Cannabis Derived Terpenes


  • Last modified: January 22, 2021

Cannabis derived terpenes are organic compounds that are produced not only in cannabis plants but in other plants and insects as well. They are the only part of a cannabis plant that is recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Their extensive use, growing popularity, and market demand have pushed terpenes to the front of the line with the FDA.

Part of the hope is to get significant FDA support around the use of terpenes. The FDA has made a positive statement regarding terpenes, understanding, and wanting to support scientific research into the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. This includes compounds such as terpenes. Medication derived from cannabis is already approved by the FDA, but it needs a prescription from a doctor or other properly licensed professional. They are used only to treat specific ailments rather than a wide berth of conditions. The hope is the FDA will expand this in time.

What are Terpenes

In cannabis plants, terpenes are the composites (oils) that give the various cannabis strains their distinctive flavors and aromas. While not everything is known yet about how a cannabis derived terpene works, there is thought that they may play a significant role in how different cannabis strains affect the body. Terpenes are found in the trichomes of plants, also known as the resin glands, and are defined differently in each strain.

Terpenes in cannabis are like those in other plants and flowers that have strong smells. The odor is used to get rid of predators and to entice pollinators. Botanically derived terpenes developed in cannabis are influenced by climate, weather, the maturity of the plant, soil, and fertilizer.

There have been over 100 different terpenes found in a cannabis plant and each strain of cannabis has its own terpene profile and makeup. Each strain has a distinctive smell that can be inhaled and then discerned. It would be like sniffing a perfume or wine and knowing their makeup from the distinct layers of smells. Along with the smell, cannabis derived terpenes may play a role in the various effects of different cannabis strains. However, this has yet to be definitively proven.

With cannabis legalization becoming more prevalent not only in the United States but around the world, there has been more focus put on cannabis derived terpenes. The 2018 Farm Bill has opened the door to hemp, cannabinoid, and CBD, which in turn influences the cannabis industry as there is a much stronger interest now in products and terpene content.

Cannabis Derived Terpenes

It has become more widely accepted over the last couple of decades that people experience physiological changes from aroma responses. This has been shown with many smells including the odor given off by the cannabis flower. The cannabis derived terpenes occur naturally in the plant and work to ward off pests and parasites while attracting food at the same time.

This discovery of cannabis derived terpenes has opened up significant medical and recreational market potential. People understand them to be holistic and deriving terpenes from the cannabis plant is a bonus to most people. The plant offers more than simply terpenes but the terpenes themselves offer benefits that are considered natural and beneficial.

Cannabis Terpenes from the Lab

Synthetic terpenes are not cannabis derived terpenes, but they are cannabis-related. They are not the whole-plant ones but are synthetic ones that act like the naturally occurring terpenes from indoor and outdoor cannabis plants do. These terpenes are acknowledged by the FDA but are cannabis-related rather than cannabis “derived”.

While these terpenes may not be desired by all people, they are more consistent in content than plant-based terpenes. They are easy to replicate, dependable, and good for dosing and consistent scientific research. They also are easy to create and take less effort than growing plants. Lower costs and a lack of growing risks can lead some to prefer synthetic.

Common Cannabis Derived Terpenes

While synthetic may be good for some, many want to work with terpenes that are from the cannabis plant and are not created in a lab. The following descriptions outline a few of the most common cannabis derived terpenes.

1. Myrcene

This terpene is also called beta myrcene. It is one of the most prominent terpenes in the modern commercial cannabis plant, making up almost 65% of the terpene content. Myrcene gives cannabis an earthy odor and taste. It is thought to work with other cannabinoids to offer potential health support such as an anti-inflammatory. It is one of the more sedating terpenes.

2. Limonene

This terpene is recognized as another prominent cannabis terpene. It is known for its citrus tendencies in both smell and flavor. If offers a mix of lemons, orange, lime, and grapefruit. It is suggested that it helps with both anxiety and stress relief when used.

3. Pinene

This terpene is the most prominent one found in the natural world. It smells like pine and comes in two types. There are alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. It is the alpha-pinene that is found in higher levels in the cannabis plant. It is said to help with alertness and reducing pain and swelling.

4. Ocimene

This particular terpene is less well known but has some good benefits. It is known to be calming, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory. It has a sweet woodsy odor. Ocimene is found in strains like Dutch Treat. It is less prominent, but helpful if you are looking for something when you suffer from congestion and allergies.

5. Terpinolene

The terpene is terpene dominant in one out of ten strains of cannabis. It is fresh smelling with citrus and pine overlays. It is said to be good when you need uplifting effects.

Final Thoughts

Cannabis derived terpenes are an important part of the cannabis discussion. As the markets change and adapt as new and expanded laws come into place, terpenes need to be further studied for not only health benefits but psychological benefits as well. Finding out how each terpene functions and in which plants they are prevalent can help people choose strains that benefit their well being along with their enjoyment. Terpenes have a large part to play in both medical and recreational cannabis strain choices.

Olivia Solero

Olivia Solero is the Co-founder of Cannabis Stack. Olivia has an unusual blend of creative thinking and the ability to put that thinking into effect. She likes to write; loves to edit; she knows how to lead, follow or get out of the way; she is good with a buck and wicked smart when it comes to data.


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