Terpenes: What you need (and want) to know

February 22, 2019 Spectrum Therapeutics

Even if you’re new to medical cannabis you’ve likely heard of the main cannabinoids, THC and CBD. Hopefully, you and your healthcare professional have been able to choose a product with the right balance of these to manage your symptoms. In addition to THC and CBD, however, there are more than 500 other natural compounds that have been isolated from Cannabis sativa, some of which might also offer therapeutic benefit. One large and diverse group of molecules that are thought to be important active compounds are the terpenes.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are produced by many plants, including cannabis. Each terpene has a distinct scent that plays a role in defining a plant’s aroma and flavour. For example, they are responsible for the distinct smells of lavender and pine. The mix of terpenes in a particular variety of cannabis, and the resulting scent, is referred to as a variety's terpene profile. Cannabis products can smell of anything from gasoline or skunk to strawberry or citrus. Some varieties can be pungent while others have more discreet aromas.


Terpenes are known as organic compounds, which is a fancy way of saying they contain carbon atoms linked to other elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. In cannabis, the highest concentration of terpenes is found in the resin produced by the flowers of the female plants, just like the cannabinoids. There is evidence to show that some terpenes interact with the endocannabinoid system and modulate the effect of your medical cannabis.


Spectrum Therapeutics extracts (i.e., oils and softgels) have the same terpene profile as the dried flowers from which they are derived. Spectrum Softgels are a convenient dosing option and a discreet alternative for those who want to avoid the smell of dried flower or the  taste of cannabis oil.

What is terpography?

Terpography is a visual mapping tool that Spectrum Therapeutics designed to inform you about the terpenes associated with the product you may taking. The terpography map represents the profile of terpenes that give cannabis varieties and products distinct smells and tastes.


Everyone is different and, just as with food, certain terpene profiles will smell different to different people. Medical cannabis is not a one-size-fits-all medicine, and you may be drawn to one terpene profile while another customer prefers another. You can view the terpography of any product in the shop once you’re registered and logged in as a patient.

A few common terpenes found in medical cannabis

There are more than 200 terpenes in cannabis. Here are some of the prominent terpenes in our products:


β-caryophyllene is found in a variety of herbs and spices, such as black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves. This terpene interacts with the receptors of the body’s endocannabinoid system.


Found in hops, bay leaves, and lemongrass, and emits an herbal, rooty, and spicy scent.



Found in a variety of sources such as cajuput oil, pine oil, and petitgrain oil. Its aroma is similar to lilac.


It is found in the oils of coniferous trees and is what gives pine needles their scent. It is also found in sage and rosemary.



Found in cajuput oil, pine oil, and petitgrain oil, this terpene smells similar to lilac.


Found in allspice and many essential oils such as citrus and juniper. Its aroma is sweet and piney.

What are the therapeutic effects of terpenes?

Terpenes may have direct physiologic effects, and may also interact with cannabinoids to create the unique effects of individual medical cannabis varieties. You’ll find many sources online that refer to the health benefits of specific terpenes, such as the ability to improve sleep, reduce stress, and relieve anxiety. While there is experimental evidence that some terpenes have antioxidant, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties, this information comes from animal studies and not clinical trials in humans.*

The Entourage Effect

There is a widespread belief that terpenes, cannabinoids, and other compounds in cannabis interact with each other to produce the effects cannabis has on our bodies. This is known as the “entourage effect” and may be responsible for experiences associated with particular medical cannabis products. This is currently hypothetical, with limited scientific evidence to support it.*


We look forward to further research to show us more about what each terpene does and how it interacts with our bodies. We will share information from clinical studies as it becomes available.


*For more info visit Health Canada’s Information for Health Care Professionals: Cannabis (marihuana, marijuana) and the cannabinoids.


This information has not been evaluated by Health Canada. It is not meant as guidance for disease treatment. You should always consult your healthcare professional before using medical cannabis.

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