Know your terpenes to identify the aromas of cannabis

Byby Juan Carlos Guerrero KGO logo
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Know your terpenes
Not all cannabis smells the same. The same compounds that give mangoes their citrus scent also gives cannabis different aromas.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- For most people, their first experience with marijuana was walking into a high school bathroom and running into that strong "skunk" smell left behind by pot users.

In reality, cannabis has many aromas. They are determined by terpenes, which are organic compounds produced by a variety of plants, not just marijuana. They are what give rosemary, bay leaves and even Christmas trees their unique scent.

RELATED: How to match wine and cannabis aromas

More than 100 different terpenes have been identified in cannabis.

These are four of the most common.


Myrcene is also found in hops, mangoes, the essential oils of citrus fruits and aromatic culinary staples like thyme and bay leaves. It allows cannabis to take effect more quickly.

Aroma: musky, earthy, herbal

Medical: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, sedative, relaxing


Pinene can be found in resin, pine trees and some citrus fruits. In cannabis, it can lessen the effects of THC.

Aroma: pine, fir

Medical: anti-inflammatory, expectorant, mental alertness, memory retention


Limonene is a major component in citrus rinds, rosemary and peppermint. It is highly absorbed and appears quickly in the blood stream.

Aroma: citrus, lemony

Medical: antifungal, cancer treatment, lifts mood


Linalool is found in mints, bay leaves and cinnamon and has been added to bath and body products for its calming and relaxing effects.

Aroma: floral, lavender

Medical: sleep aid, lessens anxiety, boosts immune system

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