Terpenes May Hold Key to Choosing the Right Cannabis Strain

The evolution of cannabis have brought the plant into the mainstream, and brought to the surface a bevy of new, confusing terms and phrases for patients. High on that list is “terpenes”, the fragrant aromas that a plant emits that helps to shape a cannabis strain’s medicinal profile. One of the most important aspects of choosing the right cannabis strain for your needs is knowing your desired effects and that requires selecting for certain terpenes.

Terpenes and their effects

Typically, we use terms like “skunky” to describe the pungent odor of cannabis. But why does cannabis have such a strong and distinct smell? The answer is terpenes, and their natural presence in cannabis affects how each strain smells, tastes, and is classified.


Over 100 different terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant. Every strain combines a unique mix of terpenes that produces different effects. For instance, myrcene can calm you whereas caryophyllene is known for its anti-inflammatory properties.


Evolutionary adaptation

Terpene expression is an evolutionary adaptation for cannabis plants. Like many fragrant blooms, the cannabis plant secretes specific combinations of scented oils to repel pests and attract pollinators. These terpene oils color the scent and flavor profiles of cannabis strains.


Terpene expression goes beyond just taste and smell. Terpenes play a role in the very effects that we get from that particular plant when it gets consumed. Terpenes give certain strains certain effects. Such as relaxation, pain reduction, or anxiety relief. Terpenes also naturally occur in other plant life, such as hops, trees, and fruits.

How terpenes interact

Another fascinating aspect of terpenes is how they interplay. Cannabis plants typically have an entire array of terpenes and how they interact with each other is what leads to the “entourage effect”. Experimentation with terpene combinations enriches both the art of cannabis horticulture and the connoisseurship of finding preferred strains.


The world of terpene research is abuzz in the cannabis world. Not only can we hone in on artisanal blends for appearance and taste, we can manipulate and uncover potential new therapeutic uses for cannabis. What terpene combinations provide the most pain relief? The most appetite stimulation? The most anxiety reduction?

Simply put, terpenes are the natural oils secreted by cannabis plants that can help us select for specific traits in cannabis strains. Terpenes exist throughout nature and learning more about them can help you choose the strain that works best for you.


Want to learn more about terpenes? Check out the The Harrington Institute full courses or programs here.