Terpene Profile Analysis: What to Look For and Why

What are terpenes in weed, and why are they important? How can you figure out the terpene profile of a cannabis strain? Our guide explains it all.

Once upon a time, THC content was the deciding factor for which strain a person consumed (in some respects, it still is). Today, that conversation is much more nuanced, especially as scientists begin to understand how terpene profiles impact flavor, health benefits, and psychoactive effects in cannabis.

Keep reading to learn about terpenes and determine why terpene profile analysis matters for your (or your customers) high.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are the natural scented oils derived from cannabis and more than 2000 other plants (and some animals, too).

Scientists believe terpenes are natural compounds that plants use to protect themselves.

Though you can find terpenes in many plants, they’re strongly associated with cannabis due to the high terpene concentration in the plant.

Why terpenes in weed matter

Terpenes determine each cannabis plant’s unique scent and taste. Whether for recreational use or health benefits, each cannabis consumer can potentially match their desired high to a terpene for the best effects.

Today, many cannabis experts agree that there’s more to a strain than THC content. And many growers use terpene analysis and measurements as a way to know what they’re growing.

What is a terpene profile?

Each cannabis strain has a specific type (and amount) of terpenes, known as its terpene profile. The quantity and kind of terpenes your cannabis contains influence its aroma, psychoactive effects, and even the potential benefits the strain could offer.

Many factors influence terpene profiles, including:

  • Climate
  • Soil
  • Plant age
  • The type of fertilizer used in cultivation
  • Types of plants grown nearby

For example, you can find the terpene myrcene in many berry-scented cannabis strains. Myrcene is particularly abundant in sativa strains, and it’s excellent for counteracting insomnia and easing pain.

What is the most common terpene?

Some of the common terpenes found in popular strains of marijuana include:

  • Pinene– Grape Ape
  • Myrcene– OG Kush
  • Limonene– Hindu Kush and Lemon OG
  • Linalool– Amnesia Haze and LA Confidential

There are more than 20,000 terpenes in the world, and at least 100 exist in cannabis plants.

Do terpenes have psychoactive effects?

Terpenes don’t get users high on their own. Still, experts believe they indirectly affect your cannabis experience due to their interaction with THC (the main psychoactive component in cannabis).

This is known as the “entourage effect” in expert cannabis circles. It’s the idea that terpenes work in synergy with other compounds in the plant.

This is why mixing and matching terpene profiles is useful. Choosing a strain based on both terpenes and THC content can help your customers achieve the high (or receive the benefits) for which they’re searching.

Terpene profile analysis: What to look for

Here are some factors your customers should consider when using terpenes to shop for cannabis.

Desired Effects

First and foremost, asking a budtender (or researching online) about the effects terpenes can have will help your customers narrow down their list.

Examples include:

  • Sleepy– limonene and myrcene
  • Mild high (or to counteract being too high)– linalool
  • Energy and focus– Beta-Caryophyllene

Basically, you want to match the desired high to the type of terpenes consumed.

Health Benefits

Understanding which types of benefits terpenes offer is a good idea when your customers are implementing cannabis for health purposes:

  • Analgesic (pain relief)
  • Anti-anxiety
  • Cancer-treating
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Relaxation and stress relief – Myrcene

It might also be worth looking into other herbs and natural products that contain the terpenes they want to consume. For example, linalool is also naturally found in lavender.


Similar to coffee and wine, terpene flavors in cannabis vary widely. These flavors, especially in strains with high concentrations, may make you enjoy a particular strand or avoid it altogether.

Typical terpene flavor profiles include:

  • Citrus
  • Berry
  • Mint
  • Pine
  • Earthy
  • Bitter
  • Sweet

Currently, it’s thought that the smell of terpenes will result in a similar effect, regardless of the strain your customer consumes.

The future of terpenes in weed

As terpenes in weed become more understood by scientists and cannabis experts, expect growers and shop owners to hone in on the specific benefits available from each compound. You can also expect the in-house testing of cannabis and hemp materials to become more nuanced as well.

As understanding of the compound grows, it will likely become a standard of the cannabis buying experience.

Book a free demo online today to see how GemmaCert’s products can help your grow thrive.

Terpenes in cannabis: FAQ

Let’s finish up with answers to some common questions relating to terpenes and cannabis:

1. How do terpenes affect the body?

Each terpene has a different chemical structure, so it can be difficult to predict exactly how a terpene will affect the human body based on its compound class alone. Some terpenes, for instance, appear to interact with your nervous system’s inflammation-control centers while others might impact the reuptake of mood-related neurotransmitters.

