What Are Terpenes and What Should You Know About Them?

Even if you have never tried CBD products, you have definitely already consumed terpenes. In fact, we are exposed to these compounds almost every day. What are these mysterious molecules, how can they affect our bodies, and what is the difference between them, flavonoids and terpenoids? Find the answers in today’s article and enjoy your reading.

What are terpenes?

Generally speaking, terpenes are the molecules that determine how things smell. Terpenes are volatile compounds found in plants and are responsible for their aroma. In effect, their main function is to define the smell of every single plant. For example, you know the smell of orange. This smell is created by terpenes. Do you like the smell of fresh flowers? That is also due to terpenes.

Terpenes play an important role in protecting plants from bacteria and various environmental conditions and are also extracted for various purposes.

It is important to note that terpenes have not only been purported to convey the odour of various cannabis flowers, but also to possibly have some therapeutic properties, either on their own or as co-activating agents.

What do terpenes have to do with CBD?

Cannabis plants also contain a variety of terpenes. It turns out that CBD compounds coupled with terpenes work better and may even cause the entourage effect.

The above study revealed that CBD enhanced with terpenes has greater potential to modify the activity of the endocannabinoid system, and thus modulate mood and related disorders. The combined effect of all the compounds is actually stronger than the total effect of each plant compound.

You may be wondering that all CBD products contain terpenes, but don’t be fooled, as it is not true. The main determining factor as to whether products with cannabidiol contain terpenes lies in the manufacturing process. Basically, hemp and cannabis naturally produce a number of terpenes. So, you might think that all CBD products contain terpenes. But we would like to draw your attention to the way the product is obtained. It all depends on whether your CBD oil is isolated or what is commonly referred to as broad-spectrum or full-spectrum oil. These types of oils contain cannabidiol, which is extracted from hemp, as well as terpenes, THC, and all the other materials. On the other hand, CBD isolates have had everything removed that is not a pure cannabidiol molecule. So, pay attention to whether your CBD is isolated or not. If cannabidiol is extracted separately from all the other natural plant materials, you won’t find any terpenes in it. This is why you will not notice any smell, flavour, or entourage effect with CBD isolates. In contrast, CBD flowers and CBD full-spectrum oils will offer you a great intake of terpenes.

Can terpenes get you high?

Our answer to this question is “no”. Terpenes contain a minimal amount of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is psychoactive. As this study shows, terpenes reduce the impact of THC’s intoxicating effects. However, since the study of terpenes, and especially the relation between terpenes and CBD is a fairly new field, we would like to remind you that more research on this topic is needed.

Terpenes and flavonoids: what is the difference?

These two terms go hand in hand, so sometimes one can get confused about their meaning. Let’s shed some light on this point. Both terpenes and flavonoids are found in CBD products as well as in various plants around the world. But what is the difference between them? Flavonoids give plants their colour. Why are blueberries blue, tomatoes red and carrots naturally orange? That’s the work of flavonoids. They also have a very essential role in helping to protect plants from pests and diseases and serve as a kind of sunscreen against the most harmful ultraviolet rays. However, flavonoids can perform similar functions to those of terpenes. For example, they can have antioxidant effects and help to reduce inflammation. Also, both of them may interact with the endocannabinoid system.

What about the relation between terpenes and terpenoids?

Terpenoids are other compounds that terpenes can be compared to. Although the two terms are increasingly used interchangeably, they have different meanings. Both differ slightly in their molecular structure. From a chemical point of view, terpenes are hydrocarbons, while terpenoids are their oxygen-containing derivatives, more often alcohols, aldehydes and ketones.

What you smell when you’re near a living plant is a bundle of terpenes secreted by the resinous glands of its lower regions. On the other hand, terpenoids are formed when you dry and cure a flower. In other words, terpenoids are modified terpenes. Ultimately, these two processes change the way molecules are converted.

What terpenes are found in CBD products and what are their potential benefits?

The spectrum of terpenes found in plants all over the world is incredibly rich, with approximately 75,000 different types. Cannabis plants alone contain about 200 identifiable terpenes. The combinations of these terpenes can also be found in other plants. In this section, we will highlight some of the terpenes contained in cannabis and discuss in what plants they are also presented, what smell they have and how they can interact with our bodies.

As you can see, the number of terpenes found in CBD is truly impressive. All of them can be grouped according to different features that we have listed below:

  • boiling points;
  • aromas;
  • potential effects;
  • where they can be found besides CBD products;
  • potential medical benefits.

Let’s now delve into the variety of distinct terpenes found in CBD and describe them in more detail. For each major terpene, you’ll discover its most characteristic features and what beneficial effects they can have on our bodies.

Borneol

Starting with borneol, this terpene can be found in sage, thyme or ginger in addition to CBD products. The smell of camphor makes it one of the most recognisable terpenes. It is especially commonly used in Chinese medicine.

Caryophyllene

This terpene is found in black pepper and a variety of other spices. It has a spicy, peppery taste reminiscent of cloves. The essential feature of caryophyllene is that it’s the only terpene known to possibly stimulate the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain.

Humulene

This one is found in hops that are used to produce beer. Humulene is an earthy terpene that can also be found in different tree species. This terpene is widely used in Eastern medicine.

Isoborneol

Isoborneol has the same molecules as borneol, but a different structure. Its aroma is also different from that of borneol. Isoborneol smells like cinnamon. It is quite rare to find isoborneol as well as borneol in CBD products.

