The word “terpenes” gets a lot of use these days in reference to cannabis, both hemp and marijuana. The relevance of terpenes has come into sharper focus during the past decade as our understanding of their importance in both a medical and recreational cannabis context continues to grow. The cannabis compounds that are of most interest to cannabis consumers and researchers are terpenes—as many as 100 in the genus Cannabis alone—and cannabinoids, with the big two, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), being of most relevance from a commercial perspective.
While abundant in cannabis, terpenes also are commonly found in a range of common plants, trees, and even some insects. They are the primary elements of the essential oils found in various flora, which makes many of them easy to identify. The aromas imparted by terpenes are what makes a pine forest or lilac blossoms smell so refreshing or fresh-cut basil or oregano smell so delicious. While the range of aromas and flavors that can result from terpenes both singly and in combined ratios are what differentiates various strains the most, their effects, particularly in combination with CBD and/or THC, are the primary reasons cannabis strains have such a range of effects and medical applications for physical and mental conditions like anxiety, depression, insomnia, inflammation, and pain.
Aromatherapy and Commercial Products
Plant-based terpenes are what provide soothing results to aromatherapy, and many commercial household products use them as well. Cosmetic products and perfumes contain a range of terpenes, as do many food additives and athletic pain products.
For instance, the terpene limonene is found in citrus oils, primarily the rinds of limes, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits. Lemon oils have long been recognized as an excellent cleaning agent for cutting through grease and deep soil stains. Naturally antibacterial and antiviral, lemon oil has a fresh and clean aroma that makes it a popular additive for household cleaners, air fresheners, and higher-end antibacterial hand sprays.
Other terpenes created from a variety of plants have their own applications for a range of commercial products.
Terpene Benefits to CBD Products
While terpenes provide their own pleasing flavors and therapeutic properties to cannabis strains and concentrates, when working in combination with cannabinoids, a concentrated result commonly referred to as “the entourage effect” comes into play, where terpene and cannabinoid effects are magnified or sometimes tempered or diminished, since CBD in CBD flowers and marijuana is known to counteract the effects of THC.
Since terpenes are purged from cannabinoid concentrates produced through isolate extraction processes, consumers who want to benefit from terpenes and the entourage effect should seek CBD oil that contains them and artisan hemp flower that contains robust terpene profiles as well as prodigious amounts of CBD.
Since marijuana and hemp are both members of the Cannabis sativa species, they contain many of the same terpenes, in various ratios. The following terpenes are known to be common to hemp flower as well as the full-spectrum, whole-plant concentrates derived from it.
Myrcene: Earthy and sweet, myrcene is the most common terpene in cannabis. It yields the deeply relaxing, couch-lock effects that many marijuana indica strains are known to produce. In fact, higher myrcene levels in indica strains are thought to be the primary reason why their effects differ from the motivational effects of sativa. Combined with CBD, myrcene is thought to benefit insomnia and inflammation, and is known to have analgesic properties.
Limonene: Refreshing citrus flavors make limonene easy to identify in many cannabis strains and is particularly present in sativas and some hemp strains. Both limonene and CBD are known to relieve depression and inflammation. Limonene is also thought to aid acid reflux in humans.
Bisabolol. With a light, floral fragrance, Bisabolol is known to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-irritant effects. Although controversial as an anti-cancer agent, Bisabolol is thought to help combat the proliferation of cancer cells associated with leukemia and pancreatic cancer.
Pinene: The pinene terpene is the most prevalent terpene found in various plant species. As its name suggests, pinene is present in many hemp and marijuana strains that have a pine flavor. In addition to it being a primary cannabis terpene, pinene is found in conifers and has antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
Linalool: Found in hops and basil, linalool also is present in popular flowering plants like lavender. Its soft, floral aroma also includes subtle spicy notes. Linalool is known to produce analgesic, antidepressant, and anti-epileptic effects, particularly when consumed in combination with CBD.