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Infographic: How Do Cannabis Terpenes Affect the Body?

For many people the word “terpene” is a strange and unfamiliar term, but it won’t be for much longer. As science and technology carry us to better understandings of cannabis, we’re beginning to see that there’s a lot more to marijuana than its cannabinoid content. To get a hint of the other therapeutic compounds in your strain, just give it a sniff.

Terpenes are fragrant oils that give cannabis its aromatic diversity. They’re what give Blueberry its signature berry smell, Sour Diesel its funky fuel flavor, and Lavender its sweet floral aroma. These oils are secreted in the flower’s sticky resin glands, the same ones that produce THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. Terpenes are by no means unique to cannabis; they can be found in many other herbs, fruits, and plants as well.

Leafly cannabis terpene wheel infographic

Click on the infographic to enlarge it.

Like cannabinoids, terpenes bind to receptors in the brain and give rise to various effects. The above infographic outlines properties of six common cannabis terpenes along with a few strains that tend to express notable levels of each.

When choosing a strain based on its terpene content, keep in mind that different harvests may demonstrate dramatically different terpenoid profiles due to variances in growing and curing techniques. Lab-tested products are the only surefire way of knowing a strain’s terpene potency – without it, you’ll have to rely on your nose to guide you.

Lastly, when choosing your method of ingestion, keep in mind that the beneficial qualities of terpenes can be seriously damaged if heated past their boiling point. It is best to try a ‘low-heat’ device such as a Dr. Dabber Ghost Vaporizer pen or an adjustable eNail to extract the full benefit and flavor of your terpenes.

  • Right on!

    • John Smith

      Here’s to you also kwaku, people like yourself, play a monumental part in making this research valid to the mainstream. Keep it up!

  • kwaku

    I am an RN M.D.&Meta Physician. I have been researching and utilizing cannabis for about 50 years and many types of understandings have been established through your article. May the Lord bless you and the Ancestors protect you.
    P.E.A.C.E.*(Proper Education Always Corrects Error)

    • Robert Brown

      Go go Nurses!!
      I love: P.E.A.C.E.*(Proper Education Always Corrects Error) So well said!!
      My wife and I are both nurses and cannabis advocates/teachers.

      • Mark Giblin

        Sounds like an anathema to me.

    • disqus_UQ1kwnz3WM

      I am very disappointed with the way this natural herb is manipulated with uneeded flavored and by products.. I see future lawsuits for unknown allergies as these terpenes (Citurs and pine for examples) are not on any labels and has caused allergic reaction to altered medical marijuana.. thankfully I have an epy pin.. when I inquired at the dispensery about my allergen they stated there wasn’t any of my allergen in any of the products.. I have now confirmed that the tureleive dispensery products all have limonenes in them, with no warning labels or ingredients listed.. Florida law does not allow smoking of medical marijuana which causes anyone wanting to stop opioid use with medical cannabis to submit them self to the pain and suffering of exposure to unknown chemicals to extract the cbc & thc and then to create a product using terpenes that users unknowly consume.. what happened to that natural benefit??

      • TerryLicia

        I would suggest you speak with a botanist, perhaps at your local college or university; or maybe you can speak to a State Agriculture agent, or if you know such a person, a professional cannabis cultivator because you truly need to clear up your obvious misunderstanding of the science of botany. You don’t know what terpenes are, and without grasping that fundemental concept, you will always wonder and worry about everything you eat or drink since you seem to have bad food allergies. I would not like to live in your shoes!! But, there are some really basic things you should learn to give yourself peace of mind about cannabis. Cultivators do not use “additives” to flavor cannabis. The other aromas discussed? Lemony, flowery, diesel fuel-y, etc? They come from how a plant is raised, in what dirt, when did it get watered, what kind of water, etc. Then, there’s the plant’s genes! Each is as unique as our’s! They just plants, and all have terpenes, some more aromatic than others, some more plentiful than others. Some of the beneficial aspects of cannabis requires heat to active them – and that, too, changes things chemically speaking. We’d not have the benefits of THC or CBD without heat, and heat changes the other chemical reactions, too. Extraction pulls the goodies out, via machines for mass production or through a simple loading of a personal peace pipe! Or, by heating it with some type of oil, like coconut oil, and making ‘cannabutter’ to cook with (all of this is also mass produced, of course, and as time goes by, it will be even more so). If we didn’t add heat, you’d just be chewing grass – getting a laxative! You just cannot simply “add terpenes” to plants. They have certain ones, or they don’t. In fact, some insects and even some butterflies do, too! But bottomline, the allergies your Epi-pen can ‘fix’ are not like anything in cannabis. If you do have a ‘reaction’ then I’d suggest a therapist because it’ll be fear, not a terpene. Start studying at, or read The Cannabist at the Denver Post’s website. Or take a quick course in botany 101. You sound interested! I was and took it years ago, and though I’m rusty, I’m thinking of updating my brain!

