What are Terpenes?

From the desk of Trish Wilhelm (CVT, VCC)

What’s that smell? If you have ever smelled cannabis, you know it has a specific identifiable odor (Hey Colorado people, driving down I-25 or I-70 in certain spots…am I right?). Terpenes are what gives cannabis its distinct smell! Let’s talk about what terpenes are, why they are beneficial, and highlight the main terpenes we use at VetCS.

Terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbon molecules, which are made up of linked isoprene chains. An isoprene is a very common naturally occurring molecule that can be found all throughout nature. For example, Terpenes make lemons smell like lemons (Limonene), and pine trees smell like pine (Pinene). Terpenes are found in a high abundance of plant resins, making them the primary ingredient of each plant’s essential oil. Most terpenes serve as potent scents for the purpose of self-protection from predators and attracting pollinators. Over 100 different terpenes have been identified in cannabis plants, and every strain tends toward a unique terpene type, composition, and collective profile.

Each terpene has a therapeutic profile to add value to products. We at VetCS take terpenes very seriously. They affect cannabinoid absorption, serotonin production, oxidative stress, anxiety, inflammation, auto-immune diseases, and some cancers. Terpenes can even be antibacterial and antifungal. We utilize terpenes in our formulations to contribute to the full spectrum approach. They help enhance the effectiveness of cannabinoids when incorporated alongside them. At VetCS our COAs (certificates of analysis) on our website includes a full terpene report available for products we formulate with terpenes.

Specific Terpene highlights and uses:

Limonene is what makes lemons smell like lemons

Limonene: Limonene is a colorless liquid aliphatic hydrocarbon classified as a cyclic monoterpene and is the major component in the oil of citrus fruit peels. Limonene is also an aromatic cannabis terpene produced in the flower’s resin glands. You can also find limonene in mint, juniper, fennel, and rosemary. Limonene is known for its therapeutic properties as an antimicrobial, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory agent and in reducing stress. We love working with limonene in our terpene profiles and find great value in its incorporation!

Linalool is what makes Lavender and Sage smell like they do

Linalool: Did you know that linalool is not entirely exclusive to the cannabis plant? In fact, it can be found in hundreds of plants but is mainly known for the specific lavender scent with a hint of spiciness. Have you ever smelled lavender or lavender scented products? If so, linalool was involved! Linalool has many different therapeutic properties, working to decrease anxiety and inflammation while increasing Vitamin E production.  At VetCS, linalool makes up a big part of our terpene profile in our products as we appreciate its huge benefit to your pet and their health.

Beta-Caryophyllene is found in black pepper, rosemary, hops, cloves, and many other plants

Beta-Caryophyllene:  B-Caryophyllene is a very common and widely abundant terpene found in the cannabis plant. It can also be found in black pepper, rosemary, hops, cloves, and many other plants. Interestingly, B-Caryophyllene is one of the few terpenes that fall under the FDA’s “generally recognized as safe” classification, so it’s deemed safe to consume in large amounts.1 A lot of excitement surrounds B-Caryophyllene as it shows similar benefits as cannabidiol (CBD) and is one of the first non-cannabinoids to directly activate the CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system.2 Data suggested that in many cases, it directly helped with pain responses. B-Caryophyllene has also shown benefit as an anti-inflammatory agent, anxiolytic, antibacterial, antidepressant, antioxidant, and has anti-proliferative properties. This incredibly beneficial and powerful terpene is one of the primary terpenes you will see in higher amounts in our terpene profiles at VetCS.

Myrcene is the most common terpenes found in cannabis

Myrcene: I am letting my nerd flag fly a bit extra here… this one is AWESOME! Myrcene is one of my favorite terpenes. Myrcene is classified as a monoterpene and is one of the most common terpenes found in cannabis. Outside of cannabis, myrcene is commonly found in mangos, hops, bay leaves and lemongrass. Myrcene has powerful anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antimutagenic, analgesic, and sedative effects. Myrcene works extremely well with other cannabinoids, and even assists with allowing for increased absorption of those cannabinoids by increasing cell membrane permeability (um, so cool).3 Have you ever heard the rumor that eating fresh mangos (which are high in myrcene) about 45 minutes before you consume or inhale cannabis increases the effect of cannabis? Guess what- it’s true! Researchers proved that myrcene contributes to overlapping synergies, amplifying the effects of those other cannabinoids and assisting with the entourage effect.4 Myrcene makes up a large percentage of our terpene profiles at VetCS, and we are so happy it’s there. I told you… it’s awesome.

Humulene is the essential oil derived from the hops plant

Humulene: Humulene, also known as alpha humulene or a-humulene, is a terpene classified as a monocyclic sesquiterpene. The humulene terpene is a key component of the essential oil derived from the hops plant. Humulene is a very important addition to the aromatic profile of the cannabis plant. Humulene can also be found in sage, basil, and black pepper. When working with other terpenes and phytocannabinoid profiles, humulene has been known to help with inflammation, pain, and has even been known to display tumor reducing properties. You can find humulene in our terpene profiles at VetCS.

Maybe next time you squeeze a lemon into your water, season your food with black pepper, or give your pet or horse their daily dose of VetCS CBD products, you can notice and appreciate the terpenes working all around you! 

Unsure about product selection for your pet or horse? We have included our new product quiz below to help you find the best product for your pet’s needs!


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2449371/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4789136/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165946/
  4. https://www.steephill.com/science/terpenes


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