Cannabinoids and Terpenes

Cannabis Education: Cannabinoids and Terpenes

Cannabinoids are a group of chemical substances that join with special receptors of the body and brain, now known as the Endogenous Cannabinoid System. They can be naturally occurring inside our body, known as endogenous cannabinoids. Other cannabinoids are from plants, known as Phyto cannabinoids: this is the category for cannabis cannabinoids—finally, synthetic cannabinoids, such as the pharmaceutical drug Marinol. Cannabinoids have many applications ranging from altering your state of consciousness to a wide array of potential herbal health applications. Each cannabinoid of the cannabis plant has a unique chemical structure and function.

THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) – The most abundant cannabinoid present in most varieties of the cannabis plant. THC is well known for its psychoactive effects. It was the first cannabinoid discovered, which led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system.

CBD (Cannabidiol) – The most widely studied and acknowledged non-psychoactive cannabinoid. CBD is known for its potential health benefits. You can find CBD in both Cannabis and Hemp. CBD has a weak binding affinity for cannabinoid receptors when consumed as an isolated cannabinoid. Hemp-derived CBD is now widely available with the federal legalization of industrial hemp. It contains no THC, while cannabis-derived CBD products often contain THC.

CBN (Cannabinol) – CBN is a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid that occurs in trace amounts within the living cannabis plant. Once cannabis has been harvested and dried, CBN increases over time. This is because THC and other cannabinoids slowly oxidize over time, turning into CBN. It also increases due to decarboxylation. CBN is most widely known for its sedative properties.

CBG (Cannabigerol) – CBG is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. It may induce appetite. There are many other potential uses for CBG. See the links below.

CBC (Cannabichromene) – The lesser-known Cannabichromene is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that most likely works together with other cannabinoids and terpenes to maximize the effects from the whole plant: otherwise known as the Entourage Effect.

THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin) – You find THCV in some strains of cannabis. THCV has a slight structural variation from THC, resulting in very different effects. These effects include a reduction in anxiety and inflammation, suppression of appetite, and the promotion of bone growth.

CBDV (Cannabidivarin) – Another lesser-known and non-psychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidivarin, has been found to be more prevalent in strains lower in THC and hemp.

CBDA (Cannabidiolic Acid ) – CBDA is the acid form of CBD found in the raw cannabis plant. When burned, vaporized, or heated at a specific temperature, CBDA turns into CBD.

THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinol Acid ) – THCA is the acid form of THC found in the raw cannabis plant. It converts to Δ9-THC when burned, vaporized, or heated at certain temperatures.

Terpenes are what give plants, including cannabis, their unique smell. Additionally, terpenes interact with cannabinoids to give each strain of marijuana its unique effects. Several studies have suggested that terpenes work together with cannabinoids to help pass the blood-brain barrier. Terpenes exist in many plants in the natural world. There are an estimated 200 different terpenes in varying marijuana plants. They may also have potential health benefits.

Alpha-pinene – Alpha-pinene is the most common terpene in the plant world and is often found in cannabis. It is a bronchodilator. Pinene also promotes alertness by inhibiting the metabolic breakdown of acetylcholinesterase, a neurotransmitter in the brain that stimulates these cognitive effects. (Pine scent)

Myrcene – Myrcene is one of the most abundant terpenes in the cannabis plant. If a cannabis plant has a high level of Myrcene, it is likely to have a sedative, relaxing, and possibly hypnotic effect. High levels of Myrcene (usually above .5%) often have the couch lock effect: most commonly attributed to the Indica variety of cannabis. Often times Indica strains are higher in Myrcene; however, this is not an absolute, and it is always good to check the terpene profile to be sure. (Earthy, Musky, Fruity)

Linalool – Linalool is the prominent terpene in lavender as well as in some cannabis strains. It is a potentially anxiolytic compound that may mediate stress, calming the body and mind. Linalool is often higher in some Kush strains as well as the strain lavender, named for its terpene content. (Floral, Spicy)

Limonene – Limonene is a major terpene in citrus and cannabis. It is reputed to be an uplifting terpene. Limonene is found most prevalent in strains of cannabis known as Sativa, such as Tangie, Super Lemon Haze, and Jack Herer. However, you may find it in strains known as indica, such as Berry White, so make sure to check your terpene profiles! (Citrus)

Humulene is most commonly associated with hops, cloves, coriander, and basil. It is what gives beer the “hoppy” aroma. Humulene may suppress appetite, so searching out strains high in Humulene might be helpful if you want to avoid the munchies. (Earthy, Woody)

Beta-caryophyllene – Beta-caryophyllene is the primary terpene found in the essential oils of black pepper, oregano, cannabis, and many green, leafy vegetables. This terpene is the first non-cannabinoid found to stimulate cannabinoid receptors directly. Unfortunately, no clear evidence suggests cannabis strains indica, sativa, or hybrid will have a definitive amount of beta-caryophyllene. Therefore, you must seek out products tested for terpene content to know which strains will be higher in Beta-caryophyllene.


The cannabis plant has many different constituents, including cannabinoids and terpenes. The Entourage Effect contends that combining cannabis compounds creates other impacts on the body and mind than a single compound on its own.
Some of the Entourage effect applications include using full-spectrum extracts such as Rick Simpson Oil, full-spectrum Co2 Oil, and Butane Hash Extractions. Examples of isolated cannabinoid medicine include Marinol (synthetic THC) and some distillate extractions, which remove the terpenes and leave only concentrated cannabinoids. Further, experimenting with various ratios of cannabinoids and terpene profiles to find the right fit for your desired results uses the entourage effect.

When cannabis and cannabis products undergo the testing process, there is also an option to have the terpene content tested. At Urban Farmacy, we carry terpene profiles on many of our cannabis and cannabis products. So when you stop by our Portland dispensary Urban Farmacy, ask your budtender if your favorite cannabis strains have a terpene profile.
A great way to find the right combination of cannabinoids and terpenes is to keep a journal. Write down which strain you try, who the grower is, and what the terpene profile is. Next, note some of the effects and if they were desirable. Also, note some of the desired effects you are looking for next time. Then when you visit Urban Farmacy next time, share your desired effects and past experiences with the budtenders. They can help guide you to products that will fit your needs.