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Weed 101: Difference Between Cannabinoids and Terpenes

Whether you’ve been using weed for a while or you’re new to this beautiful world, the inner workings of cannabis can be confusing. For example, the more than 100 different cannabinoids found in cannabis.

You’ve likely heard of the term, but what is a cannabinoid? And how does a terpene differ? Allow us to explain.

What is a Cannabinoid?

Cannabinoids make up a large number of naturally occurring compounds found within cannabis plants. Of the 480 unique chemical compounds identified in cannabis, 66 of them are classified as cannabinoids. The most commonly found cannabinoids are THC and CBD.

Individual cannabinoids can affect your body differently. For example, THC is the compound that is known for getting you high. On the other hand, CBD is gaining more recognition for its health benefits, like for treating chronic pain

Cannabinoids can be separated into six subclasses:



  • Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC)
  • Cannabidiols (CBD)
  • Cannabigerols (CBG)
  • Cannabinodiols (CBDL) and cannabinols (CBN)
  • Cannabichromenes (CBC)
  • Miscellaneous cannabinoids – cannabitriol (CBT), cannabicyclol (CBL), cannabielsoin (CBE), and many more

Each subclass of compounds targets a different area of your brain, and they are sometimes organized based on their psychoactivity. 

It is not believed that CBD, CBG, and CBC are psychoactive. In contrast, THC, CBN, and CBDL, along with some miscellaneous cannabinoids, are known to have some level of psychoactivity, with THC taking high praise. 

Research is still discovering all the unique effects that different cannabinoids can have. However, they are known to impact the body in terms of cognition, physical movement, learning, memory, and pain and pleasure systems. It all depends on the strain.

What is a Terpene?

Terpenes are non-cannabinoid natural compounds found in many plants. Cannabis is just one plant associated with terpenes but is known to contain very high concentrations of them. Terpenes are responsible for the delicious aroma or fragrance of your cannabis.

Perfumes and body products use isolated terpenes to capture flavours and scents. These terpenes play an important role in pollination, as predator repellents, and in making you crave a joint or an infused brownie. 

Many terpenes may affect your body. It depends on the concentration of the terpene and your body’s reaction. Smelling these scents has been found to affect people’s stress levels and moods, and they can be used in therapies involving essential oils.

More research is needed to uncover all the effects that terpenes can have on the body, especially those found in cannabis. For now, there is developing research showing that certain terpenes in other plants can prevent allergic reactions, reduce inflammation, and act as antioxidants.

Combining Cannabinoids and Terpenes

While we still need more research to discover all the unique ways that cannabis compounds interact, there are emerging beliefs that cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds play a communal role in perfecting the weed experience. 

When a strain of weed contains too much THC, it can increase the likelihood of experiencing adverse side effects like paranoia. The entourage effect states that terpenes, CBD, and other compounds can positively impact the high you get from THC. 

There is research to show that CBD-rich extracts, instead of pure CBD, create fewer side effects. We need more information about the exact use of terpenes in this entourage effect. Still, it is known that scents can have a significant impact on our brains.

Naturally Occurring Compounds

Cannabinoids and terpenes are two types of naturally occurring compounds found within cannabis plants. Cannabinoids are known for getting you high and calming you down, while terpenes create the delicious smell your weed can have.

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