The cannabis plant consists of a wide variety of chemicals and compounds. About 140 of these belong to a large class of organic hydrocarbons known as terpenes. Terpenes, unlike cannabinoids, are responsible for the aroma of cannabis. You may have also heard people talk about terpenoids. The words terpene and terpenoid are increasingly used interchangeably, although these terms do have different meanings. The main difference between terpenes and terpenoids is that terpenes are hydrocarbons (meaning the only elements present are carbon and hydrogen), whereas terpenoids have been denatured by oxidation (drying and curing the flowers) or chemically modified.

Terpenes are common constituents of flavorings and fragrances. The FDA and other agencies have generally recognized terpenes as “safe.” Terpenoids are quite potent, and affect animal and even human behavior when inhaled from ambient air. They display unique therapeutic properties that may contribute meaningfully to the entourage effect of cannabis-based medicine. Terpenes play an important role in the entourage effect by modulating cannabinoids.