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Everything Canadians need to know about cannabis terpenes

Published on October 1, 2019 · Last updated September 24, 2020
terpenes and cannabis leaves
Jesse Milns/Leafly

Cannabis smells, and with good reason: it’s loaded with terpenes, aromatic compounds that not only determine a particular strain’s scent and flavour, but also contribute to its effects.

Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD may get all the glory, but if you really want to predict a strain’s effects, you need to look to its terpenes, too. Increasingly, cannabis researchers believe that terpenes work synergistically with cannabinoids and each other to produce a given strain’s characteristic effects.

Find everything you need to know about terpenes—what they are, how they work, how they influence your cannabis experience, and more—in this comprehensive guide to cannabis terpenes.

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An individual cannabis plant can contain hundreds of terpenes. Each strain, or cultivar, expresses a unique composition of terpenes that contribute to its final scent, determining whether a particular cultivar smells like berries, lemons, diesel or the forest floor. Learn more

Here are the terpenes most often found in cannabis


Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in modern commercial cannabis, and the most likely terpene to be dominant, or present in the highest levels. Myrcene is associated with cannabis’s sedative or “couch-locking” effect. Learn more about myrcene.

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True to its name, pinene has a distinct pine aroma. In cannabis, pinene is prized for its association with better memory retention and mental clarity, and is believed to counteract the memory-inhibiting and mentally sedating properties of THC. Learn more about pinene.

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Caryophyllene is a spicy terpene with antioxidant and anti-fungal properties. Research has even found that caryophyllene may be able to treat anxiety and depression. Learn more about caryophyllene.

Find Canadian cannabis strains with caryophyllene


More cannabis-focused research is needed, but studies on limonene so far have shown its potential for easing symptoms of depression, stress, and heartburn. Limonene is also prized for lending certain strains their citrusy flavours and aromas. Learn more about limonene.

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Terpinolene may be the least-common common terpene, often present, but rarely dominant. Its aroma is more complex than other terpenes, at once fruity, piney, floral, and herbaceous, but always fresh. It may have antifungal and antibacterial qualities. Learn more about terpinolene.

Find Canadian cannabis strains with terpinolene

Other common terpenes include:

  • Humulene: Woody flavours; reported to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Ocimene: Sweet flavors; commonly used in perfumes; reported to have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Linalool: Floral; commonly used in essential oil blends; reported to have antimicrobial, antibiotic, pain-relieving, and sedative properties.

With files from Ben Adlin, Patrick Bennett, Nick Jikomes, Josh Kaplan, and Bailey Rahn.

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Leafly Canada Staff
Leafly Canada Staff
Leafly Canada is based in Toronto, with correspondents and contributors stretching from Newfoundland to BC. To reach our editorial staff please contact us at
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