Cannabis Terpenes: What’s That Smell?

Cannabis Terpenes: What’s That Smell?

Have you ever wondered how different strains of cannabis can have such an incredibly wide variety of scents?

Skunky, sweet, citrus, piney, floral, earthy, just to name a few.

It’s pretty unique if you think about it.

What other plant can have such a wide range of possibilities? A rose that sometimes smells like a tree? A pine tree that smells like a tropical fruit? Unlikely.

Only cannabis with its incredible variety of phytochemistry is capable of such an act of olfactory dexterity.

And this ability is mediated through a type of compounds called terpenes.

What Are Cannabis Terpenes?

A terpene is an aromatic compound that we identify with different scents. The chemical difference between the way a rose flower and a pine tree smell?

In short, terpenes.

These are not, however, just inert chemicals that we identify with our nose. These chemicals are biochemically active. They do stuff when you smell them.

These compounds readily cross membranes into your body, and from there they can affect a wide variety of different systems and glands, modulate neural signals, and even fight cancer.

The Entourage Effect

In cannabis, the unique blend of terpenes that give it a unique smell are all biologically active. These terpenes interact with the cannabinoids, they work together in a way that is known as the entourage effect.

The Entourage Effect means that the effects of smoking cannabis are produced from all the different terpenes, cannabinoids, neuropeptides, and everything else in the plant all acting together to create a net effect.

Aromatherapy and Cannabis Terpenes

This active property of terpenes forms the basis of aromatherapy. Lavender, for example, doesn’t just smell nice, it attenuates your stress response and neurologically stimulates relaxation. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory.

The same goes for the whole wonderful variety of smells (meaning terpenes) in cannabis.

The smell is a clue, in a sense, to some of the effects of the strain.

Let’s take a closer look at what your nose may be telling you about your buds.

6 Most Common Cannabis Terpenes


Most notably associated with pine trees, this terpene stimulates mental function and may counteract the cognitive impairment of THC. It is also a bronchodilator (opens air passages) and is an anti-inflammatory.


This cannabis terpene, found in musk and cloves, is a sedative and also acts as a pain reliever, anti-spasmodic, and anti-microbial.


Smells like citrus fruits and is recently gaining attention for its medicinal properties in fighting cancer and microbes. It also has a stimulating quality, improving mood, sex drive, and mental acuity.


A floral terpene that is similar to lavender. And, much like lavender, it has a strong anti-inflammatory, stress-reducing, and sedative properties.


A spicy, pungent terpene that is also found in black pepper. It selectively activates the CB2 receptor which can potentiate the medical benefits of CBD.


This is an earthy, musty scent that is also found in hops, a relative of cannabis. It has pain-relieving properties and can also suppress appetite.

The study of terpenes is fascinating, representing a relatively underexplored territory in cannabis science. For a more in-depth look at cannabis terpenes, take a look at this easy to digest infographic from Pan’s Ink or visit AllBud for a deeper dive into their medicinal properties!


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