Do Terpenes play a role in cannabinoid based therapies?

Medical Cannabis in Treating Cancer Symptoms

Do Terpenes play a role in cannabinoid based therapies?

24 October 2017

Terpenes are volatile aromatic molecules found in many plants, including the cannabis plant; Cannabis Sativa. It is these molecules that give the various cannabis strains their odour and flavour and have been classified according to the number of repeating carbon units; monoterpenes (10 carbons), sesquiterpenes (15 carbons) and triterpenes (30 carbons) (1). Like phytocannabinoids, terpenes are also synthesised in the secretory cells of the glandular trichomes, and are found in highest concentration in unfertilised female flowers.

Terpenes have an important role in plant protection and act as a natural repellent against insects and herbivorous. Terpenes are found in many food substances and are generally considered safe for humans. In addition to this, many now believe terpenes play a role in the therapeutic effect of cannabis- coined the entourage effect. The monoterpenes; mycrene, pinene, limonene, linalool and the sesquiterpene; caryophyllene, are the most abundant terpenes in the cannabis plant. Although few conclusions can be drawn until further studies have been conducted, there is some data to suggest that these terpenes may have potential pharmacological and therapeutic effects (2).

  • Mycene: anti-inflammatory, sedative, analgesic
  • Pinene: anti-inflammatory, acetylcholinesterase inhibitor
  • Limonene: anxiolytic
  • Linalool: anti-convulsant, anxiolytic
  • Caryophyllene: anti-malarial

Cannabis based medicines that include Terpenes  are now available in Australia via the Special Access Scheme and other regulatory pathways.    These products can be found on the CA Clinics portal, accessible to Healthcare professionals via login.


  1. AndreHausman, and Guerriero. Cannabis sativa: The Plant of the Thousand and One Molecules. Front Plant Sci. 2016; 7: 19.
  2. Russo. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Aug; 163(7): 1344–1364.

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