What are Terpenes?

Heather Ryerson FAQ

Have you ever walked past an orchard or a meadow and wondered what gives it that incredible smell? What makes the earthy and electrifying scent come from freshly cut grass or the irresistible aroma of a handful of freshly picked cherries?  The answer lies in Terpenes.

Terpenes are responsible for both the scent of plants and their flavor. And because of the popularity of cannabis-based products like CBD and medical marijuana, they are gaining more attention than they ever have before.

Naturally occurring chemicals, mixed with the oils inside a plant, Terpenes are sometimes referred to as “essential oils.” All plants produce them in varying degrees for a variety of reasons. For some pants, their individual terpenes act as a powerful defense mechanism against predators like insects and parasites. For others, they are meant to attract bees for pollination.

In this way, you could say that plants are intelligent life forms with the ability to ensure their own continued survival.

There are at least 20,000 terpenes represented in the plant kingdom, and approximately 100 of these can be found within cannabis plants—a fairly substantial amount for just one species. If you are familiar with marijuana and its many strains, then you already understand a bit about these aromatic compounds.

Why Are Terpenes So Important?

In addition to producing fragrance and flavor, terpenes have some other essential qualities.

They are thought to enhance the effects of both THC and CBD by providing some specific physical benefits.  Research supports the claim that terpenes can work in tandem with the CBD when introduced to the human endocannabinoid system (ECS).

A 2018 study compared the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD with those of isolated terpenoids (aged terpenes). Scientists found that the isolated terpenoids did, in fact, produce mild to moderate anti-inflammatory effects on their own. While further studies are needed, this study underscores the potential of terpenes to contribute to the overall anti-inflammatory effects of CBD.

Different terpenes seem to elicit different physical effects on the body, and these effects can vary from person to person.  This may explain why some people feel more relaxed when imbibing certain strains of marijuana while others find themselves more energized. These same effects carry over to CBD as well. Terpenes have a synchronistic way of mingling with the other compounds in cannabis to produce specific results.

What Are the Most Common Terpenes Found in CBD?

Myrcene

Myrcene is one of the most common terpenes. It is found in mangos, lemongrass, basil, bay leaves, and hops as well as several CBD rich strains in the Cannabis plant family. It is known for its ability to produce a profoundly relaxing and sedating effect on the body, an impact that is only multiplied when combined with other compounds, such as Cannabidiol (CBD). It is also shown to be effective at relieving pain and has antibiotic properties.

Myrcene is found in relatively high concentrations in full spectrum CBD oils. It is one of the terpenes that helps CBD to enter our systems by making it easier for it to bond with our cannabinoid receptors.

This synergy between two compounds is quite common among cannabinoids and is the basis of what many refer to as the “entourage effect,” a theory that suggests the compounds in cannabis plants work better together than they do apart. They all work in combination with each other to give users the best version of their desired effects, be it relaxation, pain relief or appetite regulation.

Linalool

Linalool is another common terpene that is almost always found in full spectrum CBD oils. This terpene boasts a delicious spicey citrus smell with a little bit of floral thrown into the mix as well. It is also found in citrus fruits, Birch, Rosewood, Laurel, and Lavender. Linalool is a terpene that brings about a relaxing and calm state of mind because of its sedative properties. This wonderful, multi-purpose terpene is known to help with anxiety, stress, depression, pain, convulsions, and insomnia.

In a study conducted in 2016, Linalool was put under the microscope to see if it could help with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. During the study, which was conducted on mice with AD in a controlled setting, researchers discovered an increase in memory function (improved learning and spatial memory) in the mice that were treated with 25 mg/kg of Linalool for three months. If this proves to be true for humans as well, it could be a game changer in the way that Alzheimer’s disease is treated in the medical world. There is no word yet on when or if human studies will be taking place.

Limonene

Limonene is a terpene best known for its mood-elevating effects and citrus scent. Have you ever noticed how you feel energized after smelling freshly sliced lemon, or after taking a good whiff of peppermint tea? That’s because both citrus peels and peppermint contain limonene. It can also be found in Juniper.

As far as physical effects on our endocannabinoid system, Limonene makes a great anti-anxiety and anti-depressant supplement. It also has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-diabetic, and antioxidant effects and is known to suppress symptoms of gastric reflux. It is being studied as well for its positive impact on cancer patients.

Limonene is by far one of the worlds most popular terpenes; perhaps it is the energizing effects that are felt when a person inhales its aroma, or maybe it is because it’s one of the most common terpenes on the planet.

Regardless of why it is so popular, it is no surprise that it is also one of the most common terpenes found in CBD rich cannabis plants. This terpene is just one more reason that full spectrum CBD oils are so useful.

Humulene

With its relaxing woodsy scent, Humulene often goes underappreciated in the world of terpenes. While it doesn’t boast an extensive range of health applications like many other terpenes, humulene comes with its own skill set. It is considered by scientists to be a potent appetite suppressant as well as an anti-inflammatory. It smells of wood and earth and is often found in hops, basil, coriander, and cloves. It may also work as an aid in pain management and have anti-bacterial properties.

Pinene

The last of the most common terpenes found in full-spectrum CBD oil is Pinene. This terpene is thought to help with asthma as well as inflammation. It has a pungent pine smell to it that is easily distinguished in cannabis. It is also found in pine, sage, and most conifers.

Terpenes and Terpenoids: Is There a Difference?

Many people often use the terms interchangeably to describe the scented compounds, but there is actually a difference between the two. Terpenes are formed during the growth process and are created by the plant as a result of external stress factors. They continue to be present until the plant is cut for harvest.

Once the plant is cut for harvest, the terpenes begin to break down into terpenoids.  In essence, terpenoids are just aged terpenes. They are both similar, although sometimes terpenoids will have a slightly different scent and some of its properties change over time.

Often, you will see a mixture of terpenes and terpenoids in a full spectrum CBD oil because the terpenes will have begun to break down during the extraction and manufacturing process. This combination of terpenes, terpenoids, CBD, and other cannabinoids all combine to create the wonderful effects experienced by those who use CBD oil.  

Synergy

Synergy is a word used to describe a collective group of things or substances working better together as a whole than as separate entities. The entourage effect is the name given to this synergy with regards to cannabis and the way the different compounds interact with one another.

The entourage effect is something that we are just starting to really learn more about. It’s like one big giant puzzle with only maybe five or six of the pieces put together along one side. Scientists and researchers are continually learning how each different compound within cannabis affects the other ones, or how they work in the body.  

Further, each different terpene, terpenoid and chemical compound within cannabis has its own unique profile, which will in some ways always compliment the way another terpene or compound affects us. Every part of the cannabis plant seems to interact with and emphasize other parts of the plant in the way that it affects our bodies. It is pretty amazing when you stop to think about it.

What Is the Future of Terpene Science?

Overall, CBD is a powerful substance derived from hemp that we are just learning all the benefits of. Learning about terpenes and how they interact with and complement each other will surely help researchers fine-tune the ways that each different strain can be used in therapeutic applications.

Many experts believe that the future of cannabis lies in terpenes and strain-specific combinations present in many CBD rich cannabis strains. Scientists believe that terpenes are largely responsible for the way that different cannabis strains affect different people and they continue to actively study their effects in the hopes of furthering the medical applications of CBD.

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Please Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Last modified: September 13, 2019