Can Terpenes Get You High?

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Added 04 October 2021


Terpenes are just about everywhere as essential components of most plants and some animals as well. They add a unique flavor and fragrance to everything they associate with. After all, imagine eating foods devoid of flavors or smelling a bouquet of roses with no scent! I bet you wouldn’t like it. 

Terpenes became famous after people realized their medicinal effects. Food, flowers, and just about everything you associate with fragrances would be bland without terpenes.

Terpenes are found in almost all plants, but cannabis plants consist of way too many terpenes. Terpenes account for nearly 5% of the plant’s essential oils. As of now, scientists have discovered more than 30,000 terpenes. 

It’s believed cannabis itself contains more than 100 different terpenes. At times, a single flower or cannabis bud consists of several hundreds of terpenes, making it irresistible for the users. 

Since terpenes can enhance your senses with their aromas and flavor, many companies use them in their products. Very often, you may see limonene and linalool — two common terpenes —  used in your shampoo, face wash, soap, detergents, and other household products. Both natural and synthetic terpenes are available, but most manufacturers use lab-made ones to reduce costs. 

Now, you know cannabis contains terpenes. So, it’s natural to assume that terpenes produce effects that are similar to cannabinoids. But, is there any truth to that? Terpenes undoubtedly provide loads of benefits, but can they make you high? 

This article offers a deeper understanding of terpenes, their functions, and whether they induce a high. 

What are Terpenes?

plant terpenes

Terpenes are organic compounds or hydrocarbons that occur naturally in nature. They make plants smell fragrant, savory, and spicy, depending on the type of terpene. 

For example, herbs like ginger and sage get their spicy flavor from a terpene called humulene. It’s also present in beer, which is a flavor many have come to love. 

Since terpenes offer different flavors, it’s easy to understand why all cannabis strains are different from one another. No two terpenes are identical, which is why cannabis strains have different terpene profiles and flavors. 

Apart from flavors and fragrance, terpenes also offer several medicinal benefits. Used as major components in ancient Chinese medicine, there’s more to terpenes than what meets the eye. 

Thanks to their medicinal properties, they are used in aromatherapy to manage various problems. 

What do terpenes do?

terpene functions

Terpenes are produced as a cannabis plant’s natural defense system to ward off other pests and predators that could cause harm. They also protect the plants from extreme weather conditions. 

However, scientists are naturally more inclined to figure out what terpenes do to humans. Although they have been used as medicines for centuries, scientists are now discovering ways to classify cannabis strains based on the effects they produce. 

People also confuse terpenes with terpenoids, implying they are identical. However, terpenes and terpenoids are slightly different. Terpenes are found naturally in raw cannabis, while terpenoids are formed after the plant cures or is ready to use. 

Cannabinoids vs. Terpenes


The cannabis plant contains hundreds of chemical compounds, out of which cannabinoids amount to a large percentage. These naturally occurring substances come from the same plant, but they don't necessarily function similarly. 

Cannabis had attracted a lot of bad press previously but the haze cleared in some ways due to the popularity of cannabinoids. Mainstream media focuses its attention mainly on cannabinoids like THC and CBD found abundantly in cannabis buds. Many people even assume that cannabinoids and terpenes are similar, but that's not true. 

Cannabinoids and terpenes are different. Very different. While THC and CBD interact with cannabinoid receptors present in our body, terpenes do no such thing. We derive health benefits from cannabinoids when they interact with receptors present in the brain, immune system, and many other parts of the body. 

THC, the main cannabinoid responsible for producing psychoactive effects, binds to the receptors. On the other hand, CBD influences how other cannabinoids, including THC, interact with the receptors. 

The health benefits of cannabinoids are further enhanced when they work as a team. Known as the entourage effect, cannabinoids are far more useful when they work in synergy with each other. It explains why full-spectrum products are preferred compared to isolated compounds. 

Terpenes do not function like cannabinoids. Instead, they offer a unique scent and flavor that you associate with the plant. As volatile molecules, they tend to evaporate at very low temperatures, and we pick it up as a scent. 

How do terpenes function?


Terpenes are found in the very same glands responsible for producing cannabinoids. They are vital to differentiate between cannabis strains based on the effects they produce. While some cannabis strains produce relaxed effects, others are used to enhance creativity and focus. 

