What Are Terpenes?

Recently, cannabis consumers, as well as the cannabis production community have taken great interest in the little known notion of terpenes. Their combined, unabated interest in the terpenes definition logically creates inquiries like – 

  • Are terpenes legal? 
  • Do terpenes get you high?

Read on to learn how cutting-edge research suggests that terpenes can either help or hinder how cannabinoids (CBD) receptors interact with THC or CBD isolates. 

The Definition of Terpenes

Chemically speaking, terpenes are simply organic hydrocarbons (unsaturated hydrocarbons.) that act as the source for cannabis’ essential aromatics. In this way, terpenes resemble the workings and benefits of the proven alternative therapeutic treatments provided by essential oils. 

The development of sophisticated terpene profiles assists cannabis/CBD experts and fans in discerning the difference in different cannabis strains simply by smell. 

Recent scientifically-backed studies revealed characteristics from this unique chemical compound that have begun to actively shift the botany community’s (and cannabis users) understanding of how terpenes impact the influence of cannabis use.

The Definition of Terpenoids

The definition of terpenoids is quite similar to that of a terpene. However, terpenoids have been impacted by oxidation, which changes their chemical compound. Terpenoids receive different names when their chemical nature has become oxidized. Examples include Monoterpenes, or Sesquiterpenes.

Known Terpenes Benefits

Nearly a decade ago, Ethan Russo, an MD neurologist/researcher published a revolutionary paper that explained the ways in which terpenes and cannabinoids (CBDs) combined to regulate the human body’s ECS— the Endocannabinoid System. The ECS is a system that produces Endocannabinoids; a chemical compound that is remarkably similar to that of a cannabis molecule. 

Dr. Russo’s pioneering work disclosed how cannabinoids (CBDs), along with terpenes have the capability of decreasing or increasing the THC’s impact with the ECS.  This groundbreaking research paper regarding how terpenes interact with the body’s Endocannabinoid System has helped demonstrate why certain cannabis strains provide an uplifting and energetic experience, while others offer pain reduction or a sedative effect. 

Medical Terpenes Benefits

Dr. Russo and his team learned that terpenes had the potential to – 

Essential terpene aromatics have introduced how scientific research can help optimize each cannabis plant’s potential. 

Terpenes Benefits — Taste and Flavors

Terpenes are often regarded as nature’s spice rack. Similar to one’s reaction to a great smelling delectable dish, the aroma of certain strains of cannabis often act as guides to what your body needs or wants to restore your health. 

However, the profound interest in terpenes extends beyond its unique aromatic benefits. Remember, the terpenes benefits of each compound offer specific effects. 

Here is a partial list of some of the more common cannabis terpene compounds:


The most predominant type of terpene found in cannabis is called Myrcene. Many independent laboratories confirm the amount of Myrcene in the plant’s buds directly determines the strength of its sedative or energetic properties. Myrcene has also been shown to increase THC’s effects. 


Limonene is often found in citrus fruit as well as cannabis plants and offers medical effects that treat depression with uplifting effects. 


Terpinolene offers a woodsy smell that offers a sedative effect. It also is a known antioxidant, an antibacterial, and an effective anti-cancer treatment terpene. 


Humulene is an appetite suppressant and also found in cloves or basil. 

Alpha Pinene 

Alpha Pinene is the overwhelming aroma one experiences when walking through a pine forest. Alpha Pinene is likely the most common terpene found in all nature.

The Bottom- Line

Are terpenes legal? 

The Food and Drug Administration defines terpenes as a food-grade additive that falls within legal limits. However, note that terpenes are a component of the cannabis plant, whose legality is inconsistent throughout the country.  

Do terpenes get you high? By themselves, terpenes have little psychoactive properties. When terpenes interact with THC, they have the ability to enhance the psychoactive impact of the THC.