What Are Cannabis Derived Terpenes? How Do They Play A Part In Psychoactivity

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A few years ago, terpenes were relatively unknown to the general public. Today, however, they reign supreme in the cannabis industry. So much to the point that products made without them feel inferior in both flavor and effects. 

Also, commonly known as “terps,” terpenes are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in plants responsible for the flavors, aromas, and colors associated with various species of vegetation. However, when it comes to cannabis-derived terpenes (CDT), not only do they play a part in their aroma and flavor profiles, they also potentially contribute to the best part about cannabis—psychoactivity. So, if you’ve ever thought to yourself, “What is cannabis terpenes?” or “What does cannabis derived terpenes mean?” then read on to learn how these remarkable plant compounds elevate the experience of cannabis products. 

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As the name suggests, CDT or cannabis derived terpenes are terpenes that come directly from the cannabis plant. The plant creates and houses its terpenes in the trichomes, which are the shiny, sparkling, sticky adhesive crystals on the leaves and buds of the plant. Hence the name “Sticky Icky.” These terpenes in the trichomes make the plant look more attractive and help deliver that beautiful citrusy, piney, sweet aroma we all know and love.

Terpenes also play a role in the survivability of plants, making them seem more attractive to particular creatures while seeming more volatile to others. 

Each specific terpene in cannabis carries its own unique distinctions per strain, called a terpene “profile.” These profiles lead to a mix of terpenes in different strains that give distinctive characteristics responsible for your preference over one or the other. 

Growers have created strains with particular terpene profiles geared to different effects and experiences through breeding. That’s why some strains may support rest and relaxation, while others may support creativity, focus, and a boost of energy. For instance, Myrcene, one of the most common terpenes in cannabis, is responsible for the feeling of relaxation and that Pepe Le Pew (Skunky) smell associated with marijuana. 


In the traditional sense, terpenes won’t make you feel high. Yet, some are considered psychoactive because of how they affect the brain. Although not being intoxicating, terpenes impact the effects of THC through the entourage effect

The entourage effect is when non-THC cannabis compounds (terpenes) work hand-in-hand with THC to produce a strain’s specific psychoactive effects. A great example would be the cannabis-derived terpene, Linalool, which is found in indica heavy strains like kosher kush and granddaddy purp. Linalool is said to help calm nerves, which helps relax users who are fighting anxiety or stress.

This is why some strains that lack a strong terpene profile but have high THC content produce less psychoactivity than strains with low THC content and a strong terpene profile. 

That being said, many cannabis connoisseurs say that the average consumer holds THC content in too high of regard when choosing a strain. Instead, many professionals recommend focusing more on a specific terpene profile that’ll suit your needs and deliver your desired effects. This, in turn, can make strains with diverse and robust terpene profiles feel more potent even if other strains have a higher THC content level. 

Marijuana Plant


In the vast world of the cannabis industry, any terpene that is not derived from cannabis is considered a botanical terpene. Although cannabis derived terpenes and botanical terpenes share the same terpene profiles, botanical terpenes lack the marijuana flavor and deliver zero psychoactive effects. 

Although lacking psychoactive properties, botanical terpenes are still used daily for their potential therapeutic benefits. For instance, if you want to use a terpene for sleep like Myrcene but don’t want to dab into cannabis, you can use a botanical terpene instead. One of which would be the Myrcene that is found in hops, the main ingredient of beer—this is why feelings of drowsiness are associated with drinking beer.


Although there are over 150 different types of terpenes found in the cannabis plant, a majority of them are found in such trace amounts that they’re hard to detect. While some seem non-existent, others have a more significant presence. The following three terpenes are the most dominant terps found in cannabis:

  • Caryophyllene, also known as beta-caryophyllene, is a terpene that is prominent in cloves, basil, lavender, black pepper, rosemary, cinnamon, and oregano. With an aroma of black pepper, Caryophyllene is the only known cannabis derived terpene that can bind to the CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, which is correlated to the body’s immune system. This gives Crayophyllene the potential to ease symptoms of anxiety, depression, liver fibrosis, and diabetes. 

  • Myrcene, a terpene found in mangos, lemongrass, hops, and cardamom, is one of the most dominant strains found in cannabis. It is described to have aromas of herbaceous spice and earthy scents. In addition to giving cannabis its signature scent and the feelings of calm and relaxation, Myrcene has the potential to reduce inflammation and assist with pain relief.

  • Limonene has a name that’s a dead giveaway to its aroma profile—fresh, clean, and elevated citrus scents. Limonene is most commonly found in citrus fruits, ginger, and juniper. Along with being an essential oil, Limonene has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-stress, and potentially disease-preventing properties. This is why teas with ginger and citrus are frequently used to combat sicknesses like the cold and a sore throat. 


Cannabis derived terpenes for sale can be purchased online from many sources and are currently available in many different forms. The purest form of cannabis derived terpenes can be found in the liquid form of live resin, which can be applied to many cannabis products like distillate, flower, vapes, and gummies. You can even buy terpenes that are strictly botanical and mix them with other strains of cannabis or cannabis derived terpenes. 

One of the best applications for cannabis derived terpenes in recent years has been delta-9 THC and delta-8 THC vapes. Due to THC distillate being so thick, manufacturers can now use cannabis-derived terpenes to cut the distillate into something more fluid and smokeable. As a result, a more potent and less harmful product is available since using unsafe cutting agents like Vitam E or MCT oil is no longer necessary. 


So, what is a cannabis derived terpene? It’s an essential part of the cannabis plant that gives its unique aroma, look, color, and potential therapeutic properties. Although strains with 100% cannabis-derived terpenes are available, purchasing strains with a mix of botanical and cannabis derived terpenes can help build a more robust terpene profile that utilizes the entourage effect for a more potent and effective cannabis experience. 


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