What are cannabis terpenes?

This article is part one of a two part educational series that focuses on demystifying to information surrounding terpenes for cannabis consumers.


Terpenes are a broad array of botanical compounds that contain the scent, flavor, and essential therapeutic uses of a plant. They can be found in household items like:

  • Dried seasonings
  • Floral arrangements
  • Tea
  • Cloves
  • Citrus fruits

These compounds exhibit a similar viscosity to oil, adding a sticky element to the plant. A plant’s strength, health, and immunity can be attributed to its terpene content. The same comparison could be made for the benefits of cannabis in terms of its consumer.

These oils, or terpenes, are commonly known to provide the strength and type of effect you may experience.  

Terpenes in cannabis

Although they are found in everyday items, they appear in cannabis in high concentrations. Terpenes are secreted in the same glands as cannabinoids like THC and CBD. This can differentiate the high a user will experience based on the dominance of the terpene associated with that strain. Select legal cannabis states can purchase additional testing to look closely at the terpene content within each cultivar.

Indica, sativa, hybrid

It is best not to assume that all indicas, hybrids, or sativas are alike. In fact, they are only divided in those categories based on the geographical location that those plant structures grow best in. Landrace strains are the only strains left that would truly fall into one of these classifications. These selections occur and flourish naturally in a place that their genetics thrive (Afghani Kush, for example).

The physical structure of a live marijuana plant was previously used to determine its type. Indicas tend to show shorter, thicker leaves, while sativa leaves tend to be thinner and brighter in hue. Other plant characteristics can alter the impact of a cannabis product, based on the strain’s cannabinoid profile and your body’s way of receiving them through your endocannabinoid system.

Terpenes are essential in understanding the analgesic benefits of the plant. A consumer normally desires a specific outcome, especially those seeking cannabis’ powerful medicinal qualities.

Terpenes in cannabis products

Full spectrum cannabis products, like RSO, contain the single-sourced terpenes and cannabinoids from one specific strain minus the fats and lipids attached to those compounds. This pulls the pure therapeutic benefits of the plant, while leaving its original genetic harmony intact. Other cannabis products, like distillate vapor cartridges, tend to have more or different terpenes reintroduced into the product for a more consistent, controlled outcome. Items with zero terpene percentages are rare on Dutchie’s menu, but may exist in an unflavored tincture, topicals, or distillate products.

Products vary entirely based on personal preference. Reach out to your dispensary’s budtenders for more product information.

The truth about terpenes

Amidst the cannabinoids, batch, and climate variables, terpenes are the most accurate way of predicting a cultivar’s high. They are the true catalyst in trying to categorize cannabis strains. An understanding of terpenes can help you better understand the efficacy of cannabis as strains continue to evolve. If it is a new crossbreed or selection that you are unsure of, look to its lineage to discover that strain’s relative terpenes. They are key in discovering the right product to aid your ailments, spark creativity, brighten your spirit, or just help you unwind after a long day.

Supporting research:



Kat Kuchtjak

Kat Kuchtjak

Bend, OR