Terpenes: The Essential Oils You Haven’t Heard of
Cannabis, as you may or may not know, is a highly complex plant that contains hundreds of chemical compounds, many of which have yet to be discovered. While cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive component found in the cannabis plant, and other cannabinoids are being increasingly researched, one “of the moment” compound generating a lot of interest among scientists is the terpene.
Found abundantly in cannabis, terpenes are oils which give the plant its distinct smell and flavor. More importantly, it has been discovered that terpenes can help alleviate a wide range of health problems (similar to CBD’s health-inducing benefits) including pain, inflammation, bacterial infection, ulcers, heartburn, gastrointestinal issues, anxiety and depression.
This post provides a deep dive into the role terpenes play in cannabis and in the human body, and what we know so far about the terpene-CBD relationship as it pertains to CBD products and their beneficial effects.
What Are Terpenes?
The short version: Terpenes are essential oils that enhance CBD’s therapeutic effects, holding numerous medical benefits.
The long version: Terpenes are in the essential oils of plants business. You can find them in a variety of plants (obviously, cannabis is one of those plants) and even in some insects. Produced in the same resin glands of a cannabis plant as CBD, there are about 200 terpenes in cannabis, but only a handful of them exist in amounts substantial enough to have a noteworthy impact.
Terpenes are important to the cannabis plant because they assist with reproduction and survival. Their strong scent (the reasoning behind that lovely potent cannabis smell) serves the purpose of luring pollinators and repelling predators, so they are quite useful even before undergoing decarboxylation (heating of cannabis materials in preparation to vape or smoke).
But, the terpene profile helps us do more than distinguish strains by smell – It can also help us understand why people with medical conditions (cancer, epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis) seem to benefit more from one strain over another when both (or all) strains contain similar THC levels.
As mentioned just before, terpenes, unlike cannabinoids, are not unique to cannabis. They can be found in many plants, fruits and herbs including apples, oranges, grapes, peas, almonds, onions, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger and others. This means they are very common in the human diet. Little did you know you have been consuming terpenes all along!
On the terpenes-as-food front, terpenes have been recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as safe for consumption, FYI.
Now, understanding terpenes gets a little complicated when we bring specific cannabis-derived terpenes into play, but the following terpenes are important to know about in respect to CBD.
Most Common Terpenes in Cannabis
Myrcene is the most most prominent terpene produced by the cannabis plant. Known for producing the earthy, clove-like aroma users have come accustomed to, it is responsible for producing a “couch-lock” euphoria effect.
Increases the effects of THC, induces sleepiness and provides anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and analgesic (anti-pain) effects
Highly absorbed by inhalation, limonene can help treat bronchitis, heartburn and bacterial infection. It’s also known for promoting weight loss and enhancing our moods (I’ll take a limonene, please).
- Limonene acts as an energizing antidepressant
- It is often used in aromatherapy due to its strong citrusy scent
According to studies, this terpene possesses antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator properties.
- Energetic and therapeutic are words that describe this terpene well
- Pinene gives off a pine needle scent (hence the name, pinene)
This terpene produces a woody, peppery or spicy sent. It is the only terpene that interacts with the endocannabinoid system, the regulatory system which produces and works with cannabinoids to improve various physical and psychological bodily functions.
- Caryophyllene is used to treat chronic pain, ulcers, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, gastrointestinal problems and anxiety.
This terpene just sounds pleasant, doesn’t it? Linalool is another terpene widely used in aromatherapy due to its sweet, floral aroma.
- It can help treat sleeping disorders, anxiety and convulsions.
- It also plays an important role in the production of Vitamin E in the body.
*The difference between an energetic and uplifting “high” compared to a sedating and relaxing “high” is a factor of the terpenes within the cannabis strain.
Relationship Between Terpenes and CBD
Terpenes and CBD can have a significant influence on each other’s mechanisms, producing potent synergy for treating many health conditions. For example, myrcene can increase blood-brain barrier permeability to enable CBD (and other beneficial compounds) to pass more easily. Aka, the teamwork of the two here allow you to feel the effects of CBD much quicker.
Another example of terpene-CBD teamwork: Pinene combines with CBD to reduce cannabis’ psychoactive effect, which is interestingly known to cause anxiety (as many like to smoke THC-infused cannabis to relax) and compromise cognition and memory.
Final example: CBD also works with limonene and linalool to prevent and treat acne. Once again, can we get some limonene and linalool over here?
If you are still left wondering why terpenes matter, let us oversimplify the reasonings: They directly affect the benefits you feel from consuming CBD, they contribute to the entourage effect, they have medical benefits, and they give cannabis and vape oil their natural flavoring.
Because terpenes and CBD work better together, it’s recommended you use terpenes in combination with CBD and other beneficial cannabinoids. There are many products on the market currently that contain high levels of terpenes and CBD. However, you still need to be careful by selecting products that have undergone proper manufacturing processes in order to obtain the maximum health benefits from your desired CBD products.
- Terpenes are essential oils that enhance CBD’s therapeutic effects
- Terpenes hold numerous medical benefits
- Nearly all major terpenes in cannabis act as analgesic or anti-inflammatory agents
- When terpenes and CBD work together, they produce even greater health benefits