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A Layman’s Guide to Common Terpenes

Written by Caleb Summeril

Cannabinoids such as CBD and THC are the main ingredients, so to speak, of what the average person thinks of in regards to the chemical components of the cannabis plant. In reality, there is much more to the plant, including terpenes, companions of cannabinoids.

Terpenes are a class of organic hydrocarbons that display phytotherapeutic properties.[1] These compounds are abundant within cannabis but are also found in a vast array of other commonly consumed natural foods and plants and contribute to the flavor and fragrance experienced upon consumption. While there are many different types, here we review those more relevant to cannabis.


The most common terpene within the cannabis plant, myrcene, is sometimes referred to as the “mother” of all terpenes, as it is a precursor compound for more complex terpenes. Myrcene has a variety of benefits and therapeutic effects, from displaying strong analgesic properties to functioning as a sleep aid.[2] Myrcene is also found in other plants such as mango and hops.


This terpene can be found in cannabis and also within many types of citrus fruits. Limonene is abundant in nature and is the second most distributed terpene in the natural world.[1] It has the ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi; these properties make it a good antifungal treatment for a variety of conditions. Limonene also has demonstrated some cancer-fighting properties.[3]


Another abundant terpene within the cannabis plant, pinene is also found in coniferous plants such as pine and fir trees. Pinene has anti-inflammatory properties and may also produce antibiotic effects.[1] There is also some evidence that pinene may enhance memory through its effects on the brain’s cholinergic system.[4]

These represent just a few terpenes in cannabis. Head on over to our sister publication, Terpenes & Testing Magazine, to learn more about these interesting compounds!

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  1. Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 163(7): 1344-1364.
  2. Rao VS, et al. Effect of myrcene on nociception in mice. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1990;42:877–878.
  3. Vigushin DM, et al. Phase I and pharmacokinetic study of d-limonene in patients with advanced cancer. Cancer Research Campaign Phase I/II Clinical Trials Committee. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 1998;42:111–117.
  4. Perry, et al. In-vitro inhibition of human erythrocyte acetylcholinesterase by salvia lavandulaefolia essential oil and constituent terpenes. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2000;52:895–902.

About the author

Caleb Summeril

Caleb Summeril writes creative copy, stories and songs from the mountains of Colorado. When not working on words, he can be found on global gallivants which fuel future endeavors. Learn more about his writing services at

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