Cannabis derived terpenes are aromatic compounds extracted directly from the cannabis plant. Explore the role they play in enhancing the cannabis experience.

What Are Cannabis Derived Terpenes? An Exploratory Guide

Do you love the lemony scent of your favorite strain of cannabis flower? Or maybe you gravitate to more earthy, pungent strains. Whatever aroma and flavor draws you in, you may have wondered how cannabis strains have so many distinct aromas. The answer, of course, is terpenes. 

Terpenes are aromatic compounds naturally found in numerous plants including tea, citrus fruits, sage, thyme, and other herbs. Even though terpenes are found in many types of plants, people often associate them with cannabis because of their particularly high concentration in the plant. Terpenes impart unique, distinct scents to cannabis plants, and therefore contribute significantly to the flavor, identity, and distinctive qualities of specific strains. 

SunMed’s sun grown cannabis is naturally rich in various terpenes, allowing enthusiasts to experience the full bouquet of nature's offerings. Read our guide to learn everything you ever wanted to know about terpenes!

close up of cannabis buds

What Are Cannabis Derived Terpenes?

Cannabis derived terpenes are aromatic compounds found in cannabis plants. These molecules are responsible for the unique scents and flavors in different cannabis strains. You can buy cannabis derived terpenes in a concentrated form. You can also find them naturally occurring in cannabis, especially in sun-grown cannabis plants. 

Do Cannabis Derived Terpenes Get You High?

Cannabis derived terpenes themselves do not induce a high. Terpenes influence the aroma and flavor of cannabis and may modulate the effects of cannabinoids such as CBD and THC, but they don't possess psychoactive properties on their own. However, when combined with THC, certain terpenes can enhance or modify the overall experience.

What Is the Difference Between Cannabis Derived Terpenes and Live Resin?

Cannabis derived terpenes and live resin differ significantly in their composition and production methods. Cannabis derived terpenes are the essential oils of the plant, isolated from the rest of the plant components. These oils contain the aromatic compounds responsible for the distinct scents and flavors of different cannabis strains. Extraction of these terpenes usually involves processes like steam distillation or solvent extraction, focusing solely on obtaining the aromatic and flavor compounds without the cannabinoids like THC or CBD.

Live resin, on the other hand, includes a full spectrum of the plant's compounds, including THC and CBD. It's a type of cannabis concentrate that is produced using fresh, uncured cannabis flowers as opposed to dried and cured buds. This method preserves a greater range of cannabinoids and terpenes than in other concentrates, resulting in a robust and diverse chemical profile.

Is Live Resin Stronger Than Terpenes?

Yes, live resin is stronger than terpenes because live resin on its own produces the euphoric experience associated with cannabis. Terpenes won't do that on their own. However, when added to other cannabis products that do contain THC, terpenes can enhance the experience: the flavor and aroma especially, but also the quality and experience of the high.

Are Cannabis Derived Terpenes Illegal?

The legality of cannabis-derived terpenes varies from state to state. In states such as Maryland, where cannabis is legal both for medical and recreational use, cannabis-derived terpenes are typically legal as well. However, in places where cannabis remains illegal, any product derived from the cannabis plant, including terpenes, could also be considered illegal. This legal status can be complex, since some regions might allow for hemp derived products (including terpenes) under certain THC concentration thresholds, but not cannabis derived products. Therefore, the legality is heavily dependent on local laws and regulations regarding cannabis and its derivatives.

What Is the Difference Between Cannabis Derived Terpenes and Natural Terpenes?

At their core, both cannabis derived terpenes and other natural terpenes are aromatic compounds that give plants and fruits their distinct flavors and scents. Cannabis derived terpenes are, as the name suggests, extracted directly from the cannabis plant. Other kinds of terpenes, botanical terpenes in particular, are sourced from a variety of other plants and fruits. They can be isolated from sources like lavender, pine, citrus fruits, and many more. 

The uniqueness of cannabis terpenes lies in their ability to capture the full aromatic profile of a specific cannabis strain. Many believe that when combined with cannabinoids, terpenes can enhance the therapeutic and sensory effects of cannabis through the "entourage effect."

The idea of the “entourage effect” is that terpenes interact with cannabinoids in unique ways that affect the user’s experience, and that the effects cannot necessarily be separated out to individual compounds. Rather, the “entourage” of compounds in cannabis, including terpenes, work together to produce a specific experience. Scientific studies are ongoing to determine what role various terpenes may play in creating the effects of cannabis when combined with other cannabinoids.

What the Benefits of Terpenes in Cannabis?

Terpenes in cannabis interact with cannabinoids like THC and CBD, potentially modulating their effects. This synergistic relationship suggests that terpenes, in combination with cannabinoids, can enhance or alter the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of cannabis. 

Terpenes play a pivotal role in shaping the cannabis experience. The terpene profile of a strain can influence how it smells, tastes, and feels. These aromatic compounds are behind the distinct scents and flavors of different cannabis strains, from the earthy undertones of Hazy Kush to the citrusy zest of Burnt Orange.

hazy kush info

What Are Some Common Cannabis Derived Terpenes?

Over 200 different terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant, yet a handful stand out as the most prevalent and influential. Let's learn more about some of the most common cannabis derived terpenes.


Myrcene, often regarded as the most abundant terpene in cannabis, is the force behind the herbaceous and earthy notes in many cannabis strains. It can also be found in mangoes, lemongrass, and thyme. Myrcene is believed to offer sedative effects and might play a role in the soothing properties of certain strains.


