Terpenes are inside every plant on the planet. There are at least 20,000 currently identified and it’s believed that there are many more terpenes yet to be cataloged.
Every terpene is unique. Some have distinct aromas or flavors, some provide therapeutic effects. Some terpenes are very rare and others are extremely common; some are found in all plants and others are only found in hemp or cannabis.
Hemp and cannabis just so happen to have a robust amount of terpenes naturally, with each different cannabis and hemp cultivar containing a unique terpene profile.
And as we’ll discuss later, terpenes are the modulators of the cannabis world. Different terpenes can enhance or provide distinct effects, fueling what is known as the “entourage effect.” The effects of terpenes can be therapeutic, like relaxation, or organoleptic, like flavor and fragrance.
With so many terpenes to keep track of, and so many different effects and characteristics, a terpene chart provides a great way to digest this complex and tedious information.
What is A Terpene Chart?
A terpene chart is a heuristic tool for understanding the effects, flavors, aromas and/or important information about common terpenes.
Usually, terpene charts focus on the terpenes that are commonly found in cannabis or hemp and that can be extracted and used in other products to achieve certain results. Terpene charts typically come in the form of a wheel, but sometimes they come in the form of bar charts. The one included below, created by Leafly, is a great example of a classic terpene chart..
How do i read a Terpene chart?
Let’s use the same example terpene chart from above. When it comes to reading terpene charts, always start at the key. In the largest quadrants closest to the center, you’ll find the names of six common terpenes found in cannabis and hemp:
Humulene, Pinene, Linalool, Caryophyllene, Myrcene and Limonene. In the next quadrant, you’ll find each terpene’s boiling point, then their unique aromas, followed by their specific effects, then what other plant-life these terpenes are found in and what potential therapeutic properties each terpene harnesses.
As you’ll see, Myrcene has a boiling point of 168℃. It’s aromatic profile is described as musk, cloves, herbal, citrus. Leafly’s terpene chart also tells us that Myrcene is thought to have sedative properties and may enhance the psychoactivity of THC (the cannabinoid in cannabis that makes someone feel “high”). Myrcene is found in mango, thyme, citrus, lemongrass and bay leaves and it harnesses potential antiseptic, antifungal and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Common Terpenes & their characteristics
As we mentioned, scientists have identified thousands of terpenes so far and still have a long way to go before we truly have all of them mapped. Listed below are a few of the most- discussed terpenes:
Myrcene is a highly common terpene in cannabis, but it is also found in plants like thyme and lemongrass. It gives off a slightly sweet flavor and is thought to have therapeutic, calming effects.
Found in citrus fruits, peppermint, cloves, hemp and other plants, limonene is highly fragrant and flavorful. It is thought to provide therapeutic effects like stress relief.
Some studies show that limonene can help boost immunity. Limonene is also used in a variety of products from perfumes to cleaning products.s.
Caryophyllene is responsible for the spiciness in black pepper! But it is also a big component of cloves, hemp and hops. Unlike other terpenes, Caryophyllene can actually act like a cannabinoid by binding directly to endocannabinoid receptors.
Initial studies show that Caryophyllene can be used, in conjunction with other terpenes and cannabinoids, to provide anti-inflammatory effects..
Terpinolene is a wonderfully complex and unique aromatic terpene that is found in many hemp cultivars in small doses. Small but mighty, terpinolene has a major effect on flavor and aroma, making it a popular addition in cleaning products and soaps.
Another flavorful and highly aromatic terpene, Phellendrene is often used as a food-grade flavoring for its spicy yet citrusy taste. The therapeutic effects of terpenes continue to be studied, but Phellendrene shows promise as an immune booster and anti-inflammatory.
As its name suggests, pinene is the powerhouse terpene behind the aroma of pine needles. It’s the most common terpene in nature, found in trees, rosemary, dill, basil, parsley and essentially any herb people commonly use in the kitchen.
In conjunction with other terpenes and cannabinoids, Pinene is thought to play a role in the anti-inflammatory properties of hemp..
Of all the identified terpenes today, Humulene is perhaps one of the most researched from a therapeutic perspective. One study published in the journal of Cancer Medicine finds promise in Humulene’s analgesic and anticancer properties..
Used for centuries for its relaxing effects, Linalool is a major component of lavender, vitamin E and other spices. Studies have also shown Linalool to harness anti-inflammatory properties as well.