Your Guide to Terpenes

Have you ever smelled a plant aroma wafting into the air and once it hit your nose, you felt an immediate sense of pleasure or relaxation? Imagine different smells such as flowers, herbs and even scented cannabis that hit your olfactory bulb and signal your brain that something smells good. These scents that give plants their distinct flavor and smell are known as terpenes.

The olfactory bulb is connected to a larger system in your brain called the limbic system, which is associated with emotions, memories, arousal and stimulation. Terpenes serve as receptors and neurotransmitters in the brain and even act as serotonin uptake inhibitors to increase dopamine. When different terpenes reach your limbic system, they signal your brain to release certain chemicals that aid in stress and anxiety relief, alertness, pleasure and more. Terpenes also interact with your endocannabinoid system by acting as an assistant to cannabinoids (chemical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors within our brain). Together, the two work to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and bring your body to a balanced, healthy state known as homeostasis. Scroll through the images below to view the most common terpenes found in cannabis, or view the full article for an in-depth look at each one.

Nerolidol Terpene image showing woman lying on ground

All Artwork Courtesy of Kyra Mueller-Yamamoto

Nerolidol, the therapeutic terpene

Humulene image with hands holding flower

All Artwork Courtesy of Kyra Mueller-Yamamoto

Humulene, the anti-inflammatory


Nerolidol is a terpene that can  put almost anyone in the most peaceful headspace. This very therapeutic terpene is found in many aromas such as jasmine flower, tea tree, ginger and lemongrass, and it is best known for its sedating and relaxing effects to ease you into a calm or restful state. Medicinally, nerolidol  is used as a shield against bacteria, fungi, parasites and more. Say goodbye to those little pests with more nerolidol in your life. Strains that contain high levels of this terpene include Jack Herer, Skywalker OG, Sour Diesel and Island Skunk Sweet.


What comes from the earth is of utmost value, such as  the earthy scent of humulene. This terpene naturally occurs in hops, clove, basil and coriander.  Other than its pain relief, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects, it is also an appetite suppressant. If you have set  weight loss goals, finding a cannabis strain with high concentrations of humulene could be a great natural aid to try. Notable strains with high levels of humulene include Girl Scout Cookies, White Widow and Headband.

Pinene, the familiar friend

Caryophyllene, the spice of life


Pinene is probably the most recognizable scent, and also the most prominent, in the plant world. With a strong smell of pine needles, conifers and sage, its name speaks for itself. Take a walk in the woods, and you’ll be surrounded by this terpene. Pinene promotes  memory retention and alertness, and it even helps open up your airways so you can breathe better. My advice is to find a strain high in pinene, and then go for a hike. Take a few deep breaths, and enjoy being surrounded by this powerful terpene. Strains with high levels of pinene include Blue Dream, ChemDawg, Romulan and OG Kush.


Spice up your life with caryophyllene. High concentrations of caryophyllene are found in spices such as  black pepper, clove, cinnamon, rosemary and basil.. This terpene has numerous medical benefits including anticancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant and even anxiolytic effects. Cannabis strains with high levels of caryophyllene include Bubba Kush, OG Kush and Chemdawg.

Valencene, the sweet and citrusy terpene

Geraniol, nature's lemonade


With the undertone of freshly chopped wood, valencene is a terpene known for its sweet, citrusy aroma and flavors reflective of oranges and other citrus fruits . This terpene is said to be anti-inflammatory and an excellent insect repellent. You can find this terpene most notably in the strains Tangie and Agent Orange.


Geraniol, also known as lemonol, is most notably recognized for its scent found in geraniumswhere its name actually stems from. This terpene is also present in lemongrass, lemons, roses and peach scents. Another interesting fact is that it is actually produced by honeybees as a means to mark their flowers and hives! This terpene is said to help protect neurons, as well as act as  an antioxidant. Other medicinal benefits include antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral. Strains that are high in geraniol include Lavender, Amnesia Haze and Headband.

hand holding bouquet of terpenes

Bisabolol, the healing terpene

A view of a person's back

Camphene, your skin's best friend


Bisabolol is a terpene with a floral flavor and aroma most commonly found in chamomile. This terpene can be used to fight bacteria, heal wounds and is effective in  treating inflammations. Strains that display a high level of bisabolol include Harle-Tsu and ACDC.


If you’ve walked through the woods, you’ve probably experience the terpene camphene. This terpene has the aroma of fir needles and damp woodlands, otherwise known as a musk scent. When mixed with Vitamin C, camphene becomes a powerful antioxidant and is a traditional medicine used for different skin infections. In addition, camphene is said to be a powerful pain reliever and antibiotic, and it provides anti-inflammatory benefits as well. You’ll notice this terpene in strains such as Strawberry Banana and Ghost OG.

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Kyra Mueller-Yamamoto • Health Coach + Plant Advisor

Kyra Mueller-Yamamoto is a healer, recipe developer, plant enthusiast and holistic lifestyle blogger based out of San Francisco, California. She studied health sciences throughout college and is currently working on her nutritional health coaching certification through Institute for Integrative Nutrition and cannabis science certification through Sativa Science Club. Follow along down the rabbit hole