        • disqus_UQ1kwnz3WM

          Thank you but your not the one with the allergy.. I have had this allergic reaction to limonene/ citurs protein/pollens since I was 11.. I will be 50 this year and over the last 5 to 10 years I have had new allergies come to light (which is common as we age), just last yr I was diagnosed with Gadolinium allergies.. a very rare allergy (with no iodine allergies), it was a total shock as I have had many MRI w/contrast since my accident in 2005, with several back surgeries which requires MRIs to check the hardware I have and additional areas that now need surgical intervention.
          I find that people like you do not help people that need info on mmj, staff at these dispensers should be aware of the products they sale (incase you do not know Florida does not allow smoking or eatable products only oils and vaping) and I have learned that tureleive adds limonene this info came directly from the manufacture/growers.. but thank you again

          • TerryLicia

            You have an allergy or an intolerance to citrus – limonene? It’s just one of the terpenes found in cannabis, dear. People like me are like people like you — but we read more. I can save you a lot of trouble on one thing: ALL cannabinoids have terpenes, and varying degrees of limonene. Period. So, if you are allergic, then don’t use it. Limonene is used in food, drugs, cosmetics – across the spectrum, and it is not required to be labled by the FDA. No cultivator is ADDING it to a cannabis plant and getting increases in limonene to the flower’s resin — that’s ridiculous! Extracts and oils certainly have additives, but in a 1/4 gram of cannabis extract, if you found more than 1.0 DROP to 2.5 DROPS, you’d be unable to consume it — the taste would be terrible, and nothing like citrus. The reason it’s added is for the NOSE, the aroma — not the whole body! If you cannot hack the tiny amount of limonene from Nature, then your body may not be a great fit for cannabis. You cannot eat an orange, right? Can’t drink lemonade from concentrate? Then, you may have to find something else. No one promised you a rose garden or cannabis greenhouse.

            Gandolinium is a heavy metal, and unless combined with a chelating agent, like when you got your MRI, it’s “allergic” aka DEADLY to all of us!

          • Don W.

            Terry i would like your opinion on this web site. The link i am sharing is a CBD oil page gel concentrate on there site. I have bought the Gold version and have taken it about 2 weeks and running out but i am not sure if its the best (its the most expensive though) I was looking to keep inflammation down, and maybe to keep myself from getting up every 1.5 hours to use the bathroom by shrinking the prostate. As long as overall health. Could use please look at the Green, Blue, and Gold versions of the gel they sell here and help me choose what you think in your opinion of the type that MAY be best for me? I am just asking an opinion since you seem to know your stuff. I will of course use what info you give me along with other searches/articles to see which direction i should go. Thank you in advance and hope you get this message since your private and cannot be contacted otherwise.