Limonene

As the name suggests, this terpene has the smell of lemon or lime. So no wonder, in its pure form, limonene is naturally found in oranges. It is a volatile substance that is present in most essential oils, and in some it is found in very large quantities. It is also contained in various CBD products. The number of different uses for limonene is vast: it can be used in perfume products and a variety of mosquito repellents. Moreover, limonene can be used in dealing with anxiety, depression and stress.

Linalool

This terpene can be found in plants such as mint or birch. Linalool has the smell of lavender. It can have a sedative effect and has been studied as a possible treatment for epilepsy and cancer.

Myrcene

Myrcene is one of the most common terpenes in today’s CBD products. It can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Myrcene has a spicy, earthy, musky scent. This terpen can also be contained in hops, lemongrass, basil and mango.

Ocimene

This one is rare in CBD products but conversely is commonly found in various flowers and herbs. Ocimene may have antiviral and antibacterial properties. Its unique aroma is created by a mix of woody and light sweet notes.

Phellandrene

Phellandrene is a terpene that is also quite rare to find in a wide range of CBD products, though it is common to several plants like water fennel, parsley, cinnamon, dill, pepper, juniper, ginger and pine. Like humulene, this terpene is utilised by practitioners of Eastern medicine. What about the aroma? Phellandrene has a woody mint aroma with hints of citrus.

Phytol

This one is extremely rare to find in products containing cannabidiol. However, the terpene is found in green tea and has a grassy aroma. Phytol has applications in the pharmaceutical industry, where it is used for synthesising vitamins E and K.

Pinene

This is one of the most common terpenes in the world. The number of plants in which it can be found is also considerable: conifer trees, orange peels, turpentine, pine needles, rosemary, dill, basil and parsley. It can have anti-inflammatory and sedative properties.

Sabinene

Unlike pinene, sabinene is very rare. It is found in Norway spruce, carrot seeds and black pepper. What about its potential properties? This terpene may possibly have antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Sabinene has a spicy, woody scent.

Terpinolene

Last but not least, we have terpinolene. This terpene is found in a variety of plants including citrus, mint, parsnip, and juniper. Its smell is quite interesting: one moment it smells like citrus and the next like flowers. Terpinolene can play an important part in boosting energy.

Can you consume terpenes on their own?

Terpenes can not only provide beneficial effects in combination with other plant compounds but can also be effective when consumed separately. They can be used topically or ingested. Of course, you should never drink essential oils because it’s dangerous. What you can try are terpene isolates that are produced by some companies. These pure terpenes can be added to skincare products, cocktails, CBD oils, food and even vaping cartridges. However, there are some terpenes that are more suitable for inhalation, while others may contain water and be harmful to your lungs. Just remember to keep this in mind and take care.

Terpenes became the objects of different studies. Despite more research to prove the real effects of such compounds is needed, some results can already impress. Let’s revise some of them below.

Some studies are exploring the possible therapeutic effects of terpenes that we could be consuming by simply walking in a forest or field of flowers and inhaling the smell of nature.

Have you ever noticed how an ordinary walk in the park or forest caused you to feel physically relaxed and a sense of calm? Now you can see that this was most likely connected to you breathing in thousands of volatile molecules. The above study confirmed that terpene isolates acquired from forests can fall into different categories and be anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic or neuroprotective.

Another study has demonstrated that some terpenes may have antioxidant, antiviral or antiseptic properties. Terpenes are often used in folk medicine and many of them are also used in modern medicine in various treatment drugs.

Other important properties of terpenes benefit not only humans but also the plants that contain them. These include possible anti-insect and antimicrobial properties, which allow us to refrain from using harsh chemicals like pesticides that can potentially negatively affect all living organisms. Terpenes are naturally occurring and can have fewer side effects.

Final thoughts

To conclude, we should mention that we have only looked at the major terpenes that are found in plants around the world. Also, it is still difficult to predict the exact effects of some terpenes as the studies are often conducted on animals and use high concentrations of terpenes. There is definitely still much to discover on this subject. Anyway, we hope you found this article informative and that you learned a lot about terpenes, these fascinating cannabis compounds. If you have further questions on any topics related to CBD, please feel free to contact us for assistance. Our team of professionals would love to help and provide you with interesting information. And don’t forget to keep following us on our blog in order to learn more curious content.

Sources:

  1. The “Entourage Effect”: Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31481004)
  2. Medicinal Properties of Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Flavonoids in Cannabis, and Benefits in Migraine, Headache, and Pain: An Update on Current Evidence and Cannabis Science (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327060105)
  3. Borneol (https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/borneol)
  4. Caryophyllene (https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/caryophyllene)
  5. Humulene (https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/humulene)
  6. Inhaled linalool-induced sedation in mice (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18824339)
  7. Ocimene (https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/ocimene)
  8. The Mysterious Cannabis Terpene Phellandrene (https://www.leafly.com/news/science-tech/mysterious-cannabis-terpene-phellandrene)
  9. Phytol metabolism in plants (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30629961)
  10. Essential oil variation, antioxidant and antibacterial activity of mountain fennel (Zaravschanica membranacea (Boiss.) M. Pimen.) (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0926669013003907)
  11. What is terpinolene and what does this cannabis terpene do? (https://www.leafly.com/news/strains-products/least-common-terpene-terpinolene-effects)
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