Terpenes: Effects in Medical Marijuana

Pine Forest

The first thing people really notice upon inspecting a new supply of medical marijuana is – the aroma. What gives each plant its particular smell is the complex array of terpenes – the organic chemical makeup of the plant. How they relate with cannabinoids is the subject of much modern research.

What is known is that terpenes are volatile, fragrant substances formed in the early steps of making proteins, amino acids, etc. They are not as immediately necessary as, say, water, but they do provide the structure for a plant to survive over time. Hundreds of components have been identified in cannabis varieties; some major terpenes present in all cannabis plants, and their generally recognized effects, are as follows:



Alpha-pinene is a basic protective component; its function is improving respiration/circulation, disinfecting and repelling pests. (Think evergreen forest floor, early in the morning). Limonene is a calmative component, recognizeable as a lemony smell. It is a mood brightener and strong pestilent repellant.

Alone these terpenes are somewhat aggressive/irritant but in mixtures they offer a strong foundation. Research does demonstrate an “entourage” effect for terpenes, where the final therapeutic impact of the whole plant is more than the sum of its parts.

Cannabis also contains linolool, which induces calm, perhaps by modifying response of neurons to L-[H3] glutamate (Phytomedicine, 1999. 6(2), pp 107-113). Finally, myrcene is both sedative and anti-spasmodic (relaxing all muscles); it is also analgesic and anti-inflammatory.

Beta caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene, as opposed to the above monoterpenes, and is thus a bit more nuanced in its effects – but what is acknowledged and is being widely studied is its ability to bind to the immune-building receptor CB2.

More specific research is needed for improved accuracy in describing and predicting experience in consumption of medical marijuana.  At Cornerstone Collective we offer a range of cannabis with different terpene profiles to match the right medicine to the patient.