Terpene Overview

Cannabis and hemp terpenes matter because Indica and Sativa are not actual compounds that are found in cannabis. Those two terms generally describe the plant shape and its preferred growing conditions for a given cultivar of cannabis ("strain").

Terpenes however, ARE actual molecular compounds found in cannabis and hemp, and along with cannabinoids and flavonoids, can vary significantly among cultivars. Terpenes are found in almost ALL plants, and we know that different terpenes have different effects on people. Our terpene dictionary page has 36 of the most common terpenes found in cannabis and hemp, their reported effects, aromas and tastes, other sources, and boiling points. We organized them into seven (7) "flavor groups" based on their dominant aroma and taste on the Terpene Flavor Groups page.

This is certainly not all the terpenes found in The Amazing Flower, but it covers 36 of the most frequently found terpenes in COA's (Certificates of Analysis test results) for cured cannabis and hemp flower.

Here's a simple infographic that shows the most popular terpenes ordered by their boiling points:

Infographic: Terpene Boiling Point Thermometer


A Word of Caution

Quantitative values for individual terpenes in products are not always on the product label. All labels really should contain quantitative information about the actual active ingredients inside the product so patients & consumers can make more informed decisions, and most importantly have more control over their own experience.

Here is a visualization method that the Emerald Cup has adopted that builds on our early vertical bar charts with only 8 terpenes. Their chart includes 17 terpenes, but omits a few that we see often in analysis reports. So ours has 21 terpenes on one horizontal bar graph. This makes it easier to understand what's actually in the cannabis or hemp product in your hand. Take a look and tell us what you think.



Below is the chart for a flower sample that is dominant in Limonene and Caryophyllene, and has a total terpene content of 2.8%. The total terpene content can be misleading without context. The lab could have tested for only 40 terpenes and 2.8% is good. But if the lab tested for 160 terpenes and the total is only 2.8%, that's NOT very good. 

The actual amounts of the top 5 to 10 terpenes is the most important terpene information to look for. 

Cannabis Terpene Bar Chart Example

The next flower sample is dominant in Myrcene and Caryophyllene and has a total terpene content of 3.5%. 

Terpene Chart Example 2

IF the terpenes always occur in this same order (and color) on a chart, just a quick glance at the two charts above and you immediately know a great deal about the two products. They clearly show the differences in the two terpene profiles. Note: the scale (0 to 1% or 2%) should ideally be constant, so you can actually SEE the total terpene content by how much color (terpenes) is in the chart at a quick glance.




Inherent terpene inconsistency may be why some retailers are reluctant to adopt this kind of labeling and instead stick with strain names, and the indica, sativa, hybrid labels. But there are a few retailers and brands in more mature markets that already have similar systems to label detailed amounts of terpenes as well as cannabinoids.


We believe in full active ingredient labeling, and we will always keep pushing retailers and growers to supply it. If patients and consumers keep asking for this type of labeling when they make a purchase, the industry will eventually make a change. So keep nagging them! We do all the time.