Pinene gives off scents of pine and fir. This terpene, which is divided into alpha-pinene and beta-pinene, is not only present in cannabis but also in rosemary, basil, and, of course, pine trees. Pinene is lauded for its potential anti-inflammatory properties and reported ability to promote alertness.


Distinctive for its spicy and peppery notes, caryophyllene can be recognized in strains that exude aromas reminiscent of black pepper or clove. Beyond its aromatic charm, caryophyllene is unique because it's the only terpene known to act as a cannabinoid, potentially binding to CB2 receptors. It may offer anti-inflammatory benefits.


Limonene dazzles with its lively and zesty citrus aroma. Common in strains with lemon or orange scents, it's also abundant in citrus fruits. Beyond its invigorating scent, limonene is believed to uplift mood and provide stress-relieving properties.


Linalool is the aromatic compound behind the floral and lavender notes in certain cannabis strains. It's also the primary terpene in lavender plants. Renowned for its potential calming effects, linalool might aid in relaxation and offer anti-anxiety benefits.

How Do Cannabis Derived Terpenes Affect the Cannabis Experience?

While cannabinoids like THC and CBD often take center stage in discussions about the effects of cannabis, the complex role played by terpenes is significant. From the overall feel of a strain to its taste and aroma, let's explore how these aromatic compounds can shape the cannabis experience.

Entourage Effect 

As we mentioned earlier, the entourage effect is the theory that compounds in cannabis, like cannabinoids and terpenes, work better in tandem than in isolation. Terpenes, in this interplay, can modulate the effects of cannabinoids, potentially amplifying or tempering certain sensations. For instance, a terpene that promotes relaxation might enhance the calming properties of CBD, creating a more pronounced soothing effect.

Flavor and Aroma 

Terpenes are the soul of a strain's aroma and flavor. From the skunky and pungent to the sweet and fruity, these aromatic profiles are a direct result of the terpene composition in the plant. The richness of the sensory experience when inhaling or tasting cannabis is shaped by these compounds. For many enthusiasts, recognizing and appreciating these distinct profiles becomes a cherished aspect of their cannabis experience.

Physiological Effects 

Beyond the interplay with cannabinoids and the sensory delight they offer, terpenes may have their own individual physiological effects. For instance, limonene has been shown to uplift mood, while linalool can be calming. These effects are not just restricted to the mind; some terpenes may offer anti-inflammatory properties or aid in relaxation. Understanding the terpene profile of a strain can provide insights into its potential effects on the body and mind.

concentrated cannabis being processed

How to Choose Cannabis Products with High Levels of Terpenes

For enthusiasts seeking to immerse themselves in a fuller, more nuanced cannabis experience, zeroing in on products with high terpene levels is key. Here are some tips for finding high-terpene cannabis.

Buy Sun Grown Cannabis 

Sun grown cannabis and outdoor cannabis, cultivated under natural sunlight, tend to develop robust terpene profiles. The reason? Natural sunlight offers a spectrum of light that supports the plant's diverse metabolic processes, enhancing its aromatic and therapeutic compounds. SunMed's dedication to sun grown cannabis ensures you're getting buds bursting with nature's intended terpene richness.

Read Terpene Profiles 

Many modern cannabis products come with lab results, detailing the terpene and cannabinoid profiles. This is your map to understanding the aromatic journey the product promises. By reading these profiles, you can determine which terpenes are dominant and in what concentration. If you're after a particular aromatic or therapeutic experience, these profiles can guide your selection. Over time, you'll become adept at recognizing and choosing strains based on their terpene composition.

Experiment with Different Strains and Products 

The world of cannabis terpenes is vast and varied, and there's no one-size-fits-all. The best way to discover what resonates with you is by experimenting. Start with strains or products known for their high terpene content. Take notes on the aromas, flavors, and effects. Over time, you'll develop a palate, recognizing what you love and helping you make informed choices tailored to your preferences.

Are Cannabis Derived Terpenes Safe?

The safety and efficacy of any compound, including terpenes, often hinge on factors like concentration, mode of consumption, and individual sensitivities. In their natural concentrations in the cannabis plant, terpenes are generally considered safe. However, like anything, moderation is key. Additionally, while allergic reactions are rare, they can occur, as with any natural compound. It's always advisable to start with small amounts when trying a new strain or product and to consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns about specific terpenes or their effects.

Cannabis Derived Terpene FAQs

Which Has More Terpenes - Sativa or Indica?

When it comes to terpene content in Sativa and Indica strains, the difference is often in the specific terpene profiles present rather than a difference in overall quantity. For instance, many Sativa strains might have a higher concentration of limonene and pinene, which are associated with uplifting and alerting effects. Indica strains, on the other hand, frequently possess more myrcene, linalool, and caryophyllene terpenes, which are associated with calming and soothing effects.

Are Cannabis Derived Terpenes and CBD the Same?

No, cannabis derived terpenes and CBD are distinct compounds. While both are found in the cannabis plant, CBD is a cannabinoid known for its potential therapeutic properties, whereas terpenes are aromatic compounds responsible for the scent and flavor of the plant. 

Experience Terpene-Rich Cannabis from SunMed

If you're eager to experience terpene-rich cannabis for yourself, there's no better place to start than with SunMed's sun grown offerings. Every flower cultivated in our state-of-the-art Maryland greenhouse promises a terpene profile that's as rich as nature intended.

Ready to embark on this aromatic journey? Find a dispensary near you!