Terpenes contribute to the entourage effect by highlighting and uplifting the original effects produced by cannabinoids. A terpene's effects can also change depending on the cannabinoids it interacts with. Although the effects are indiscernible, terpenes contribute to the therapeutical properties of all cannabis strains. 

Simply put, they add that crucial touch to various strains by increasing their efficacy. 

Cannabis plants produce terpenes for two purposes ─ attracting pollinators and repelling predators. Terpene production is highly influenced by many factors, including climate, temperature, plant maturity, etc. 

Terpenes are responsible for how the plant smells and tastes, which is directly proportional to their dominance. For instance, cannabis strains high in myrcene tend to smell like raw mangoes. Myrcene is also present in mangoes, but cannabis strains contain more myrcene. 

Strains with lots of myrcene tend to produce relaxing effects, meaning they are indica-dominant, while sativa strains have less myrcene comparatively. 

Can terpenes get you high? 

terpenes in cannabis

Since cannabis produces terpenes in the same resin glands used to produce cannabinoids, you're bound to wonder if terpenes are psychoactive. Furthermore, many companies extract pure terpenes in both isolated and blended forms, so the question is valid. 

So, can terpenes get you high? 

No, they don't. 

Why? Because cannabis-derived terpenes are not even psychoactive. In contrast, other plants produce terpenes that can be narcotic. For example, salvinorin A produced by Salvia plants can impart extreme hallucinogenic effects. 

Terpenes cannot produce intoxicating effects on their own. They do, however, work with THC and CBD to exaggerate their impact.

Terpenes and their effects


Cannabis plants produce two types of terpenes, including primary and secondary terpenes. While the primary terpenes are instrumental in imparting specifc aromas and influence how the plant tastes, secondary terpenes add a depth that enhances the effects of the primary terpenes. 

For example, cannabis strains can be divided into sativa and indica cultivars. Indica strains typically target the body and produce profound relaxation effects. On the other hand, sativa strains are meant to improve clarity, energy, and focus.

Although indica and sativa strains are divided into separate categories due to their effects, texture, and aromas, the type of terpenes they contain also determines how they are grouped. Furthermore, the same terpene present in one cannabis strain can produce different effects in another strain because it all boils down to how they react to cannabinoids. 

How to choose terpenes?

As mentioned, different terpenes produce different effects, so your choice is largely dependant on what you want. For instance, many people use terpenes for their aromatic abilities, while others seek relief from chronic pain, asthma, and other ailments. Fortunately, many suppliers post lab reports of terpene potency to help you make the right choice. 

Here's a quick list of terpenes and their effects:

  1. Humulene — Found in hops, sage, cannabis and ginger, humulene works to suppress appetite and works as an anti-inflammatory agent. 
  2. Pinene — Pinene produces a piney smell primarily associated with forests. Found in abundance in pine trees, it has anti-bacterial effects and used for its therapeutic effects. It also works with THC as a bronchial dilator to manage conditions like asthma. 
  3. Limonene — Limonene is found chiefly in fruit rinds and cannabis. Companies use it to produce many household products. It also works to reduce depression and uplift your mood. 
  4. Myrcene — Myrcene smells like raw mangoes. Most famous for its couch-lock effects, it also increases the absorptive capability of the skin and cell membranes found in the brain. Myrcene enhances the amount of cannabinoids present in the brain that further produces a sense of euphoria. 
  5. Caryophyllene — Caryophyllene is present in plants like lavender, cinnamon, black pepper, and cannabis. Although we need more studies on the subject, caryophyllene is believed to work against cancer. Caryophyllene primarily produces spicy flavors that tickle your nose. If you want to taste caryophyllene terpenes, go for kush-dominant strains.
  6. Linalool — Found abundantly in lavender and other herbs, including cannabis, linalool imparts a soothing fragrance that helps you relax. Like limonene, it's used in many commercial products to add a distinct fragrance.

Key Takeaway: Can terpenes get me high?

Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in cannabis and many other plants. They are used for various purposes, including aromatherapy.

When combined with other cannabinoids, they increase the medicinal effects of the cannabis plant. 

Cannabis-derived terpenes cannot produce intoxicating narcotic effects. However, they work with several cannabinoids to enhance their impact, known as the entourage effect. 


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