Before we begin talking about what cannabis terpenes are, the benefits of terpenes, and why they are so important to CBD oil, there are some critical factors to point out and consider. As more CBD products come to the market or new CBD users are looking to use them. It’s essential to understand what separates the good from the best. Unfortunately, because our industry is so new and there aren’t proper regulations and oversight, it’s easy to get misinformed.
The most important thing to remember when shopping for CBD products is that not all extraction and purification processes are equal.
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are present in nearly all plants and even in some animals and abundantly found in fruits, vegetables, and flowers. They give plants their flavor and unique fragrance while holding many health benefits, such as treating pain and relieving anxiety. Whatever senses people have about a plant is due to the present terpenes. Terpenes also play a significant role as info-chemicals, attractants, or repellents. High concentrations of terpenes can be toxic and act as a protector against herbivores and pathogens.
Terpenes are present in plant oils, while currently, there are about 20,000 known terpenes. What is fascinating about the world of cannabis/hemp is that at least 200 of these known terpenes are created by the cannabis/hemp plant alone.
What are the Health Benefits of Terpenes & What do Scientific Studies Say?
According to Dr. Russo’s study found that “phytocannabinoid-terpenoid preparation” could help with depression, anxiety, cognitive function, and addiction. In a Wikileaf article, the terpene myrcene, which is the most common cannabis terpene found in cannabis and hemp, helps with the potency of cannabinoids in their ability to alter our blood-brain barrier.
Simultaneously, caryophyllene and beta-caryophyllene lemon compounds help with neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, and stress. Alpha and Beta-Pinene offer antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Much like limonene’s lemon compound, it can help with mood, heartburn, and pain.
Let’s dive deeper into some of these terpenes found in CBD products:
Beta-Caryophyllene: A Therapeutic Pain Terpene
Beta-Caryophyllene is a very common, the second most dominant terpene, and abundant terpene found in cannabis. It is known to act as a cannabinoid since it directly interacts with our Endocannabinoid System, specifically the CB2 receptor. Beta-Caryophyllene is also found in fungi, cloves, hops, rosemary, and copaiba. It has a distinctive flavor of the spiciness of black pepper. Beta-Caryophyllene is said to be a “therapeutic target for the treatment of inflammation, pain, atherosclerosis, and osteoporosis.”
In one study, the data suggest that caryophyllene can provide pain relief. Scientists injected mice with caryophyllene and noticed that they experienced less pain than those not injected in the same environment.
Linalool: Reducing Anxiety & Stress
Linalool is a terpene found in lavender and birch bark with a lavender scent hint of spiciness. It’s also a common terpene found in over 200 types of plants. Linalool is known for its sedative effect in reducing stress & anxiety. In another study, researchers believe that linalool creates a sedative effect by decreasing sympathetic nerve activity and increasing parasympathetic nerve activity.
We know that linalool is best when used for stress relief. Still, when researchers looked into how linalool interacts with our body’s cells and receptors, they also found several targets relevant to treating Alzheimer’s disease; anticholinergic, neuroprotective, and antioxidant properties. Although this is exciting, there is a lot more evidence on how linalool affects our state of mind with anxiety and stress.
In another study conducted in 2009 involving rats, researchers found that inhaling linalool showed anti-stress effects when the rats were exposed to stressful conditions. They also found that linalool helped the rat’s stress levels return to normal, similar to CBD, and how it functions as homeostasis.
Humulene: The Alpha Anti-Inflammatory Agent
A-humulene, often referred to as the alpha humulene, is a terpene categorized as a monocyclic sesquiterpene, which means a vital component of the essential oils in flowering cones of hop plants. Alpha humulene can also be found in cannabis and hemp plants and their extracted oils, generally in high amounts up to 40 percent. Several conductive studies have been explored as an anti-inflammatory compound with promising potential to treat allergies.
A study conducted in 2007 published by ScienceDirect revealed that when two separate sesquiterpenes: trans-caryophyllene and a-humulene, were used as an oral treatment in lab rats, the mice were given a-humulene showed a reduction in swelling. While more conclusive evidence needs to be further researched, alpha humulene presents itself as an effective anti-inflammatory agent.
Limonene: Stress & Anxiety Relief
Limonene is a terpene produced in the aromatic resin glands of the hemp and cannabis plant. It is known for having an assortment of fruity aromas used in everyday items such as household cleaning products, cosmetics, CBD tinctures, and fruit rinds. Today, limonene is being used more in the health industry than ever before, especially as a treatment solution for stress and anxiety.
According to a 2004 published study by the National Library of Medicine recently revised in 2020, limonene is a terpene comprised of a racemic mixture of limonene. The extracted limonene oils have shown progress in aiding chemotherapy patients and improving beta-signaling for stress and anxiety relief.
