Terpenes in Cannabis and their psychoactive effects


Terpenes in cannabis are much more than just responsible for its various aromas and flavors. These aromatic molecules play a fundamental role in the experience provided by each strain, influencing its psychoactive and therapeutic effects. Terpenes in cannabis play a crucial role in its characteristics and effects. They interact with cannabinoids to influence the quality and effects of the plant.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are aromatic oils produced by the glands of cannabis plants. They are the compounds responsible for the various aromas that characterize each cannabis variety, ranging from fruity notes to earthy or citrusy undertones. More than a hundred different terpenes have been identified in cannabis, each with its own aromatic profile and potential effects.

How terpenes work in cannabis

These compounds not only offer olfactory pleasure but also interact with cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, to produce what is known as the “entourage effect”. This synergy between terpenes and cannabinoids enhances the effects of each component, providing a more comprehensive and balanced experience for the user. For example, the terpene limonene may harmonise with THC to deliver a stimulating and refreshing sensation, while myrcene may induce a more relaxing and calming effect.

Differences between terpenes and cannabinoids

Terpenes and cannabinoids are two types of substances found in cannabis but function differently.

Terpenes: They are like plant essential oils, giving each cannabis variety its characteristic aroma and flavour.


Cannabinoids: These are the active compounds in cannabis that have effects on the body. For example, THC is responsible for psychoactive effects, while CBD has relaxing properties but does not make you feel “high.” Cannabinoids interact with cannabinoid receptors in the body to produce their effects.

While cannabinoids like THC and CBD interact directly with cannabinoid receptors in the body, terpenes generally do not. However, there are some exceptions, such as caryophyllene, which acts as both a terpene and a cannabinoid by binding directly to certain receptors and having analgesic effects.

Cannabis quality and terpene analysis

The presence and proportion of terpenes in a cannabis strain are key indicators of its quality and potency. Consumers and growers seek strains with distinctive terpene profiles that align with their flavor and effect preferences. Terpene analyzes allow producers and consumers to better understand the chemical composition of a strain and make informed decisions about its use.

Psychoactive effects of terpenes

Although terpenes are not psychoactive on their own, they influence the overall effects of cannabis by modulating the impact of cannabinoids on the body. By interacting with serotonin and dopamine receptors, terpenes can alter mood and the user’s subjective experience. This ability of terpenes to modulate the effects of cannabis offers significant therapeutic potential and is garnering increasing interest in the scientific community.

The entourage effect

The “entourage effect” is an intriguing phenomenon suggesting that compounds in cannabis, such as cannabinoids and terpenes, work together synergistically to produce more potent effects than when consumed individually.


In simple terms, the entourage effect theory suggests that the entire array of compounds present in the cannabis plant is more effective when ingested as a whole, rather than consuming each compound separately. For example, THC, when taken alone, can produce intense psychoactive effects, such as anxiety or paranoia.

However, it is believed that CBD, another component of cannabis, can modulate these psychoactive effects of THC, resulting in a smoother, more balanced high. Terpenes, which are aromatic compounds found in cannabis and other plants, also play an important role in the entourage effect. It has been found that certain terpenes, such as linalool and pinene, can enhance the effects of cannabinoids, such as CBD, while providing additional benefits, such as muscle relaxation or mood improvement.

Although there is still controversy and debate surrounding the entourage effect, current studies are exploring how cannabis compounds interact with each other and with the human body. Some studies suggest that terpenes may have beneficial effects even if they do not directly interact with cannabinoid receptors in the body.


Terpenes play a multifaceted role in cannabis, from determining its aroma and flavour to influencing its psychoactive and therapeutic effects. heir complex interaction with cannabinoids highlights the importance of considering the complete chemical composition of a strain to fully understand its properties and benefits. With greater knowledge about terpenes and their role in cannabis, consumers and growers can optimise their experiences and maximise the benefits of this extraordinary plant.