Know Your Medicine: Terpenoids | Marijuana

Know Your Medicine: Terpenoids


Terpenoids are the most abundant group of plant essential oils that exist in all plants, trees, and flowers. Over 15,000 different terpenoids have been found, with 200 described in cannabis. Terpenoids are responsible for the odor, color, and flavor of the cannabis flower.

marijuana plant

Terpenioids are synthesized within the glandular trichomes and are most highly concentrated in unfertilized female flowers prior to senescence. They are reported to make up almost 10 percent of the content of the trichomes and also occur in lower fan leaves. Plants make terpenoids as part of their defense mechanisms, working as insect repellents, as well as bitter-tasting repellents for grazing animals.

cannabis trichomes

The Chemistry of Terpenoids

Tepenoids are made up of repeating units of isoprene (C5H8) and include monoterpenoids (C10H16), sesquiterpenoids (C15H24), diterpenes (C20H32), and triterpenoids (C30H48). Monoterpenoids (limonene, myrcene, pinene) are usually the most prominent in the mature flower but are partially lost during drying and aging, with sesquiterpenoids such as β-Caryophyllene, subsequently becoming more dominant.  

Important Facts about Terpenoids

  • They are genetically controlled
  • Production increases with light exposure
  • Production decreases as soil fertility decreases
  • The FDA recognizes terpenoids as safe
  • They vaporize near the same temperature as THC (157℃ or 315℉)
  • Terpenoids are biologically active compounds, affecting animal and human behavior even when tiny amounts are inhaled from ambient air

The Entourage Effect

Phytocannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, work synergistically with terpenoids, providing enhanced beneficial therapeutic effects. Terpenoids also work synergistically with each other. These are examples of the “entourage effect,” first described by Israeli researcher Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, explaining the finding that the combination of these compounds is more effective when compared to each individual compound’s effects.  

Common Terpenoids and Their Effects



Goldstein, B (2016). Cannabis Revealed: How the world’s most misunderstood plant is healing everything from chronic pain to epilepsy.

Potter D (2004). Growth and morphology of medicinal cannabis. In: Guy GW, Whittle BA, Robson P (eds). Medicinal Uses of Cannabis and Cannabinoids. Pharmaceutical Press: London, pp. 17–54.

Ross SA, ElSohly MA (1996). The volatile oil composition of fresh and air-dried buds of Cannabis sativa. J Nat Prod 59: 49–51.

Turner CE, Elsohly MA, Boeren EG (1980). Constituents of Cannabis sativa L. XVII. A review of the natural constituents. J Nat Prod 43: 169–234.

Images courtesy of Allie Beckett

About Author

Bonni Goldstein, M.D. is a physician who specializes in cannabis medicine in Los Angeles, California. She specialized in Pediatric Emergency medicine for years before witnessing the amazing benefits of this treatment in an ill loved one. Since then, she has successfully treated thousands of adult and pediatric patients with cannabis. She regularly speaks about cannabis medicine at conferences and patient groups around the world. She is the owner and medical director of CannaCenters and medical advisor to She is the author of the recently published book, Cannabis Revealed.

1 Comment

  1. This was very informative! I really enjoyed all the articles. I am new to Cannabis. I have terrible anxiety and depression. I am using a tenure CBD TCH 1:1. It’s wonderful. I use a very small amount coupled with my medications which gives me the extra helper I have needed for so long.
    Thsnk you?
    Maryjo Stone

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