Terpenes consist of hydrocarbons that are found in animals and plants. They’re also considered the most diverse and largest class of natural products. While the majority of terpenes are found in plant life, some of the more complex and larger terpenes such as squalene, are found in animals. So, how many terpenes are there? There are more than fifty thousand different types of terpenes. Most of the common functional groups are well-known, however, research is still needed to truly understand the benefits of lesser-known terpenes.

How many terpenes are there? Globally, more than fifty thousand different terpenes have been discovered, although not all of them have been well researched as the terpenes you’ll commonly find in cannabis, which contains over two hundred different types of terpenes. These days, adding terpenes to distillates, shatter, CBD and THC oils, and buds is a major trend in the cannabis industry as researchers learn more about how certain profiles and isolates can positively impact the effects of each type of cannabis strain.

Now that you know there are literally thousands of terpenes, continue reading to learn more about the makeup of terpenes, how they work, and how they can positively or negatively impact a cannabis strain.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are compounds that are responsible for the fragrance of a plant and they’re found in trichomes, or plant resin glands. They’re also recognized by the FDA as safe food-grade additives. The terpene’s interaction with cannabinoids helps to define each specific strain of cannabis and its distinctive effect. The more than fifty thousand known terpenes are responsible for the different tastes and aromas found in food and plant life.

Outside of their unique relationship with cannabis, terpenes are what provide characteristic flavors and aromas in everyday food and beverage products from beer and candy to gum and fruit. In addition to the taste and smell of terpenes, they offer many health and nutritional benefits.

Where You’ll Find Terpenes

Where You’ll Find Terpenes

The majority of commonly occurring terpenes can be found in a wide variety of plant life. As an example, B-caryophyllene can be found in plants including cannabis, cloves, black pepper, hops, and rosemary. In general, terpenes are responsible for many functions in plants, attracting insects to promote pollination, however, this isn’t the case when it comes to cannabis because the cannabis plant relies on the wind instead of insect carriers, to pollinate.

Terpenes are built up from isoprene units. These units consist of five carbon atoms that are attached to a total of eight hydrogen atoms. Terpene is a term that refers to the naturally occurring compounds that are derived from one unit of isoprene and it’s often commonly used with the term terpenoids. But in reality, a terpenoid is an oxygenated version of terpene. The term terpene is actually derived from the word turpentine, which consists of a clean mixture of isoprenoids that was initially a resin of the terebinth plant.

The smallest occurring terpene molecules are monoterpenes which contain a total of ten carbon atoms. Larger, subsequent molecules, which increase by a single isoprene unit at a time, include:

  • Tetraterpenes
  • Triterpenes
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Diterpenes

Sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, and monoterpenes are abundantly found in essential oils. Rosin acids are diterpenes, while turpentine actually contains a number of monoterpenes. A very common, yet important diterpene is vitamin A. Sesquiterpenes are responsible for the flavors of some foods, while the monoterpenes are considered the most volatile, which is what gives them their distinct fragrance.

Terpenes that are Derived from Animals and Plants

When two molecules of acetic acid are combined in order to produce mevalonic acid, that’s when the biological formation of terpenes occurs. Mevalonic acid is then converted into isopentenyl pyrophosphate.

Plant isoprenoids are found in latexes and oleoresins and occur in essential oils. These compounds are what account for the orange, red, and yellow pigments such as carotenoids. They also influence the growth of plants. Chlorophyll, the green pigment is partially an isoprenoid, just like alkaloids, a type of nitrogen compound, is found in plants. Isoprenoids in animals occur as oily or waxy substances such as fish liver oils or wool wax, and the yellow pigment in feathers, fish scales, and egg yolks.

Terpenes that are Derived from Animals and Plants

Terpenes are not distributed uniformly among plants and animals, however, certain classes of terpenes are usually found in broad tissue groups. As an example, trees that are part of the pine family will produce resins with substances that contain diterpenes carboxylic acid, which belong to the carboxylic acids. There are also some species of plants that contain latexes that are made up of rubber. Other species of plants are characterized by the presence of such terpenes as camphor, limonene, menthol, and citral.

While the purpose of the production of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes in plant life has not yet been established it’s believed that these compounds are meant to repel or attract certain insects. Some species of plants produce compounds that have a similar makeup to that of hormones that are responsible for the growth of insects. These compounds halt the maturation of insects, thus protecting the plant. The rubber and gutta percha found in latexes of certain plant life, also work as healing agents.

Some types of terpenes are crucial to the metabolic processes of animals. Vitamin A is a carotenoid tetraterpene and it’s a major source of vitamin A. Vitamin A is crucial for neural development, vision health, and reproductive health.

How Terpenes are Categorized

A terpene is generally categorized based on the number of isoprene units they’re made up of. Most terpenes contain carbon skeletons that are regarded as containing the units of isoprene that are linked from tail to head. This means that the carbon atom one of one unit of isoprene is bonded to a carbon atom four of an adjacent unit of isoprene.

Terpenes in Cannabis

Terpenes have garnered a whole new level of attention as scientists have discovered that terpene content can affect the quality, flavor, and aroma of each cannabis strain.

