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Terpene Content and...Creativity? The Breakdown

Updated: Mar 7

The “entourage effect,” a theory that consumption of the entire cannabis plant can be more beneficial (Anderson et al., 2021), is gaining traction in the cannabis industry. While a plethora of research has already been completed on the entourage effect’s benefits, one benefit speaks explicitly to its impact on the human mind.

Colored pencils immersed in water to signify creativity
Photo courtesy of Myriams-Fotos

Let’s take a few steps back real quick. Creativity, while at surface level is a simple concept, is fundamental to the human experience. It allows us to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that assist in problem-solving, communication, and entertainment inside and outside (What is creativity? n.d.). A study in 2018 found that highly creative people have a better ability to simultaneously engage the frontal and parietal regions of the brain – in other words, stronger connections between brain networks are linked to creativity (What is creativity? n.d.). So – what if there was a way to increase creativity? Well, research indicates an association between the type of terpenes in cannabis and creativity.

Creativity and memory go hand and hand. You can’t have creativity if you don’t have memory because we use our memories to help craft creative solutions. Studies have suggested that THC increases dopamine levels in the brain (Bloomfield, 2016), and dopamine, commonly known as the neurotransmitter of happiness, actually helps fuel our desire for exploration (Kaufman, 2016). So with that mindset, cannabis users might have increased levels of creativity when compared to non-cannabis users. Well, at least, cannabis users tend to generate new venture ideas that are undoubtedly creative but less feasible (Warnick, 2021).

Anyways, dopamine makes us want things and allows for psychological plasticity – which helps us become more flexible in our engagement with the world (Kaufman, 2016). “With plasticity,” Kaufman writes, “comes enhanced cognitive and behavioral engagement and exploration and, frequently, a commitment to personal growth” (2016).

Essentially, as Baba Shiv, a professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, says, creativity exists along two vital brain pathways – serotonin and dopamine (Underwood, 2014). Serotonin assists in maintaining a calm, content mindset (Underwood, 2014), and dopamine helps with plasticity.

So if THC increases dopamine levels in the brain, and serotonin and dopamine promote creativity, then cannabis products that contain creativity-building terpenes should likewise help improve our ability to think outside the box.

Dried cannabis buds
Photo courtesy of gjbmiller

Now – let’s discuss what terpenes are. As a vital compound in cannabis, terpenes produce specific scents and are often associated with positive psychological and physiological effects (Erikson, 2019). There are over 400 known terpenes in cannabis plants (Robertson, 2021). Still, terpenes like D-limonene (limonene), TB-ocimene (ocimene), A-bisabolol (bisabolol), and B-myrcene (myrcene) are commonly associated with improved creativity.


Limonene, often used as a flavoring agent, gives the distinct scent of lemons (Nikfar and Behboudi, 2014). In treating anxiety, limonene is known to increase the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the brains of rats (Eddin, 2021). GABA is a neurotransmitter known for producing calming effects, and it helps reduce stress and anxiety and improves sleep (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.). While great by themselves, all of those things help promote creativity in the brain (Underwood, 2014).


Ocimene has a solid potential to create anti-inflammatory reactions, which helps with pain relief through dopamine release (Li, 2019). It releases woody and citrusy undertones (Kim, 2014).


Separately, with the distinct scent of the chamomile flower, bisabolol has anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, and antioxidant qualities (Myrcene, linalool, and bisabolol: What are the benefits of these cannabis terpenes?, 2020). Antioxidants are essential because they tackle free radicals, which are volatile molecules that form during exercise or when the body converts food to energy (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013). Free radicals, when left alone, may cause “oxidative stress,” which causes cell damage (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013). So – bisabolol, with its positive effects on the body, has the potential to create a calmer, more creatively-inspired experience.


Myrcene has sedative and anti-inflammatory effects and is known for its pain relief, antibiotic, and antimutagenic qualities (Myrcene, linalool, and bisabolol: What are the benefits of these cannabis terpenes?, 2020). It is most often found in plants like mangoes, hops, and lemongrass; and occurs in numerous cannabis strains (Myrcene, linalool, and bisabolol: What are the benefits of these cannabis terpenes?, 2020).

With all that said, if you’re ever wondering: what terpenes are good for creativity? Well, here’s your answer. While more research needs to be done regarding how cannabis and creativity, or at least specific terpenes and creativity, interact, the preliminary research is promising. And, with the holidays right around the corner, we all need some creativity when it comes to finding the perfect gifts.

Terpenes undoubtedly hold massive amounts of power in cannabis, so why not verify precisely how much is in your strain? Between potency and terpene testing; pesticide, mycotoxin, and heavy mental analysis; foreign matter inspection; and more, we at Steep Hill Illinios, pride ourselves on giving you true science with everything we test. As an industry-leading cannabis testing lab located in Aurora, Illinois, we are here for all of your cannabis testing needs.


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Beaty, R. E., Kenett, Y. N., Christensen, A. P., Rosenberg, M. D., Benedek, M., Chen, Q., Fink, A., Qiu, J., Kwapil, T. R., Kane, M. J., & Silvia , P. J. (2018, January 18). Robust prediction of individual creative ability from brain ... - PNAS. PNAS. Retrieved August 27, 2022, from

Bloomfield, M. A. P., Ashok, A. H., Volkow, N. D., & Howes, O. D. (2016, November 17). The effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol on the dopamine system. Nature. Retrieved August 27, 2022, from

Eddin, L. B., Jha, N. K., Meeran, M. F. N., Kesari, K. K., Beiram, R., & Ojha, S. (2021, July 27). Neuroprotective potential of limonene and limonene containing natural products. MDPI. Retrieved August 27, 2022, from

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Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA): What it is, Function & Benefits. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2022, from

Kaufman, S. B. (2016, January 1). How to cultivate your creativity [book excerpt]. Scientific American. Retrieved August 27, 2022, from

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Warnick, B. J., Kier, A. S., LaFrance, E. M., & Cuttler, C. (2021, January 15). Head in the clouds? cannabis users' creativity in new venture ideation depends on their entrepreneurial passion and experience. Journal of Business Venturing. Retrieved August 27, 2022, from

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