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Cannabis Terpenes: The Benefits of Humulene, Caryophyllene, and Trans-Nerolidol

Tilray logo Presented By Tilray May 25, 2016

This article is sponsored by Tilray, one of the largest and most sophisticated producers of medical cannabis in the world. Tilray is dedicated to providing safe, consistent, and reliable products to patients and furthering clinical research.


Terpenes are a group of fragrant essential oils–secreted alongside cannabinoids like THC and CBD–that contribute to the complex aroma of cannabis. They are also generally responsible for many of the distinguishing characteristics of different strains, and this discovery has led to a sharp increase in interest among researchers, producers, and consumers alike.

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Though cannabis contains up to 200 different terpenes, there are about 10 primary terpenes that occur in significant concentrations. We’d like to introduce you to three of those primary and secondary terpenes: humulene, caryophyllene, and trans-nerolidol.

What Is Humulene?

Hops being grown

Humulene naturally occurs in clove, basil, hops, and cannabis sativa. It carries a subtle earthy, woody aroma with spicy herbal notes you might recognize in some of your favorite strains. Though cannabis is commonly associated with appetite stimulation, humulene is actually known to suppress hunger.

Humulene’s other potential effects include:

Some strains that are known to test high in humulene include White Widow, GSC (f.k.a Girl Scout Cookies), and Headband. Among Tilray’s crop, high-humulene varieties include Pink Kush, Sour Diesel, and Skywalker OG.

What Is Caryophyllene?

Whole and ground black peppercorns

Caryophyllene (or β-Caryophyllene) is a spicy, peppery terpene found in many different edible plants. Spices like black pepper, cloves, and cinnamon, as well as herbs like oregano, basil, hops, and rosemary, are known to exhibit high concentrations of caryophyllene. Due to its affinity to the peripheral CB2 receptors, caryophyllene often appears in anti-inflammatory topicals and salves.

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What are cannabis terpenes and what do they do?

Caryophyllene has the following potential medical benefits:

Strains known to exhibit heightened levels of caryophyllene include OG Kush, Bubba Kush, and Chemdawg. Tilray currently carries Rockstar, Skywalker OG, and Sour Diesel, which are also shown to be high in this terpene.

What Is Trans-Nerolidol?

Jasmine flowers

Trans-nerolidol is a secondary terpene found in many strong aromatics like jasmine, tea tree, and lemongrass. As such, it delivers a subdued and nuanced floral aroma with notes of fruity citrus, apples, and rose. This terpene is believed to produce sedating effects, and is being investigated for the following medical benefits:

Tilray’s very own Island Sweet Skunk, Jack Herer, and Skywalker OG are known to contain high levels of this sweet and flowery terpene.

To view all Tilray strains, visit Tilray’s website.

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  • zhou sei

    pharmacokinetics is a subject of study having to do with how drugs are metabolized, and is not an effect that a drug can have

    • Sloth McGee

      I was also confused about that!

    • Nathan

      I was confused too, until I clicked on the green word Pharmacokinetics.
      Yes, it is a branch of pharmacology concerned with the movement of drugs within the body, but you’ll notice they listed these terpenes under potential medical benefit and/or effects. If you click on the word Pharmacokinetic it’ll take you hear http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18951339. You’ll see it’s an abstract medical study that few will fully understand. I know I don’t! It’s titled “Pharmacokinetics and tissue distribution of the sesquiterpene alpha-humulene in mice.” So Basically what Leafly is saying is there are continuing studies on the pharmacokinetics of alpha-humulene and the different pharmacokinetics when administered orally, intravenously, or through tissue of mice. So it’s listed just as a medical benefit of science to be studied further instead of an effect of the terpene.

    • 🔒🤡☝️

      You get different effects depending on how it is metabolized.

  • We loved the idea of combining flavorful terpenes with CBD so much, we created a product line that leverages this synergy to elevate the efficacy of the CBD (and smells great at the same time.)

  • Jim Williams

    What’s the difference between a primary terpene and a secondary terpene?

  • Kerri Phillips

    Could you please recheck links? Some are broken. Thank you!

  • Bryan Watts

    You guys should fix these links so they remain useful…