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CBD Terpenes: The Health and Wellness Potential of Hemp’s Aromatic Compounds

Written By Andy Papilion Jul 13th 2022
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Terpenes are naturally occurring molecules that give plants their characteristic colors, flavors, and aromas. Plants produce terpenes to attract pollinators, repel predators, ward off pathogens, and recover from damage. Research shows that many plant terpenes are also bioactive, meaning the same elements that protect the beauty of nature can have a significant impact on your physical and emotional health.1

Fragrant plant extracts have been used to heal the mind, body, and spirit throughout history. Although researchers investigating the role of terpenes once believed these natural plant elements beneficial because of the way fragrance molecules stimulate the emotional centers of the brain, today, it’s clear that many terpenes cross the blood-brain barrier, transmit electrical impulses, and have the potential to influence numerous processes throughout your body.2

Terpenes and Cannabinoids Have a Synergistic Relationship

Green plants, green flowering plants, in particular, tend to produce a vast number of terpenes. The therapeutic potential of the plant depends on its unique terpene profile. Industrial hemp plants produce more than 200 different terpenes. Some contribute to the flavor of the plant extracts; others play a considerable role in their therapeutic potential.

Like cannabinoids, some terpenes have the potential to support immune system function, fight inflammation, and soothe your body. Although terpenes and cannabinoids are shown to have considerable therapeutic potential on their own, research confirms that the terpenes and many cannabinoids in hemp-derived CBD have a synergistic relationship.3

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle is believed the first to proclaim that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Herbalists have applied this concept, synergy, to explain why whole plants provide more benefit to our bodies than isolated nutrients, how active components work together to create an effect greater than each plant element contributes on its own. Current research shows that the terpene profile of your hemp extract can have a considerable impact on how your CBD tinctures, capsules, topicals, and gummies might make you feel.

Exploring Some of the Many Terpenes in Hemp Extracts

Although hemp extract contains hundreds of aromatic molecules, only a few are found in high enough concentrations to be considered therapeutically significant. Unlike cannabinoids, the terpenes in full-plant extracts are also found in other plant sources. You may be familiar with a few of the following examples:

The Calming Potential of Myrcene (Mc)

  • Myrcene has a fruity, clove-like aroma and is believed responsible for the calming effects of lemongrass and hops. The myrcene produced in industrial hemp enhances the transport of the plant’s cannabinoids to the brain and improves transdermal absorption. Ginger, cardamom, celery, black pepper, and rosemary are familiar sources of this potentially calming terpene.4

The Analgesic Properties of Linalool (Ln)

  • Linalool has a floral aroma often describes as a “citrusy-lavender” with a hint of spice. Lavender, jasmine, basil, and thyme also contain linalool.5

The Antioxidant Potential of Caryophyllene (Cr)

  • TheCaryophyllene in industrial hemp extract is also found in oregano and pepper oil. The terpene has a spicy, woody flavor. As the only terpene in cannabis plants known to interact specifically with endocannabinoid system receptors, caryophyllene is believed to contribute to the anti-inflammatory potential of the plant extracts. This aromatic molecule is also present in cinnamon and basil. 6,7

The Many Potential Benefits of Pinene (Pn)

  • Often used in medications as a local antiseptic and anti-inflammatory agent, pinene, as its name implies, is responsible for the distinctive aromas of pine. The aromatic molecule also contributes to the aroma of frankincense and juniper berry. Studies suggest pinene can increase energy levels, improve concentration, and enhance feelings of personal satisfaction by influencing the receptors that regulate moods and emotions.8

The Calming Properties of Limonene (Lm)

  • Limonene contributes to the distinctive aromas of citrus fruit. Research investigating its health and wellness potential suggests limonene has anti-inflammatory properties. Limonene also helps other terpenes penetrate cell membranes.9

Cannabinoid-Terpene Interactions Maximize the Benefits of Synergy

Terpenes play a significant role in the modulation of the cannabinoids in full-spectrum and broad-spectrum hemp extracts, even more than cannabis researchers initially realized.

In 1998, while Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam and his colleagues identified some of the many active plant elements in cannabis that worked together synergistically, they noticed that cannabis extracts also contained many inert components that appeared to have no significant effect on their own. However, through their research, they found that many of these inactive components produce an effect when combined with other inactive elements. When the inactive elements combined to create active compounds, those newly activated substances amplify the impact of the cannabinoid-terpene interaction, producing the phenomenon Mechoulam and his team identified as the entourage effect.10

Selecting High-Quality CBD Products with Natural Terpenes

If you’re intrigued by the benefit-enhancing potential of plant terpenes and the entourage effect, you’ll want to select CBD products made with full-spectrum or broad-spectrum hemp extracts. Full-spectrum CBD contains all the additional cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in the same ratios as the original plant source, including the trace amounts of THC (0.3 percent or less). Broad-spectrum CBD delivers a similar cannabinoid/terpene profile, but the THC is removed during extraction and processing.*

Terpenes can also be isolated from plant extracts, then added to CBD products to alter the flavor, aroma, or therapeutic potential. Since products made with pure CBD isolate do not contain additional cannabinoids or terpenes and contain 0% THC, you’ll experience the effects of CBD on its own. Products made with CBD isolate are most often preferred by CBD users who don’t care for the flavor or distinctive aroma of cannabis terpenes.

To learn more about CBD’s many potential health and wellness benefits, visit CBDistillery™ to download The Ultimate CBD User Guide, browse our #CBD Movement blog, or listen to our latest CBD Movement podcast. Then consider browsing our quality assortment of CBD tinctures, vape products, gummies, topicals, and CBD softgels. All CBDistillery™ CBD, CBG+CBD, and CBN+CBD products are third-party tested to ensure the quality, purity, and potency of every product offered.

* Third-party tested to ensure non-detectable levels of THC (less than .05%)

Additional Resources:

  1. New Phytologist Foundation. E Pichersky, R Raguso. (2016 September 08) Why Do Plant Produce So Many Terpenes?
  2. Scientia Pharmaceutica. K Sowdhararajan, S Kim. (2016 November 29) Influences of Fragrances on Human Psychophysiological Activity: With Special Reference to Human Electroencephalographic Response.
  3. Project CBD. (2020) Terpenes and the Entourage Effect
  4. Nutraceuticals. J Hartsel et al. (2016) Cannabis Sativa and Hemp.
  5. Molecular Cancer Therapies. H Han et al. (2016 April) Linalool-Incorporated Nanoparticles as a Novel Anticancer Agent for Epithelial Ovarian Carcinoma.
  6. PNAS. J Gertsch et al. (2008 June 23) Beta-Caryophyllene Is a Dietary Cannabinoid.
  7. Drug Development and Delivery. (2017 May) Non-Cannabis Therapy – Cannabinoid Therapy Without Using Cannabis: Direct Effects Topical B-Caryophyllene.
  8. Biomolecules. B Salehi et al. (2019 November 09) Therapeutic Potential of A- and B- Pinene: A Miracle Gift of Nature.
  9. Very Well Health. C Wong. (2020 August 09) The Health Benefits of D- Limonene.
  10. European Journal of Pharmacology. S Ben-Shabat et al. An Entourage effect: Inactive Endogenous Fatty Acid Glycerol Esters Enhance 2-Arichidonoyl-Glycerol Cannabinoid Activity.