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The Difference between Cannabinoids and Terpenes

August 30, 2022 5 min read

The Difference between Cannabinoids and Terpenes

The Difference between Cannabinoids and Terpenes

Cannabinoids are distinguished chemical compounds in cannabis plants. Terpenes provide unique flavor and scent in botanicals. They have therapeutic benefits, although they cannot interact with endocannabinoid receptors like cannabinoids. Here are more differences.

The cannabis plant contains over 113 cannabinoid compounds, with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) being the major ones. Phytocannabinoids are chemical ingredients that occur naturally in cannabis plants. The female cannabis plant buds contain these components in significant concentration. They interact with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS) directly. Phytocannabinoids attach to CB2 and CB1 receptors in the body and brain, thus producing desired results. Terpenes produce flavor and scent in plants. Unlike other plant strains, each cannabis variant constitutes an outstanding terpenes profile. Cannabinoids and terpenes work synergistically to generate the entourage effect. However, most consumers cannot differentiate them. Here are the major differences between terpenes and cannabinoids.


What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are special chemical substances obtained from cannabis and hemp. They interact with the body's endocannabinoid system, specifically cannabinoid receptors directly. The medical cannabis benefits are credited to the cannabinoid phenomenon of stimulating CB2 and CB1 receptors in the human body and brain. The CB1 and CB2 activation boost how various body organs and the system operates. Terpenes and cannabinoids emanate from trichomes or resin glands on cannabis plants' leaves and flowers.

Additionally, different plants generate cannabinoids, although cannabis plants contain huge quantities. The diverse compound interrelates synergistically to intensify the cannabis benefits of the individual compound. Essentially, the entire plant is more than its overall parts.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are non-chemical hydrocarbons that exist inherently in essential botanical oils. Often, they are hydrogen and carbon combination. Although terms are applied interchangeably, terpenoids denote altered terpenes via drying. Knowing terpenes is essential when beginners are exploring cannabis. They have similar significance as cannabinoids when considering self-medication. It is difficult to identify CBD and THC potency in a cannabis species. The terpenes concentration can offer numerous benefits, including cannabinoid contents and potency. Terpenes trigger the cannabis flavor and scent. Super lemon haze and tangerine dream have unique citrus fragrances, whereas strawberry cough and blackberry Kush have fruiter or sweeter notes. Individuals consider skunk and strong buds, especially after whiffing sour diesel. Currently, researchers discovered over 100 diverse terpenes. Booth & Bohlmann (2019) revealed terpenoids or terpenes are fragrant substances created in cannabis plants' leaves and flowers. Terpenes are created in plant trichomes, the crystal-like and mushroom-shaped resin glands covering the cannabis plant's leaves and flowers. The cannabis plant smells easily since terpenes' volatility makes it evaporate significantly. Most terpenes such as menthol and camphor existing in the plant domain have therapeutic benefits. People with cough drops have experienced the menthol's soothing properties. Scientists have discovered about 100 aromatic terpenes in cannabis plants, although infinite terpenes exist.

Body Functions


Most medicinal cannabis studies concentrate on researching cannabinoids. Their structures resemble neurotransmitters in the human central and peripheral nervous systems. When people ingest cannabis, the elements interact with these endocannabinoids (neurotransmitters). The Endocannabinoid system constitutes their network. When it weakens, the cannabis compounds enable the body to regain its natural stability and balance. Experts believe the compound can address certain health conditions. Epidiolex, a cannabidiol-based drug, is Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved to treat epilepsy. Cannabinoids exist in different variants which show unique effects. Some have anticonvulsant properties, while others offer pain relief. Research is underway to determine their therapeutic effects and versatility.


Cannabis terpenes cause psychological effects related to plants. For example, beta-caryophyllene is the terpenes variety that attaches to endocannabinoid receptors, particularly CB2 receptors. Beta-caryophyllene addresses autoimmune disorders and gastrointestinal conditions. The CB2 receptor activation also lowers inflammation and pain. Terpenes combine with cannabinoids to deliver medical relief to consumers. They function synergistically to generate an entourage effect that amplifies the benefits of individual plant elements. Consumers should choose products with a higher percentage. Although every terpene contains certain therapeutic qualities, a different terpene content develops a distinguished and strong relief sensation. The terpenes content in certain cannabis species progressively affects the highness type consumers experience. Like cannabidiol, terpenes change THC's psychoactive effect. This potential to remedy mental psychoactive effects denotes that terpenes promote THC's medical benefits.



Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A), a cannabinoid variety, is non-psychoactive. Raw cannabis plants contain this compound at significant levels and convert it into THC immediately after heating at high temperatures. This process is natural as raw cannabis cures and dries Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a major psychoactive and renowned cannabis cannabinoid compound. Cannabinol (CBN) inherently emanates when THC interacts with oxygen and heat. Typically, it occurs in below one percent amount. Cannabigerol (CBG) cannabinoid is non-intoxicating and exists in minuscule amounts, often below 0.1 percent in medicinal cannabis. Craddock et al. (2014) established that CBG could regulate chronic pain. Cannabidivarin (CBD-V) has non-psychoactive properties.

Additionally, the cannabinoid has significant antiseizure and anticonvulsant effects. Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THC-V) has potential psychoactive properties. Some researchers showed it could reduce appetite, has anxiolytic-like (anxiety-decreasing) qualities, and offers an effective diagnosis in certain psychosis. Cannabidiol (CBD), a multipurpose cannabinoid, contains several medical benefits. Its non-intoxicating qualities favor consumers who desire mind freshness. Mudge et al. (2019) also realized that cannabidiol contains antiseizure, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic properties.


Terpenes influence how consumers experience cannabis. Researchers have discovered its sedative and anti-inflammatory properties. The following are common types of terpenes. They include beta-myrcene, which treats pain and insomnia. It differs from other varieties by allowing chemicals to overcome brain impedance easily, thus causing cannabinoids to manifest faster.

Additionally, myrcene escalates the THC's psychoactive properties, producing high cerebral highness. It occurs naturally in hops, thyme, and lemongrass. Limonene contains citrus and energizing scent. Martin (2006) found that limonene fights heartburn and gastric reflux. It constitutes anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties.


Cannabinoids are distinguished chemical substances obtained from cannabis and hemp. They interact with the endocannabinoid system, specifically CB1 and CB2 neurotransmitters, and stimulate the brain. Cannabis botanicals contain these chemical compounds in significant concentrations. They deliver therapeutic benefits without causing psychoactive effects. Terpenes are non-chemical hydrocarbons that exist inherently in botanical's essential oils. These compounds are found in almost all plants giving them unique flavor and scent.

In contrast, terpenes cannot attach neurotransmitters like cannabinoids but boost mood and relieve stress. Cannabinoids and terpenes function synergistically to generate the entourage effect. This involves amplifying the benefits of every individual plant element, thus producing better results.


Booth, & Bohlmann (2019). Terpenes In Cannabis Sativa–From Plant Genome To Humans. Plant Science, 284, 67-72.

Craddock, Fritsch, Rice Del Rosario, Miller, Fletcher & Broderick (2014). A Role For Homeostatic Drive In The Perpetuation Of Complex Chronic Illness: Gulf War Illness And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Plos One, 9(1), E84839.

Mudge, Brown, & Murch (2019). The Terroir Of Cannabis: Terpene Metabolomics As A Tool To Understand Cannabis Sativa Selections. Planta Medica, 85(09/10), 781-796.

Martin (2006). Natural Relief From Heartburn. LE Magazine, September.