These are just four of the 200 or so terpenes found in the hemp plant alone!
How do Terpenes Enhance the Effects of CBD?
Terpenes possess many health benefits, but they play a crucial role in synergically working with cannabinoids, known as the Entourage Effect. Studies have shown that cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, are much more effective when cannabis terpenes are present because terpenes help cannabinoids alter the blood-brain barrier—influencing the number of cannabinoids that can pass through that barrier and connecting with your Endocannabinoid System.
In cannabis and cannabis extracts:
Greater Than the Sum of Their Parts, by Russo and McPartland, explain how terpenes can enhance the effects of cannabinoids when present. They say that “cannabis terpenoids and flavonoids may also increase cerebral blood flow, enhance cortical activity, kill respiratory pathogens, and provide anti-inflammatory activity.”
More specifically, they talk about how terpenes may alter the pharmacokinetics of cannabinoids by altering the blood-brain barrier. This explains why CBD products with naturally derived terpenes present are more effective than CBD products that contain little to no terpenes.
How do Terpenes Work?
A study from 2009 published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that the effects of terpenes can be explained by the pharmacological or psychological aspect, which is quite impressive. The pharmacological aspect found that terpenes can do what they do by directly interacting and affecting our nervous system, central nervous system, and endocrine systems.
On the other hand, the psychological aspect argues that the reason behind what terpenes do is how “odors exert their effects through emotional learning, conscious perception, and belief/expectations” rather than direct interactions with systems in our body.
There is plenty of research and studies on terpenes and how they interact with our bodies with the pharmacological aspect. In a 2001 review about the synergic activity among terpenes and flavonoids with cannabinoids, Russo and McPartland mention that terpenes:
- Remodel G-proteins
- Alter the pharmacokinetics of cannabinoids by altering the blood-brain barrier
- An increasing bioavailability of cannabinoids
- Acting on other receptors and neurotransmitters
- Act as a serotonin uptake inhibitor
- Enhance norepinephrine activity
- Increase dopamine activity
- Increase GABA production
On top of the studies regarding terpenes interacting with our system, there is evidence suggesting that terpenes may enhance or alter based on the psychological process through smell.
A 2003 study among 15 subjects ranging from 18 to 34 years of age found that odors can produce mood states that modulate the pain intensity, pain unpleasantness, mood, and anxiety or calmness. This study compared how altering attention away from pain or mood compared to the smell of odor and how it affected pain and mood.
The study found that attention direction had no effect on mood and anxiety but altered both perceived pain intensity and unpleasantness. In comparison, a pleasant and unpleasant odor changed mood, anxiety, and pain unpleasantness ratings but did not significantly affect perceived pain intensity.
For example, someone who had a negative experience with cannabis might find that the odor of cannabis produces anxiety as they remember the negative experience, while someone who enjoys consuming cannabis associates it with fun.
They concluded that both the pharmacological and psychological aspects contribute to the effect of cannabis terpenes. There is good evidence showing that terpenes do have direct physiological effects on our internal systems. Still, there is evidence associating terpenes’ smell to positively or negatively altering our mood and state of mind. This is not to say that cannabis terpenes have no “real” effect on our body, but they might vary from person to person.
How to Know if a CBD Product Contains Terpenes?
Full Spectrum or Broad Spectrum CBD products are what you should look to purchase if you want a CBD product containing terpenes and other plant compounds such as flavonoids with medicinal properties. However, something to note is that just because it’s labeled as “Full Spectrum” or “Broad Spectrum” does not necessarily mean they contain terpenes. Extracting CBD while keeping intact terpenes is not straightforward since terpenes are sensitive and useless if not adequately purified or distilled.
Check Lab Report for Terpene Profile Test
The only way to know if a CBD product contains terpenes is to look for the company’s third-party lab reports and look into their terpene profile test. To learn more about third-party lab reports, make sure to check out a blog post on them as we explain in-depth while keeping it very simple with pictures and visuals.
If you see “Not Tested” or “NT” in the terpene profile section of the lab report, it means someone didn’t test the product for terpenes. If they tried to test it and it says “ND,” then it means their analytical system found Non-Detectable levels, thus finding no terpenes.
Conclusion: What are Terpenes, Their Benefits, and Uses
Terpenes are found nearly in all plants globally, and their primary function is to give plants their smell and act as a repellent against bugs, insects, or other creatures that pose threats. Terpenes also have many health benefits, which we outlined above, such as anti-inflammatory, stress relief, mood enhancer, & more.
Through countless research, we’ve learned that terpenes enhance the effects of cannabinoids by altering the blood-brain barrier, thus allowing more cannabinoids to pass through our Endocannabinoid System.