          • TerryLicia

            Don, I’m learning that I do not know enough to comment about jack anymore! LOL It’s gone too far over my head, and I’m no longer totally sure about anything! My gut tells me alot though. All those gels and creams? I honestly don’t think they do jack – it’s your own mental outlook doing the changing. There are ZERO double blind studies about cannabis and what it can or cannot do, and until our federal lawmakers get off their butts, we will never know! Researchers in the US cannot conduct legal research with marijuana listed as a Schedule 1 drug, ie having no medicinal value. I BELIEVE cannabis does have medical value. I use it for insomnia, and others swear it helps their PTSD. I realize some of its active ingredients are helpful with seizures and inflammatory diseases, such as MS, neuropathy but only if ingested – via your tummy or your lungs! Nothing topical, I think thats all just BS, marketing hype and NO ONE can PROVE otherwise, except by anecdotal ‘eviden ce (word of mouth). I can go buy a pre-rolled joint, a 1 gram size, and it’ll last me a week, costs $5-10 and it’s reduced my pain pill regimen by 75%! I can PROVE that! LOL The only difference about smoking a doobie today versus in high school in 1972? MY BODY is old and wreck! But the pot? It’s not that different. Less seeds, but the identical buzz, with the same side effects: dry mouth, munchies, forgetfulness and temporary loss of motivation. Use it or not, it’s not killed anyone in the thousands of years of human use, nor has it caused an increase in violence, or in car wrecks. ALL hype to end legalization by some mental midgets who refuse to REALLY read the existing scientific literature. For me? This terpene thing has been a real eye opener, but mostly because I think it’s ALL bullcorn . Snakeoil salesmen trying to get your money.

          • jarth mader

            terry terry terry, let me explain just what exactly the man stated. please try to understand what im about to say. THIS MAN COULD NOT, and i repeat, COULD NOT (at the time of his original comment), purchase the FLOWER form of weed. All the shops could sell was extracts and oils. THIS MAN CAN NOT OBTAIN THE GOD MADE FORM OF MARIJUANA. END OF STORY. all he can do is trust that the dispensary worker knows what they are selling, and 9/10 the workers are JUST POTHEADS too. i live 30 miles east of los angeles and ive seen more and more shops pop up out of nowhere every day. along with each new shop, there are probably at least 10 new brands each week, all claiming they have the best cartridges. and with VAPING weed, the MAIN target audience is people who cant smoke or would prefer the more fruity flavor, BUT THIS IS WHERE IT GOES WRONG, some of the extraction methods dont extract the all the natural terpene content. so how do they get the super fruity flavor? the brands cut their oil with terpenes to increase the flavor, go ahead taste a really thin oil cartridge like some of the fruity brass knuckles strains, and then try the same strain from a brand that does not use fillers and i can guarantee you can taste the difference. the thinner the oil, the more solvents/cuts/fillers.. THIS IS WHAT IS GOING ON RIGHT NOW. and if you dont believe me, the brand the man was referring to –“Trulieve”– clearly states on their website that they cut their cartridges with terpenes themselves, look under where it says cutting agent.

            for those who may question my knowledge; i have been using cartridges since they first started being introduced to the public ( years ago, not a few months) since i cant consume cannabis traditionally due to me being the son of a deaf woman with the nose of a bloodhound who knows and hates weed. i have spent long hours researching everything about these but i JUST found out about the inclusion of terpenes being added recently, while i was with a friend who works for a cartridge based brand here in LA. JUST ABOUT EVERYONE IS DOING IT, but there are many brands that do not use fillers. although i cannot recommend any specifically because the only brand i use now is made in my hometown and only sold here /:

            best of luck to all and remember to check SClabs data for reports on the brands you are using if you cant find it yourself.

          • TerryLicia


          • David Sandberg

            Many edibles (like Dutch sugar cubes) have zero terpenes in them.

        • David Sandberg

          Also all the terpenes in any MJ product I’ve ever gotten (which have all been from legal stores, because I can) have been not only labelled but also described and measured to .01% content, so I’m not sure what he was on about.

      • mogwaipr

        you may have gotten an epy pin but you should also understand that your doctor whom probably has told you repeatedly to try his allergy shots would be willing to stick a needle with allergens and increase your resistance to them every Tuesday and Thursday. You also have to be diligent. You can rid yourself of allergies if you commit. allergy shots do work. In fact, if your doctor properly prepares them, you can make your immune system stronger and by fighting other allergies you automatically reduce the effect other allergens like limonene have on you.

      • Maria skunda

        These simple terpenes are naturally occurring in a lot of plants and fruits. If you are allergic then you should educate yourself on where the terpenes you are allergic to naturally occur. They aren’t added in. They’ve always occurred naturally in plants. Most people with allergies that occur in natural plants and fruits have already educated themselves on where they could ingest them or come in contact on their own so they don’t have adverse reactions to anything. Any natural skincare even has these terpenes in them and are fabulous for the skin. Educating yourself will keep you safe and most likely be empowering in life.

