Marijuana lovers alike (and pretty much anyone else nowadays) can tell you that identifying cannabis is largely linked to smell. It's the unmistakeable aroma that suddenly turns you into a hound dog when you're in public and you smell weed. You sniff it out until you see who is the lucky bastard with the joint.

The scent

The scent is also the first thing you notice when your friend hands you their fresh bag of bud. You open it up and it hits you like a bag of bricks; that sweet skunky flavor that brings you back to your most fond toking memories. That warm fuzzy feeling you get from just smelling the weed isn't just a coincidence; there's a whole science behind it. Our olfactory response (that's our sense of smell) is directly linked to the part of the brain that is the center of our emotions. Scents directly correspond with past experiences that's why you get a flood of positive emotions with a simple sniff of good weed.

smell of cannabis

Terpenes, or terpenoids, are what's behind the incredible strong dank smell of cannabis. They are volatile aromatic molecules that are easily evaporated so they quickly make their way up to your nose. These oily compounds are stowed away in the marijuana plant's trichomes. Both Terpenes and THC come from the biochemical precursor, geranyl pyrophosphate. THC among other cannabinoids possess no odor, therefore the aroma of the bud is dependant on which terpenes dominate.

American naturalists

David Watson and Robert Clarke, American naturalists that founded a company called Hortapharm in Amsterdam, played a critical role in exposing the importance of terpenes. Specializing in botanical science and cannabis therapeutics, they crossed and recrossed thousands of varieties of cannabis while selectively choosing which ones to further develop. Watson explained that they choose which cannabis plants to keep and which ones to discard by smelling them.

potency of THC

Watson hypothesized that the potency of THC was enhanced by the terpenes in the cannabis resin. He tested his theory in an experiment in which he compared the subjective effect of 100% THC to lesser amounts in terpene-infused marijuana resin. He found that terpene infused resin with only 50% THC had a higher potency by dry weight than the same amount of pure THC. It's the mix of terpenes and THC that enrich different strains with certain psychoactive flavors.

found in marijuana

More than 100 terpenes have been found in marijuana, however only a few of these pungent substances are in high enough amounts in the bud to be notable. Some of these include sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, and monoterpenes. Terpenes have played an important part of the marijuana plant as their strong odor repels predators and entices pollinators.

healthy for people

Just as beneficial as they are for the plant itself, terpenoids are also healthy for people. In fact, terpenes are found all around in nature, not just in marijuana. Fruits, spices, herbs, and vegetables all have different kinds of terpenoids.

common terpenes in marijuana

One of the most common terpenes in marijuana is myrcene. It smells earthy, spicy, and clove-like. Depending on how much myrcene a plant has, it will either be sativa or indica. Samples of marijuana with more than 0.5% myrcene will be indica. Marijuana samples with fewer than 0.5% myrcene will be sativa

.Myrcene has loads of therapeutic effects like killing pain and relaxing muscles. It's also an anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antioxidant, and anticarcinogenic.


Another terpene found in many cannabis strains is beta-caryophyllene. It can also be found in leafy vegetables, essential oil of black pepper, and oregano. This terpene is good for treating specific ulcers and is gastro-protective. Because it target CB2 receptors and doesn't create a high, beta-caryophyllene is a great way to medicate if you do not want an alteration in your motor skills or perception.


One of the most common terpene found in nature is pinene. It smells like pine and fir trees and it can also be found in herbs like sage or rosemary. It's specialties are being an expectorant, bronchodilator, anti-inflammatory, local antiseptic, and memory enhancer. Skunk strains are known for their high levels of pinenes.


Limonene, as you can probably guess, smells like citrus. This terpene can also be found in rosemanry, fruit rinds, and juniper. Your can find it in cannabis strains like OG Kush and Limoncello Haze. It's good for treating gastrointestinal complications, dissolving gallstones, heartburn, it's anti-carcinogenic, and fights depression as it is a mood-enhancer. It's powerful antimicrobial properties can kill pathogenic bacteria.

relief you need

Terpenoids can vary greatly from strain to strain. Simply changing strains from one with a lower THC/CBD to a higher one may not give the patient more relief if the terpenoid profile greatly differs. Sniff it out; find a strain that has a compatible smell to the type of relief you need.

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Disclaimer: This content is meant for educational purposes only. It has been compiled with research from external sources. it is not meant to substitute any medical or legal advice. Please see your local laws for the legality of cannabis use.