While there are more than two hundred different types of terpenes in cannabis alone, below you’ll find a list of the most powerful and commonly occurring types of terpenes in buds.

Limonene

This terpene possesses a very intense citrus smell and is commonly found in cannabis, and citrus fruits. In terms of medicinal power, this terpene is a great choice for people who are struggling with depression and anxiety.

Alpha-Pinene

This is the terpene that gives pine trees its scent. It’s often found in turpentine trees, rosemary, and conifer trees. Since it’s an excellent bronchodilator it can be used by people suffering from respiratory distress since it helps to open up the airways. It has also been shown to improve both short and long term memory and is currently being researched for the treatment of dementia.

Alpha-Humulene

A high percentage of this terpene is found in hops, which is a major ingredient in beer. It’s recognized by its earthy, hoppy aroma and is commonly found in ginger, ginseng, and sage. It also contains powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Additionally, it’s often used as a natural appetite suppressant.

Myrcene

Myrcene is found in bay leaves, parsley, thyme, and has a very strong spicy, peppery smell. It works well as an analgesic pain reliever and is also considered a powerful antioxidant. Additionally, it’s also commonly used for its sedative properties, which is why cannabis with a high myrcene content is often used in the evening, as opposed to strains that can help to naturally boost energy levels or improve mental focus.

Linalool

Linalool

Offering a pungent floral scent, linalool is found in mint, birch trees, and lavender. It’s also another popular anti-inflammatory, pain relieving terpene that offers anti-anxiety and sedative effects.

Borneol

Found in pine, camphor, cinnamon, and menthol, this terpene is considered a calming sedative. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a strain that can promote relaxation or one that can help you to sleep better at night.

Caryophyllene

This terpene offers a woody, sweet, yet spicy scent. It’s found in cotton, black pepper, and clove oil. It features powerful pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.

Delta 3 Carene

Offering a pungent, sweet, earthy smell, this terpene is found in cedar and pine resin, and rosemary. In cannabis, it’s often responsible for causing dry mouth.

Eucalyptol

Found in eucalyptus and rosemary, this terpene increase circulation, provides pain relief and is able to easily cross the blood-brain barrier for a much faster than average olfactory reaction.

Related Questions

How Can Terpenes Affect Cannabis Use?

If you’re an experienced terpene user and you’re familiar with how to mix terpenes and the right amount to use, then terpenes can significantly improve your high. But if you’re new to terpenes and not sure how much to use or the right type of terpenes to use, then it can be a total disaster. As an example, you don’t want to add too much terpene since the oil is very potent and can ruin the flavor of buds. It can also cause unwanted effects, especially if you want to relax at night but you’ve mistakenly used terpenes that are designed to give you a natural energy boost. Bottom line, do your homework before you experiment with terpenes. To learn more, click here to read my article on can terpenes get you high?

Can You Add Terpenes to CBD Oil?

Yes, you can. This will depend on the type of effects you’re hoping to achieve and even the type of CBD oil you use. I recommend Vibe Ultra Premium Hemp Oil.  If you’re new to CBD oil use, click here to read my buyer’s guide, where you can learn more about how CBD oil works, and the type of effects you can expect.

Are Terpenes Safe?

Terpenes are all-natural, although you can purchase synthetic terpenes. However, natural, fresh terpenes are the best, most powerful option and they’re also the safest. Terpenes, when used in moderation, can help you to relax, can naturally elevate your mood, increase your energy, or they can promote relaxation, late at night when you have trouble sleeping. Of course, using the terpenes in moderation is important, since just one drop or two of terpene oil is very powerful and can easily overwhelm the taste of your THC oil or buds. To learn how to correctly use terpenes and how they work, click here to read my buyer’s guide.

What are the Health Benefits of Terpenes?

Terpenes are very potent and incredibly powerful. It’s true that some terpenes are more powerful than others, but each type of terpene can offer its own unique health benefits. This can include reducing symptoms associated with anxiety and stress, improved mental clarity, improved energy, or terpenes can even help you to sleep better at night. Some types of terpenes can help by providing pain relief, or they can naturally reduce inflammation, which makes them a great choice for chronic pain sufferers. Mixing certain terpenes together can also help to boost their power. You can purchase terpene isolates which consist of one potent type of terpene, or you can buy a terpene profile which will consist of several different types of terpenes. If you’re not sure which type of profile is right for you, most manufacturers will clearly list the effects you can expect, directly on the product label, making it easier for consumers to find terpenes that can provide the type of results they’re looking for.

Final Thoughts

So, how many terpenes are there? Globally more than fifty thousand terpenes have been discovered. In cannabis alone there are more than two hundred different types of terpenes, each of which can add to the smoke or vape experience, depending on the terpene content levels. Learning how each terpene in cannabis works and how it can affect your high can allow you to pick and choose strains that can provide the types of results you’re looking for, whether you’re in need of instant pain relief, stress reduction, a strain that can improve mental focus and boost your mood, or a strain that can help you to sleep better at night.

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How Many Terpenes are There in Marijuana?
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How Many Terpenes are There in Marijuana?
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Learn about terpenes, how they work and the most common types of terpenes that you'll find in your favorite strain of cannabis and how they impact your high.
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