Are Cannabis Terpenes More Important Than THC?

More people are catching on to the significance of terpenes and how they are such an important part of getting the most benefits out of cannabis.

It’s no coincidence that cannabis cup judges – during blind taste tests – tend to award strains that are almost double in terpene content. That’s right, the top-awarded cannabis varieties are all about terpenes – not crazy high levels of THC. For a lot of cannabis lovers, this may come as a surprise.

Terpenes are the plant molecules that explain why cannabis varieties give off so many different aromas: fruity, piney, earthy, minty and so on. Cannabis has more terpene variations than perhaps any other plant species!

Terpene profiles in cannabis aren’t just responsible for the smell and flavor of a specific variety. They also help determine the mood, feel, and tone of the cannabis you’re consuming. Some terpene profiles will make you feel relaxed and sleepy, while others may give you an energy boost and promote focus.

During the initial stages of the cannabis industry, most of the focus was on THC levels. People didn’t really think about terpenes. Even today, most labs still don’t test for terpene profiles, which I agree really is a huge disservice to consumers and the industry as a whole.

Bottom line: if you’re looking for specific or interesting effects with your cannabis, you want to pay close attention to the terpene profiles – not just THC content.

5 terpenes that are especially prevalent in the majority of cannabis strains

While more than 20,000 varieties of terpenes appear throughout nature, about 200 types are found in cannabis. Cannabis plants release more terpenes when temperatures are higher. Terpenes deliver a wide array of medical benefits, including antimicrobial, antiseptic, and even anti-carcinogen effects. In terms of efficacy, terpenes are proving themselves to have as much medical value as cannabinoids such as THC and CBD (a cannabinoid that has proven to reduce seizures and reduce pain).


Myrcene (pronounced “mur-ceen”), the most common terpene in cannabis, produces odors that are earthy, spicy, and balsamic. It is the most common terpene in cannabis and, in many ganja strains, may constitute up to 50% of the terpene volume of the plant.


Have you ever noticed how you feel alert and and breathe easier when you go hiking or camping? That’s because of all the pinene in the air! As the name implies, this terpene gives off a pine aroma, and—contrary to what one might expect from an active constituent in marijuana—pinene can actually improve memory retention.


Responsible for the spicy taste in black pepper, beta caryophyllene is an impressive terpene that is unique because it is also a “dietary cannabinoid”. Effects of caryophyllene include relaxation, improved mood, and relief from tension.


Recognized by its sour, citrusy aroma, limonene is a terpene found in fruit rinds. Used in chewing gum as flavoring, limonene is also added to pharmaceutical products to help medicinal ointments and creams penetrate the skin. Effects of limonene include improved mood and a sense of well-being.


A common terpene in cannabis, linalool is best known for giving lavender (the herb, not the strain) its distinct fragrance. It can be recognized by its sweet, floral scent. Linalool has been used in aromatherapy as a sleep aid, a relaxant, and as a treatment for stress for thousands of years.