2. How do terpenes affect the brain?

Terpenes generally have a gentle, mild impact on the central nervous system. While some terpenes may gently affect your mood or make you feel relaxed, these effects are not usually profound. The effects of terpenes can become more pronounced when used at the same time as cannabinoids.

3. How do terpenes make you feel?

Used on their own, terpenes might provide you with a vague feeling of non-intoxicating euphoria or relaxation. Combined with cannabinoids, terpenes can accentuate the special benefits of these unique cannabis compounds to improve the effects of sativa or indica strains.

4. Why do terpenes matter?

The terpene profile in your cannabis makes a difference because weed flavor profiles and the effects of cannabis are both dependent on which terpenes are present alongside cannabinoids. Depending on the terpenes in your weed, you might enjoy an uplifting or a sleepy high, and terpenes are also the substances responsible for all the subtle and enticing aromas you detect when smoking cannabis.

5. Are terpenes in weed psychoactive?

Cannabis terpenes are not generally considered to be psychoactive in and of themselves even though they appear to augment the effects of psychoactive cannabinoids like THC. Each terpene has a unique effect on the body and mind, however, opening up a massive vista of opportunities to experience your favorite cannabinoids from brand-new angles.

6. Are terpenes addictive?

No terpenes have been determined to have habit-forming properties. In fact, terpenes may be able to help with opioid addiction by reducing pain, causing patients to be less reliant on conventional opioid pain-killers. There is no indication that terpenes have any impact on the addictive potential of THC.

7. Are terpenes cannabinoids?

No, terpenes are not cannabinoids even though some terpenes look very much like cannabinoids under a microscope. The terpene beta-caryophyllene, for instance, has been observed to behave like a cannabinoid in the human body, interacting with the peripheral nervous system’s CB2 receptors. Importantly, these are not the cannabinoid receptors that get you high, so beta-caryophyllene does not have intoxicating properties despite its cannabinoid-mimicking qualities.

8. How to determine the best terpene profile for you?

The best way to find out which cannabis terpene profile best fits your sensibilities is to experiment. Try quite a few different strains, and use lab reports or do your own in-house testing to take note of the terpene concentrations in each. If you particularly like a strain that happens to be high in a particular terpene, do some research into that terpene to determine if its properties sound up your alley.

9. What are some examples of high-terpene strains?

The strength of cannabis strain terpene profiles is determined just as much by cultivation methods as it is by genetics. True, some strains simply won’t produce as many terpenes as others based on how they’re bred, but even the best-bred strains can still yield meager concentrations of terpenes if they aren’t cultivated correctly. Determine the terpene concentrations of individual strains by consulting lab reports or performing in-house testing.

10. What are the best high-myrcene strains?

As one of the most abundant terpenes in cannabis, quite a few strains contain high concentrations of myrcene within their terpene flavor profiles. Some examples of classic high-myrcene strains include OG Kush, Grape Ape, Blue Dream, and Purple Urkle.

11. Is there a “berry terpene?”

There is no particular terpene that tastes especially like berry. Instead, berry flavors in cannabis are often achieved by combining multiple different terpenes, such as limonene and linalool. Performing terpene analysis on cannabis using in-house testing equipment can help you predict whether a strain will have a berry flavor or not.

12. Which strains are high in linalool and limonene?

Strains high in limonene are excellent on their own, but this terpene takes on entirely new benefits when combined with linalool. Examples of cannabis strains that contain high concentrations of both linalool and limonene include Durban Poison and OG Kush.

13. Where can I find a list of terpenes and their effects?

Whether you’re looking for a list of terpene profiles by strain or you just want to compare individual terpenes side by side, Leafly is one of the internet’s best sources of comprehensive terpene information. You can also learn more about specific terpenes by searching for scientific studies in Google Scholar.

14. What is the best terpene profile for triggering the entourage effect?

Scientists believe that using terpenes in combination with cannabinoids might enhance the effects of both classes of substances. Research doesn’t, however, indicate that any particular terpene profile is better for triggering the entourage effect than any other. To make sure your weed offers the entourage effect to the fullest extent possible, just choose connoisseur top-shelf nugs that contain lots of delicious, undamaged terpenes.

15. What are the most popular weed terpene profiles?

Whether naturally present in cannabis or extracted on their own, weed terpene profiles generally mirror the popularity of weed strains in general. For instance, legendary strains like Lemon Kush, Girl Scout Cookies, and Jack Herer are in hot demand.

You can also blend your own weed terpene profiles using isolated terpenes derived from cannabis or other botanical sources. If you’re trying to achieve the exact terpene ratio of a particular strain—OG Kush, for example—you could simply perform OG Kush terpene analysis using in-house testing to ensure your concentrations match those of the original strain.

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