        • disqus_UQ1kwnz3WM

          Sorry to inform you but I have but you need to be educated turlieve adds citrus oil which is a terpene to all liquid products. Grafting plant together is how citurs was introduced into marijuana plants, it does not naturally occur in this plant species, there are many ways to introduce terpenes into a growing plant…
          I am having issues finding product in FL mmj programs without limomen-citurs, the dispensary do not want to disclose the plants profile. I have had non-citurs products without any issues. it’s the fact the fl gave a tax break for incorporating there business in the citurs industry.. this is a problem. I am sure you are aware that as we get older we are more likely to find allergies worsened and what people simply think food intolerance can actually be a full blown allergy

    • nurseflirt52

      lpn-MD office nurse for 25 yrs-I have MS and find cannabis the most helpful thing yet. Stopped 2 narcotics, anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant I was on 14 yrs. I AM FASCINATED BY THE SCIENCE OF IT..Is there a new pharmaceutical course now for nurses?

      • MIDWEST316

        I’ll take your Narcs to safely proper dispose of.

    • Stan

      Shame you didnt apply your brain to your Sky Daddy delusions…

    • Kecia Waddell

      Oh, I LOVE your acronym: P.E.A.C.E.* (Proper Education Always Corrects Error)

  • Jeffrey Dior

    Great post. Terpenes are not unique to cannabis. All terpenes originate from the same building block molecule (Isoprene). Like a Lego, the Isoprene molecule can attach to itself in several different positions. I used to try to find weed derived terpenes, but that is just too expensive and inefficient for my vape company. Later I found a full spectrum, strain specific terpene profile company. (their name is medicalterpenes) They saved me tons of money. Most importantly, you don’t taste the different of their terpene profiles from weed derived terpenes. I personally think people should not be obsessed with weed derived terpenes.

  • Dan

    Informative post and I like your depth of categories (effects, benefits, boiling points). What matters more for terpene profiles, how the different terpenes compare within one strain or how the absolute level of the terpene compares across the market? Essentially, did you start with the strain or did you start with the terpene? Is Trainwreck associated with Limonene because that terpene stands out within Trainwreck or does Trainwreck standout among all strains with Limonene?

    • disqus_UQ1kwnz3WM

      Thank you image asking if a product has citrus and being told it did not and inhaling a product and you have a citrus allergen.. burning raw trough, sinus and lungs are no fun, thankfully we caught the allergic reaction before the airway was closed, but now I don’t have options in my state

      • TerryLicia

        You can smell limonene. It is not the only terpene in cannabis, and if you cannot hack terpenes of any sort, I must ask: do you live in a bubble?

    • Mandi Francis-Villegas

      Wouldn’t it be just wonderful if the Medical field were allowed to treat patients with natural remedies instead of poisons? The world would be so much better off but we know it’s NEVER going to happen because BIG BAD PHARMA AND THOSE GREEDY POLITICIANS, Just Have To Keep Filling Their Own Pockets!
      It makes my heart hurt.
      So many children lost, so many mother’s & fathers, taken too soon, just so greedy people can have more money, it’s all just so very sad.

      • I know it, friend. The world could of been such a glorious, beautiful, great world for all …but instead we have this. It’s incredibly sad and its a miscarriage of justice for all of the universe to see and frown upon.

      • Jackson Shredder

        I believe this will become a reality in the distant future, problem is probably not in my lifetime but who really knows. It would take a civil war I would imagine. “We The people” need to rise up together and prepare for war for this to become a reality.

      • TerryLicia

        And so many of us are alive today thanks to “Big Pharma.” If you are an American, you were saved from diptheria, pertussis, measles, mumps, TB, smallpox, polio and even today, millions are given flu vaccines that help them build antibiodies to keep the flu from killing them — if they’re smart enough to get the thing! I cannot stand people that go around shouting to the rooftops about big bad pharma but NEVER acknowledge that half their good health comes from the same source! Hypocrites, AMERICAN hypocrites who’ve likely never seen poverty for REAL, like in .. 4th world countries, which is where HALF the planet’s population’s live! If not for their labor, you’d not even be on the internet. Ungrateful fools.

