There’s a Science Behind That Smell


Terpenes, also known as terpenoids, are the next frontier in medical marijuana scientific research. Much like tannins affect the dryness and complexity of wine, terpenes provide a depth of sensory enjoyment that goes beyond the medical experience, it adds the dimension of one’s sense of smell. Based on what we know, terpenes give a cannabis plant its wide variety of smells. However, we are now starting to understand the truth behind the smells. Scientists are discovering that terpenes work interconnectedly with cannabinoids to change the effect each plant has on an individual. Knowing this information could lead to a much better classification system for each Montana medical marijuana plant. Although scientific research is ongoing, here is some some of what we know about terpenes:

Terpenes are secreted by trichomes that grow on the marijuana plant. These terpenes bind to the same receptors that cannabinoids do, and can change the effect each plant has to varying degrees. For instance, if you were to medicate with a specific variety of cannabis that has a strong lemon smell, the effect is most likely to be more of a uplifting feeling, providing an elevated mood and relief of stress. (See Limonene terpene below.)

Utilizing the science behind the smell of cannabis, a medical marijuana patient is more likely to understand what the effects of the plant are, and what medical properties it holds. Here are some of the common terpenes you can find in medical marijuana plants a description of the influence each smells elicits:

Common Terpenes


This is the terpene that has a strong lemon, citrus smell. Along with helping you manage stress and alleviating you from depression, the limonene terpene is also known to help with indigestion, and heartburn.


Linalool is a terpene that has a sweet floral scent, like candy. It is known for helping anxiety, and has a calming effect. It has been known to help treat depression, and is also an anti-convulsant.


This terpene has a very musky, earthy, dirt like smell with hints of tropical fruit. Myrcene is the terpene that is known for its strong sedation powers. If you have ever heard the term ‘couch-locked’, this is the terpene that brings on the characteristic. It is known to help muscle tension, sleeplessness, and pain inflammation.


Known for its smell that strongly resembles a pine tree, pinene is a terpene known for its sharp spruce taste and its medication properties of alertness, and memory retention.

These are just a few of the known terpenes that exist within medical marijuana. We look forward to learning more and educating our patients on the benefits of terpenes and what the science means for you, the patient.