed” scent
  • Limonene – the terpene that gives a citrus smell and taste (lemon, orange, lime)
  • Pinene – the terpene that gives the smell of pine
  • Linalool – the terpene that provides a flowery scent, predominant in lavender
  • B-Caryophyllene – the terpene that adds spicy, peppery, or woody tones to a smell
  • Humulene – the terpene that adds an earthy, herbal undertone, and also provides spicy and woody scent

There are more, but it is mostly a combination of these that provides that very specific aroma when you open the bag.

What About Physical Effects?


Terpenes do a lot more than just make the marijuana you smoke smell nice. Each one has a different effect on you on its own, and intricate side effects on each other and on the CBD and THC that you receive.

Think of each marijuana strain as a very specific chemical recipe.

Each terpene changes the final product a bit, much like more salt or sugar would if you were cooking.

THC and CBD have their own effects, but each terpene that is added to the recipe changes those effects ever-so-slightly until the final experience is complete.

This is why each strain that you have tried gives you a different experience.

Let’s look back at the common terpenes listed above and the experience related effects they add on their own:

  • Myrcene – relaxing and aids sleep
  • Limonene – relieves stress and improves overall mood
  • Pinene – improves memory and concentration and provides energy
  • Linalool – calming effect (like lavender)
  • B-Caryophyllene – relieves stress
  • Humulene – reduces appetite

And If I Use Cannabis For Medical Reasons?


More and more people are moving to natural remedies instead of man-made drugs, which definitely leads a lot of people toward the medical use of marijuana.

Terpenes are directly related to the medical use of marijuana. Each terpene helps to gear the particular strain toward a certain medical issue. So, if you mix a few different terpenes together, you can narrow down the strains that will help with the medical issues you wish to alleviate or prevent.

Once again, let’s go back to our list of most common terpenes and take a look at the medical benefits that each provides:

  • Myrcene – muscle relaxant, anti-inflammatory, pain relief
  • Limonene – anti-anxiety and antidepressant (improved mood), relieves nausea and gastric reflux, and antifungal
  • Pinene – anti-inflammatory and helps breathing
  • Linalool – anti-anxiety and antidepressant, sleep aid, pain relief, and antibacterial
  • B-Caryophyllene – antifungal, antibacterial, anti-tumour, antiseptic, and analgesic (pain relief)
  • Humulene – anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and pain relief

How To Choose The Best Strain For You


As an example by using the lists above, a cancer patient would look for a high B-Caryophyllene strain, with notes of humulene and limonene. In this case, you would look for a strain that smells spicy/woody with a clean citrus finish.

But, don’t get too caught up on the details. The easiest and best way to choose the strain for you is by experimenting and follow your nose.

Take a deep smell of the strain you think you’d like and pay close attention to how the smell makes you feel. If it makes you feel good smelling it, chances are it will make you feel good smoking or vaping it.

If you really want to narrow down a strain, try a few and keep a journal. Write down exactly how that strain made you feel.

Keep in mind that there are many different factors that can affect the development of terpenes in each particular plant and that each time you have the same strain, it may be slightly different.

Each plant has the potential to develop the terpenes in different amounts, depending on the environment and conditions while growing. Remember, they are nature’s way of defending the plant against danger, so differences in how it grows will change the chemical makeup of the final product.

Happy experimenting and good luck finding the perfect strain!