Seasonal Smells: 5 Terpenes Making the Holidays More Memorable

"Freshly cut Christmas trees smelling of stars and snow and pine resin - inhale deeply and fill your soul with wintry night" -John Geddes, NY Times Editor


When you think of the holiday season, what smells come to mind? 

There's no doubt about it, this time of year comes with a wide array of associated aromas, from nutmeg and cloves, to pine needles and peppermint


When it comes to processing different scents, the sensory information bypasses the thalamus and goes straight to the brain's smell center, then finally on to the amygdala and hippocampus. This bypass plays a huge role in how strongly smell influences the human experience.

So what does that have to do with terpenes? 

As you may already know, terpenes are aromatic compounds that exist in many different plants. These compounds contribute to each plant's unique smell profile, and can serve many purposes, such as attracting or repelling insects, healing damage, or fortifying the immune system

Cannabis in particular is known for having especially high levels of Terpenes present.

Some of the terpenes found in Cannabis include: Pinene, Limonene, Caryophyllene, Terpinolene, and Humulene, among many others! 

Today, we will take a closer look at each of these compounds and how they also characterize some of the most iconic holiday aromas. 

Keep scrolling to read more about these sensational smells of the season! 

1. Pinene

For many people, decorating a Christmas tree with twinkling lights is a much beloved tradition. Historians believe this particular practice was first implemented in 16th century Germany, as a way to display the brilliance of the stars in ones own home. 


Though artificial trees are available in modern times, many still enjoy the presence of a festively decorated live Pine tree. Once in your home, the distinct smell of pine needles quickly follows suit and a sense of ease washes over as the scent fills your lungs and relaxes your mind. 

For this heavenly aroma, we have Pinene to thank.

As its name suggests, the terpene known as Pinene exists abundantly in pine needles, creating the distinct smell that so many of us associate with the holiday season. 

And those feelings of relaxation and refreshment that come along with? It's not just sentiment, it's science.  

Pinene is a known bronchodilator, meaning it can help expand the lungs and allow more air to flow. It can also reduce inflammation, and aid in fighting germs. Currently, it is being studied as a treatment for asthma, Crohns disease, and arthritis. 

This incredible terpene occurs naturally in other plants as well. Basil, rosemary, and parsely all contain high amounts of Pinene.

And of course, another plant known to have particularly high levels of this compound? That's right...Cannabis.

2. Caryophyllene

This next terpene guarantees to warm you up from the inside out during these dark, wintery days. Known to pack some heat, Caryophyllene can be found in a variety of spices, such as black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves

Spices containing Caryophyllene add an intense sensory experience to any dish, and such flavors are particularly popular during the holidays. Eggnog, pumpkin pie, oven baked ham...and so many more beloved seasonal treats. 


But this amazing terpene exists in abundance outside of just holiday desserts.

Also known to contain high levels of Caryophyllene guessed it: Cannabis

Further more, this terpene is especially useful when found in Cannabis. Because of it's unique molecular structure, Caryophyllene can activate particular receptors within the endocannabinoid system to provide the beneficial properties directly without inducing a "high" feeling.  

Caryophyllene has been known to reduce inflammation and relieve pain in some people, which also may explain why everyone seems to feel so good when holiday goodies come around.

Maybe, just maybe. 

3. Limonene

During the holidays, the passing of the winter solstice reminds us we have many months of darkness yet to come, but that each passing day will be a little brighter. 

In the spirit of manifesting a bright and hopeful future, Limonene provides us with smells that uplift the spirit and soothe the soul, as well as lend some much needed relief. The holidays can be quite stressful, after all. 


Limonene occurs abundantly in citrus, such as lemon and orange.

During the holidays, lemon is a popular ingredient in many hot drinks, such as hot toddy's, and immune boosting wellness tea.

Oranges also have a particularly high amount of this terpene, and are a common favorite stocking stuffer

 Though Limonene is only present in the rinds of these fruits, the smells they create allow us to make use of their many strengths nonetheless.

And of course, this compound also occurs in Cannabis. One of the most common terpenes to occur in this plant it provides many potential benefits, such as reduced inflammation, and acting as an antioxidant. It is even being studied as a potential treatment for cancer. 

Next time you slice into a lemon to garnish your warm libation of choice, take a moment to breathe deeply and appreciate all the gifts that Limonene has to offer.  

4. Terpinolene

Somewhat lesser know, this next crucial holiday terpene helps create the smells for some of the most iconic seasonal treats. 

Terpinolene, sometimes referred to as simply Terpinol, occurs naturally in several members of the plant kingdom, including the all too important holiday spice...nutmeg.

Known for adding a fresh, almost floral fragrance to any dish, Terpinolene blends well with other spices and creates the quintessential scent of the season. 


This terpene does occur in Cannabis, although as of now it is not as common as others. With new studies being done every year, growers may decide to hone in on the potential benefits of this compound by selectively breeding strains that produce it sometime in the near future.  

Some potential uses of Terpinolene include anti bacterial and anti fungal properties, as well as possible use in cancer treatment. Additionally, Terpinolene can act as an effective repellent, making it an ideal possible choice for eco friendly insect control in agriculture. 

5. Humulene

Last on our list, but certainly not least, we conclude our look into these festive terpenes with another holiday heavy hitter: Humulene.

Without this wonderful compound, this wintery season would be deprived of what some may consider to be the most important holiday aroma. That aroma, of course, is Ginger.


Similar to Caryophyllene, this terpene comes together with other spices to create some of the most memorable holiday smells that will almost certainly leave you feeling cozy and relaxed. 

Through the copious use of ginger in tasty treats and delicious drinksHumulene solidifies it's place among the most iconic of seasonal aromas. 

 And finally, like all of the other compounds on this list, Humulene also occurs in Cannabis. It boasts several medicinal properties, including the potential for reduced inflammation, soothing allergic reactions, and treating asthma.  

Humulene is also a primary compound in hops, which as I'm sure you are aware, is a key component in that luxurious libation called beer

Once could make a strong argument about that being medicinal too. 

Thank you for reading!

We hope you found this brief look into some seasonal terpenes as interesting and informative as we did! Bringing our readers fun and educational content is our top priority. Look forward to an ongoing series exploring the ins and outs of all things cannabis.  

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