In any discussion of cannabis, you’re likely to come across some mention of cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are often identified as the key active ingredients which give hemp and marijuana their effects, the most famous of which are THC and CBD.
However, there is another important class of compounds found in the cannabis plant: terpenes.
Terpenes aren’t exclusive to cannabis. In fact, they can be found in plants of all descriptions, from pine trees to aromatic herbs to common grasses. Even certain species of insects produce terpenes.
For these plants, terpenes perform an extremely vital function. Richly aromatic terpenes help to repel herbivores which might otherwise treat these plants as a tasty snack, while other varieties of terpenes help attract the attention of pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and even act as signals to enlist the aid of helpful predator species which can consume pests that might cause damage to the plant.
It’s not just animals and bugs which find the scent of terpenes attractive, either. If you’ve ever marveled at the delicious scent of an essential oil, you’ve experienced the wonders of terpenes first hand.
The essential oils used in aromatherapy, perfumes, and traditional medicine practices are rich in terpenes which are the source of their fragrances. Terpenes are even responsible for the aromas and flavors of some of your favorite foods.
As much as your olfactory system might appreciate terpenes, it turns out that these compounds are more than just a delight for the senses. New research into terpenes suggests that many of these terpenes may also have beneficial effects for your body when consumed.
Terpenes, Cannabis, and CBD Oil
The cannabis plant is rich in terpenes, containing potentially hundreds of different terpenes which give the cannabis plant its distinctive aroma.
Every “strain” of cannabis contains a unique profile of terpenes and cannabinoids. These complex chemical profiles contribute to the wide variety of different aromas and effects which cannabis plants exhibit.
These unique terpene profiles are often responsible for the distinctive smells and the unique names given to various cannabis plants. And these terpenes aren’t just limited to the marijuana world. The hemp used to produce CBD oils are just as rich with terpenes as any strain of marijuana.
Terpenes are produced in the same parts of the cannabis plant which are responsible for the bulk of cannabinoid production. As a result, when hemp plants are processed to extract cannabinoids like CBD, the resultant extracts are rich in terpenes.
Rather than being a simple byproduct, these terpenes may actually be playing a vital role in the effects sought after by users of CBD supplements.
If you’ve shopped for CBD at all, you may have come across the terms “Full Spectrum” and “Isolate.” CBD products labeled “Isolate” use a purified form of CBD where all other cannabinoids and terpenes have been removed, leaving nothing but 100% pure CBD.
“Full Spectrum” products, on the other hand, use hemp oil which still contains all of the cannabinoids and terpenes extracted from the hemp plant.
For many users, this “Full Spectrum” CBD oil is the preferred product. While this an issue which requires further scientific study, many users anecdotally report a variety of differences between using “Full Spectrum” and “Isolate” CBD oils, a difference which could come down to not only the extra cannabinoids, but also to the unique blends of terpenes these oils contain.
The potential benefits of “Full Spectrum” CBD oils do have some scientific backing, as well. The so-called “Entourage Effect” is a theory which suggests that it is the unique combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other trace elements which are the source of many of the effects exhibited by cannabis.
The Entourage Effect has gained credence as scientists try to pick apart the cannabis plant on a molecule by molecule basis. Often, laboratory results on testing a single component of cannabis don’t produce the expected effects, while less refined extracts which contain a variety of cannabinoids and terpenes showcase effects which no single compound seems to be responsible for.
This suggests that rather than one or two active ingredients acting alone, the complex biochemistry of cannabis — cannabinoids and terpenes working in sync — create synergistic effects within the body, leading to the many benefits users experience when consuming “Full Spectrum” oils.
Terpenes aren’t exclusively produced by the cannabis plant. Many of the same terpenes which are common to cannabis can be found in a wide variety of plants and foods.
Completely independent of their association with cannabis, many of these terpenes have been studied for their potential benefits.
Let’s take a look at a few of the most common terpenes found in cannabis and the science behind their potential effects. Note that every cannabis strain is unique and will contain varying quantities of these terpenes — some may not contain the listed terpenes at all, or only contain them in minute trace quantities.
As we review these effects, it’s important to note that while scientists have identified these potential benefits in laboratory tests of these terpenes, that does not necessarily suggest that ingesting CBD oils or similar products will produce any of these effects. It is simply a primer on how terpenes have the potential to affect the body. As always, CBD oil supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or alleviate any medical symptoms.
Pinene: Pinene is the most abundant terpene in the natural world. It is responsible for the characteristic “piney” scent of pine trees, which contain prodigious amounts of pinene within their needles. Pinene is also found in herbs such as basil and rosemary. Researchers have investigated pinene for its potential to help fight anxiety and combat asthma symptoms.
Myrcene: Myrcene is a terpene with a musky aroma. It can be found in large quantities in lemongrass, mangos, and thyme. Research has identified myrcene as an antioxidant, and it has been investigated as a potential anti-inflammatory.
Limonene: Limonene is the terpene which gives lemon and orange rinds their distinctive citrus aroma. Researchers have investigated limonene for its potential to inhibit inflammation.
Caryophyllene: Caryophyllene is a terpene which can be found in black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and a variety of other plants. It has been investigated for its potential to help fight stomach ulcers.
Ocimene: Ocimene is a terpene found in orchid flowers, as well as mint and parsley. Ocimene appears to have some antibacterial and antiseptic effects in the plants where it occurs naturally.
Terpinolene: Terpinolene is a terpene with a floral aroma which can be found in nutmeg and cumin, as well as lilac flowers. It has demonstrated antioxidant properties in laboratory studies.
Humulene: Humulene is a terpene found in wood, as well as hops. It has a rich, earthy aroma which contributes to the distinctive smell of wood. Researchers have identified humulene as a potential anti-inflammatory.
Don’t Underestimate Terpenes!
Aside from the potential effects which scientists have investigated for individual terpenes, the unique way these terpenes interact with each other and with the cannabinoids may also produce unique effects.
It’s this intricate symphony of chemistry which gives cannabis and CBD oil its many effects.
If you’re hoping to experience the effects of a terpene rich CBD product your pet, it’s important to buy Full Spectrum CBD oil products, which keep all of these potentially beneficial terpenes in tact and deliver them along with a dose of CBD and other trace cannabinoids.