Terpenes and the Entourage Effect


There are more than 100 different compounds contained within the cannabis plant to include cannabinoids, terpenes, amino acids, omega fatty acids, bioflavonoids, phenols, and minerals. The terpenes in marijuana are compounds which impart aroma as well as holistic health benefits. Every marijuana strain or cultivar contains its own distinctive scent and flavor imparted by the different combination of terpenes present within the plant. The benefits of medical marijuana can be attributed to the entourage effect, which occurs when the different compounds work synergistically to amplify the effects of the cannabis plants.


What Is the Entourage Effect?

Studies show that terpenes play an important part in The Entourage Effect by enhancing the action of the cannabinoids within marijuana. The entourage effect is the term given to the synergistic way that the individual compounds found within cannabis work together to increase effectiveness of the entire plant.
The saying, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, is true for the entourage effect exhibited within the cannabis plant. As frequently seen in nature, when all compounds in a plant or substance are naturally combined, their bio-availability, absorption, and effectiveness is magnified. For example, the wide variety of naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables work together to create their beneficial effects. That natural combination is more easily absorbed by the body than a lab synthesized vitamin in isolation. Within marijuana, each individual component imparts a specific benefit, and when combined the effects are enhanced.


Terpenes and Their Health Benefits

Terpenes are a diverse class of natural compounds in plants which provide fragrance, flavor, color, and holistic health benefits. Terpenes are present in trees, fruits, flowers, herbs, and other plants. Extracts are used for holistic benefits in many topicals, and aromatherapy. In addition, the terpenes themselves have health benefits. There are over 200 terpenes found in various marijuana strains. Some important terpenes in cannabis are:

  1. Myrcene:  A prominent terpene in hemp, and is also found in mango. It contributes to the anti-inflammatory capabilities of cannabis.
  2. Pinene: A common scent in nature especially conifers. Pine trees highly express pinene. Pinene also contributes to the anti-inflammatory properties of marijuana.
  3. Beta-caryophyllene:  Another prominent terpene in cannabis. It contributes to the spiciness of black pepper. It is also found in hops, cloves, and rosemary. Beta-caryophyllene also confers anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits.
  4. Limonene:  A common scent in citrus fruits. It has been shown to elevate mood, and possess antifungal and antibacterial properties.
  5. Linalool:  The terpene responsible for the soothing floral aroma of lavender, jasmine, rose, bergamot, and rosewood. Linalool possesses soothing, and sedative benefits. It also contains anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and anticonvulsant properties.
  6. Ocimene: A constituent in mint, basil, and mango as well as cannabis that possess antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.
  7. Humulene:  Predominant in hops and cannabis. Humulene is also present is black pepper, and sage. It confers pain relieving qualities; and research suggests that it may also be an effective topical anti-inflammatory.
  8. Terpinolene:  Commonly found in nutmeg, rosemary, apples, and lilacs. Terpinolene contains antioxidant, anti-proliferative, and sedative properties.
  9. Nerolidol:  Woodsy scent present in neroli, tea tree, ginger, and lemon grass.  Nerolidol possesses antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
  10. Cedrene:  Fresh woodsy aroma of cedarwood. It exhibits antispasmodic, astringent, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory qualities. It is commonly used in cleansing soaps and moisturizing skin care products.
  11. Alpha-Bisobolol – Naturally found in chamomile. It has been shown to have analgesic and antibacterial properties. 
  12. Eucalyptol – Gives Eucalyptus and Menthol their characteristic smells. It is widely used as a decongestant. It also contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. 
  13. Pulegone – Found in rosemary. This terpene contains fever-reducing and sedative qualities.

Terpenes give marijuana its aromatic diversity. Terpenes are also important compounds which contribute to the overall medicinal effects of marijuana. Studies suggest that terpenes can impart pain and anti-inflammatory benefits and boost cannabinoid activity, making them valuable tools for disease symptom management. Extracts of terpenes can be purchased as tinctures for use in topical applications, skin care products, or aromatherapy. They can also be added to marijuana products to boost medicinal benefits of medical marijuana products.



LaVigne, J. E., Hecksel, R., Keresztes, A., & Streicher, J. M. (2021). Cannabis sativa terpenes are cannabimimetic and selectively enhance cannabinoid activity. Scientific reports, 11(1), 8232. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-87740-8
Russo E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1344–1364. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
University of Arizona Health Sciences. (2021, July 14). Study shows Cannabis terpenes provide pain relief, contribute to ‘entourage effect’. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 27, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/07/210714110455.htm

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