        • Melissa Coterel

          uhhh the internet came from AMERICA…not a 4th world country.

          • TerryLicia

            Know who makes your computers? They’re not built in some CA warehouse! We “invented” the Internet, true … our military did, then our universities studied it and eventually, the general public accessed it. Now, all the parts for using the internet are made overseas. So, I don’t know what you were thinking about, but I know i was speaking about how we should be grateful for what we have … especially since MOST Americans don’t even know HOW a computer works, much less HOW to build one yet people in 3rd and 4th world countries DO! Do you? Could YOU build one from scratch? I cannot and I’ve actually done it before, in the mid 70’s! But now? I seriously doubt it! LOL Was only sayin’ … be a little more grateful, people. 100% more TRUTHFUL, and if you don’t know something, it’s ok! I mean, isn’t that how you learn things .. cause you didn’t know them at first, then you learned!?

      • Yep and inevitably the entire human species will go extinct all just so the minority of the species (if they are even human, I choose to believe that they are not) could “feel better about themself” and push others around. That will be our sad story in this galaxy. It truly is heresy against life itself how we chose to live and use this world.

  • Hank Hyland

    Who designed that “infographic” chart? White letters on a yellow background or on an off-white background cannot be read.

  • cj

    I never smoked a nug of green crack that sedated me. Some of these flavors seem a little off.

    • historyspeaks2016

      Grape Ape makes me go to sleep in no time flat lol i’m a sativa guy mostly

    • Sierra Stoner

      akI agree. Then again, most strains out there have gone through so many changes. Different seed co’s don’t even agree on the origins of many. We had Colombian Gold when I first started smoking almost 40 years ago. Indica’s were called “opiated Thai” in the San Fernando Valley, Ca. the first time it came around. Then the same thing was called Humbolt County Sensimilla the next harvest. Finally Skunk. And I remember when Kush Bud first came around. I was smokin “Kush” in the early 80’s, 1983-1984. But I’ve seen it listed as being brought from Florida or Nor Cal in 1990 or something like that. My point is, you are right about Green Crack and several others, but the list is general and “strains” aren’t what I call pure so there is probably some Green Crackout there that sedated someone at sometime. 😉

      • TerryLicia

        I have to crack up at some the names they come up with! Original, I’ll give them that! Creative, too. And, some even sorta kinda make sense. I still think we ALL know what “Mexican Dirt Weed” is/was, and a “five finger lid,” or four! I remember Colombian too, and it was goldish … lemony! Sensimillia, seedless. Had to be the mid-70’s to early 80’s, Austin and Houston. I remember when Skunk first cropped up, too. VERY heady, stinnnnkkky stuff. Almost too oily! But “Green Crack” — hmm .. does it make one MORE paranoid than just weed used to? Uh, no thanks! Never could understand why anyone would keep paying just to be SO freakishly afraid!?

  • BT

    “the beneficial qualities of terpenes can be seriously damaged if heated past their boiling point”

    How are you going to vaporize something if you don’t heat it past its boiling point?

    • markthespot

      Right. So what happens if we smoke it? Do we not get the same effects?

  • Sierra Stoner

    These are exciting times! It seems like we are learning more about the science and make up of Cannabis at a logarithmic rate. The last 5 years or so seems like we have learned more than the last 100. With real legal, unbiased, scientific research available and the advances in computers and all the other discoveries like decoding the human genome and DNA strands. Amazing discoveries are becoming almost common place. Exciting times indeed!
    Thanks for educating me on live resins.

  • Literalleigh

    May I ask who invented this flavor wheel for weed?

  • David

    I recommend to you all try a rolling paper infused with terpenes I just came across with -it’s called cannaboost – it sure gives the cannabis effect a real boost – you should all try it

  • MIDWEST316

    Very interesting. I was diagnosed as a youth PTSD, Social Anxiety Disorders, ADHD and recently with Graves Disease (Auto-Immune). Some of these seem to help me. I changed my eating habits and cut out all this synthetic junk and I feel /see a huge difference. I can not do the spicy ones, it messes up my stomache much worse than it helps it. My seasonal allergies might interfer somewhat. I do know SAGE is a blessing. Living here in Midwest. My elders introduced me to Sage at young age.