The Sweet Smell Of Cannabis

When we talk about the sweet smell of cannabis, there is so much to talk about. Do we love it? Do we hate it? Let’s just say that if we had to make it facebook-official, the relationship status would probably say “it’s complicated. Whether you are in love with the way weed smells, or if you are still lighting scented candles to remove the odor before your in-laws come to visit, one thing is indisputable – if you want good weed, it will smell.

Why is that, though? Let’s find out!

Why Does Cannabis Stink So Good?

Cannabis has a unique and intense smell due to terpenes. Terpenes are chemicals found in plants and vastly present in nature. The fragrances you experience while peeling an orange, cutting fresh flowers, or decorating your Christmas tree are all caused by terpenes.

Yes, you heard it right – terpenes are not cannabis-exclusive! They surround you when you’re out in nature and when you’re at home. Producers often add them to fragranced products you use every day, including air fresheners, scented candles, cleaning supplies, and essential oils.

Each plant has a unique blend of different terpenes. Just like perfume, there are main notes, and there are accompanying ones. This is why citruses all smell alike, yet different enough to distinguish a lemon from an orange.

One question comes to mind. If terpenes are everywhere around us, why do most of us associate them with cannabis?

What Are The Role Of Terpenes In Cannabis?

Cannabinoids Have No Smell, So Terpenes Are All We Have

Most people use cannabis to take advantage of its medical benefits or for its recreational value. While some people might associate more pungent smells with higher contents of THC and CBD, the relationship between the two is much more complicated than that.

The first thing to know is that cannabinoids, such as THC or CBD, do not smell. Considering that the strength of cannabis depends on its THC vs. CBD content and ratio, there is no straightforward connection between the smell of weed and its strength.

Terpenes Indicate the Type of High You Can Expect From a Strain.

While the smell released by terpenes will not indicate the strength of the cannabis flower you are about to consume, it might indicate the type of high you can expect from it.

A Dutch scientist called Arno Hazekamp looked at the relationship between terpenes and the way Amsterdam coffeeshops labeled their products. The classification he focused on was the famous Indica vs. Sativa model. If you have never heard of this, the simplest way to explain the difference is to say that strains classified as Sativa are supposed to provide more of an energetic high, while Indica accounts for more of a relaxing and soothing experience.

What Hazekamp noticed during his research was that Indica and Sativa strains had different types of terpenes present in their chemical composition.

These results suggest that it might be possible to tell whether a certain strain of dry flower is a Sativa or an Indica based on the way it smells.

Terpenes Are Quality-Assurance

If the cannabis plant was harvested and cured correctly, with attention to detail, and by a caring and experienced grower, the smell of the dry flower will be powerful.

If, on the other hand, the herb you bought smells like dry tea leaves, the chances are that the plant has been neglected somewhere during the harvesting process.

So while the dominating notes won’t help you establish if the cannabis was harvested incorrectly, the strength of the aroma might.

Doesn’t High-Quality Equal Potency?

Some would argue that more aromatic cannabis will indeed produce a more potent high.

This is true only if you compare two flowers from the same strain but grown by different people in different conditions.

The important thing is that there is no direct correlation between the amount or type of terpenes and the potency.

Entourage Effect

Plants produce terpenes for multiple reasons. Some use it to encourage pollination, while others use it as a defense mechanism.

In the case of cannabis, terpenes can do much more than releasing a warning smell. They are an essential factor in the entourage effect.

While isolates, such as CBD or THC isolates, can have significant medical uses and properties, early research suggests that the best effects are achieved when cannabinoids are consumed in the presence of other cannabis chemical compounds, such as other cannabinoids or terpenes.

Researchers noticed that terpenes influence how cannabinoids work, not only when it comes to the type of high that you get (Indica vs. Sativa) but also the potential medical benefits of cannabis.

A great example would be one of the most famous terpenes, Alpha-pinene. Besides giving a great smell to strains such as Blue Dream, pinene-rich terpenes are also believed to counteract the short-term memory loss caused by THC consumption. It can also have potential antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Another prevalent terpene called Limonene is known for increasing the effects of both THC and CBD while at the same time potentially acting as an antidepressant.

Terpenes and Medical Cannabis

A lot more research needs to be done to fully understand the healing properties of terpenes produced by cannabis. This refers to both isolated terpenes and terpenes working together with other chemical compounds of cannabis, such as cannabinoids.

However, the one thing we know for sure is that they do matter. Terpenes have a much more significant role to play than just making the experience of using cannabis more pleasant.

Gamma-Irradiation and Terpenes

Gamma-irradiation, a process often used by pharmaceutical companies producing or selling medical cannabis, uses radiation to remove any risk of contamination or potentially harmful microbes. Unfortunately, this irradiation process can be detrimental to terpenes, often destroying a large proportion of them.

While we do not know how many exactly get destroyed, we know terpenes are very delicate. Experiments previously run on fruit showed that
gamma-irradiation was harmful to citrus terpenes.

If terpenes’ only purpose was to smell nice, this would not be an issue.

However, we should not forget that terpenes are an essential part of any cannabis plant, and cannabis that has gone through the gamma-irradiation might end up providing less medical benefits than cannabis that has not undergone the process.

3 Terpenes You Should Know About

If you’re a bit of a cannabis nerd, like we are, you might be interested in knowing the three prominent cannabis terpenes. It might also be helpful to know them if you are looking to counteract some specific effects of THC.

Pinene (Alpha and Beta)

As the name suggests, this terpene is responsible for forest and pine-like smells, just like the one surrounding a Christmas tree. High THC
cannabis strains that contain many pine terpenes tend to have much less of a negative effect on users’ short-term memory than any other high-THC strains.

Found in: Blue Dream and Pinene Kush


Yes, you guessed it. It’s the citrus one! You can find it in the skin of oranges, limes, and lemons. This terpene is also often used in air fresheners, cleaning products, and foods. In addition, limonene terpenes are believed to increase the euphoric effects of cannabis, and researchers are currently looking into learning more about their potential antidepressant properties.

Found in: Tangerine Dream and Lemon Kush


Linalool is more controversial than the other two, as it can be a bit too intense for some. Outside of cannabis, linalool is present in lavender. But if you enjoy the smell, you might want to know that linalool might have calming effects and maybe even have anesthetic effects due to its mild psychoactive properties.

Found in: Bubba Kush and Kush Mints


Terpenes are yet another way of showing us that there is much more to cannabis than just getting high.

The more we study this amazing plant, the more we learn about the unbelievably complicated ways all of its chemical compounds are working with each other.

Decades ago, we might have thought that the role of terpenes was purely to produce unique smells. However, now we know terpenes can significantly impact how humans feel after consuming cannabis and what side effects we experience.

Some terpenes are associated with an Indica high, others with a Sativa effect. Some of them protect our brains from the negative effects of THC, while others increase the anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties of cannabis.

So next time you smell your
cannabis before consuming it, or you get annoyed at your roommate for stinking up the whole living room, remember that terpenes are there for a reason. And that reason is to protect you and help you get the most out of your cannabis plant.