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Terpinolene: What It Is, and Why You Should Care

by Dan Ketchum

In nature, you’ll find terpinolene in plant life like lilacs, conifers, apples, the tea tree and even in everyday spices such as nutmeg, sage, and cumin. And while you’ll also find this terpene in various forms at your local dispensary, it remains something of a cannasseur deep cut – but we’re out to change that. 

As the naturally occurring chemical compounds that lend each strain its distinct flavor and aroma profiles, terpenes are an essential part of the cannabis experience. Here’s why terpinolene should be an essential part of yours, too.

What Is Terpinolene?

Terpinolene is a cyclic monoterpene and a double-bonded p-menthadiene that shows up in everything from essential oils to cleaning products, but you’re probably not here for the scientific journal jargon or for the home goods talk. Basically, terpinolene as it occurs in cannabis is a bit of a contradiction. As Leafly puts it, it’s “the least-common common terpene — often among a strain’s cast of characters, but rarely in a leading role.” 

Like other terpenes, terpinolene is a compound that helps protect plants from natural predators and difficult weather conditions. It’s thought to do this through protective oils and expressions of aroma that repel pests. But those repellent qualities are exactly what make terpenes so special to us cannabis-loving humans. 

What Makes It Unique

You don’t have to be a ganjier to know terpenes most notably affect the flavor and aroma profiles of various cannabis strains, and terpinolene doesn’t disappoint in that respect. While cannabis enthusiasts are likely familiar with other common terpenes like pinene, limonene, or linalool, one of terpinolene’s most defining features is its dimensionality. When you think pinene, you think of earthy, woody profiles. Limonene brings to mind bright citrus notes, and linalool is all about that sweet, floral experience. 

But while linalool brings the flowers, terpinolene brings the whole bouquet. In general, cannasseurs find that terpinolene has a much more complex, multifaceted flavor and aroma profile than its terpene peers, offering a mosaic of tones all in a single experience. This terp boasts a herbaceous profile with base notes of citrus and pine, accented by a slight floral sweetness, and topped off by a vibrant overall freshness (no wonder it’s often used as an additive in soaps). 

And that variegated sensory profile is just one of the reasons it’s become an enthusiast favorite. Across indicas, sativas, and hybrids, nearly every terpinolene-forward strain is heavily THC-dominant, and we hardly need to explain why that’s attractive to those deep in the cannabis community. 

Where You Can Find It…

Although terpinolene shows up in the terpene profiles of many popular strains, the content is often negligible. In fact, only about one in ten strains can be defined as terpinolene-dominant. Here are just a few strains where the rare terp plays a more central role, and what you can expect from those strains alongside their terpinolene content: 

  • The iconic sativa known as Jack Herer packs a happy, clear-headed punch with a spicy, pine-heavy flavor. Likewise, XJ-13 — a hybrid of Herer and G13 Haze — really explores that terpinolene complexity by offering both citrus and pine notes in addition to a creative, buzzy, and conversant high. 
  • Speaking of hybrids, Dutch Treat (a combo of the classics Haze and Northern Lights) also leans into terpinolene’s characteristic complexity. Here, you’ll find both euphoria and stress relief, combining relaxing body highs with blissfully de-stressing mind highs. 
  • Add Skunk to that cross of Haze and Northern Lights and you’ll get Super Silver Haze, another sativa known for its uplifting qualities. What makes Super Silver Haze unique, though, is how it mingles long-lasting body highs with equally energetic vibes. 
  • Keeping it hazy, the sativa Ghost Train Haze is where citrus meets floral (again, showcasing terpinolene’s penchant for intricacy). A dense, sticky strain, Ghost Train often hits as hard as its steam-powered namesake, catering to creativity and hardcore stress reduction.
  • Golden Pineapple, a hybrid strain, is all about focus in more ways than one. The flavor and aroma are strictly fruity (we’ll give you one guess as to which fruit), and the high is all about a lighthearted yet energetic sense of focus.

…and Why You Should

In addition to taste and scent profiles, terpenes work in tandem with each strain’s cannabinoid content to produce unique effects — which is why the importance of terps shouldn’t be understated. In terms of the high itself, terpinolene is typically known to encourage a headier, more cerebral, and often more creative experience compared to other terpenes, as you might have picked up on in our exploration of terpinolene-dominant strains.

Outside of cannabis circles, terpinolene has traditionally been used as a sedative, and that quality is perhaps its most notable in the cannabis world, too. While the ever-complex terpene is often known to express a mentally uplifting effect alongside a feeling of bodily relaxation, terpinolene’s well-documented sedative effect makes it among the most sought-after terps for unwinding, de-stressing, and easing anxiety, as well as loosening up day-to-day tensions. Find it in the terpinolene-forward Super Silver Haze, and get ready to go Over the Rainbow.  

Dan Ketchum splits his time between Dallas and LA as a freelance lifestyle, fashion, health, and food writer with more than a decade of experience. In cannabis, been fortunate enough to collaborate with Cannabis & Tech Today, FOCL, Vitagenne, Reign Together, Tough Mama, and more.

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