The Benefits of Terpenes in Cannabis Essential Oil

Most of us are familiar with essential oils. You have likely enjoyed the smell of lavender, sage or eucalyptus essential oil.

Essential oils are basically the juices extracted from plants either through steam distillation, CO2 Extraction or through a press.

The main therapeutic agent in essential oils are the terpenes.

Terpenes are the life force, the quintessential 5th element or the spirit of the plant. – Ethan Russo

They are delicate, organic compounds, known as phytochemicals or metabolites.

Physiologically, Terpenes are involved in Three Crucial Processes.

  • Communication between symbiotic organisms 
  • The Attraction of Pollinating Insects
  • Plant Interactions such as creating defense mechanisms for predators. 1

Terpenes are well known for giving the plant, its unique aroma signature. These essences activate the olfactory system, which when inhaled can send messages to the limbic system of your brain, resulting in a cascading effect of positive benefits.

These fragrances may release stored memories, change your mood, calm you down in stressful times, among other physiological and physical benefits.

Dr. Ethan Russo, Neurologist and Medical Scientist, suggests that “terpenes are potent agents for animal and human behavior transformation when inhaled at ambient air level serums.”

Russo mentions that terpenes are a crucial aspect of the entourage effect that is a significant component to the therapeutic qualities of the cannabis plant.

He believes that the crucial connection between cannabinoids and terpenes is what gives cannabis its healing power, for things like: cancer, epilepsy, viral infections, depression, anxiety, and addiction.2

Terpenes are foundational components to a thriving eco-system and optimal human health.

For example, Artemisia was a sesquiterpene used to fight Malaria. Another terpene known as Yew,  has been recognized for warding off ovarian and breast cancers. Terpenes extracted from Foxglove were used in over 1 million heart disease cases. 1

Depending on which terpenes are present in each cultivar the essential oil will have a unique essence and signature.  I’ve often heard in the industry that there are over 700 cultivars of cannabis! That is some serious medicine available to the human species. That’s why you can smell sweet, earthy, skunky, pine-like, and fruity cannabis among many other essences.

Here are just a few of the main terpenes present in the blossoms of cannabis essential oil and their respective health promoting benefits.

Cannabis Essential Oil Terpene Benefits | Infographic

Cannabis Essential Oil Terpenes Infographic

In order to distinguish which terpenes are in any given essential oil, a lab analysis should be done as there are over 200 known terpenes in the cannabis plant. There are well over 19,000 terpenes in the plant kingdom.

Lastly, terpenes are volatile and vaporize at even moderate temperatures. In the middle of a hot summer day, for example, you won’t smell the aroma as much. However, in the ambrosial hours when things are cool and a dew sets over the plants the pungent terpene aromas can be better experienced making it the best time to harvest medicinal plants – such as cannabis – rich with terpenes.

10 replies
  1. Betsy
    Betsy says:

    Can terpenes from one plant take on the terpenes from another? I grew some cannabis with basil and the cannabis took on the basil fragrance.

    • Dodee J. Schmitt
      Dodee J. Schmitt says:

      Hi Betsy. It seems this is likely what happened, especially if you cross bred these two plants. There is a definite symbiosis and intelligent grid work of communication between plants regardless. But this is just my own thoughts. I would have to research it further. Thanks!

    • Dodee J. Schmitt
      Dodee J. Schmitt says:

      Hi Beverly, thank you for stopping by the Cannapedia. The main difference is the cannabis essential oil is only rich in the terpene component not cannabinoids. The terpenes are ver intelligent messengers of the plant….I have found that terpenes are helpful for my immune system and for any kind of inflammation or if pain relief is required. Cannabinoids are present in the CBD oil and are very medicinal in their ability to nourish our bodies deficient endo-cannabinoid system. This leads me to believe they take care of many symptoms of dis-ease in the human body as most humans have not been nourished with cannabinoids. I hope this is helpful. Terpene rich essential oil is great for topical use and for me I like to take cbd oil internally.

  2. Dodee
    Dodee says:

    Hi Hyacinth, thanks for stopping by. I am not a medical doctor, so first always consult with your practitioner however in my personal experience rubbing the essential oil on chest and especially bottoms of feet is a great way to download information into receptor sites from the plants to get the most out of the oil. Also nebulizers work well. Plants are evolving and as long as we hold reverence for them we can too evolve with them. In my experience Asthma sufferers also require diet over haul and need to get rid of the the very thing they put into their bodies that cause asthma. Once you cleanse your body and use holistic approaches like the essential oil you can really feel results. Cordyceps and Reishi mushrooms also augment lung chi and are a good adjunct from what I have experienced. Be well.


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