What are Terpenes?
Indica, Sativa, THC, and cannabinoids are commonly associated terms within the cannabis industry. Recently, a newer term has emerged and has been used with growing frequency: Terpenes.
Also called terps and terpenoids, terpenes are the compounds in cannabis that give it distinctive and often intense aromas, and flavors are popping up in consumer products everywhere. Terpenes are naturally occurring compounds found in plants and in some animals.
Terpenes have only recently started to become a popular product in the cannabis space. In the last year, many new specialty terpene companies are infiltrating the market as more people learn about the benefits of mixing terpenes into their CBD or marijuana products.
What Do Terpenes Do?
Plants create terpenes to protect themselves from predators or to lure pollinators. They help give the plant flavors, aromas, and colors associated with certain types of vegetation. Some terpenes act as protective agents for some plants by helping them recover from damages and keeping them away from germs and bacteria. While these properties mostly help the plants, what else are terpenes used for?
The idea is that terpenes enhance the health benefits of the products either alone or synergistically with other terpenes, THC, CBD, and other minor cannabinoids found in cannabis. Most research has focused on the health effects of individual terpenes.
Manufacturers isolate these terpenes to make scents and flavors in things like food, perfumes, and other body products. Others also use them to make dyes, pesticides, and cleaning solvents.
Cannabis terpenes are what give strains different aromas and tastes. As the cannabis plant dies, the cannabis terpenes oxidize to become terpenoids. People use cannabis-derived terpenes for different purposes like relieving anxiety, depression, and inflammation–depending on the type.
How Do They Compare To CBD and THC?
There are more than 100 cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant, but CBD and THC are the most common. While cannabinoids and terpenes can help you understand what to expect from a cannabis plant, they are different chemical compounds.
While terpenes help you identify the cannabis strain, they also interact with the endocannabinoid system. The body absorbs and uses them differently than it does CBD and THC. In full-spectrum cannabis, the three compounds work synergistically to give you the entourage effect.
That means they alter or enhance the effects of CBD and THC in your body. A few studies show that people who took CBD-containing terpenes had better relief in epilepsy and anxiety than people who took pure CBD.
Terpenes For Therapeutic Effects
When researching which terpenes are right for you, it is important to know your why. For example, are you seeking pain relief, fighting inflammation, or do you need help sleeping? Terpenes can be added to your oil to help boost a particular set of benefits for your CBD oil.
You can either find strain-specific extracts that have the terpenes you’re looking for or order individual terpenes:
- Best terpenes for sleep — linalool, myrcene, nerolidol
- Best terpenes for Inflammation — bisabolol, borneol, linalool, myrcene, pinene, terpineol, nerolidol
- Best stimulating Terpenes — geraniol, pinene, limonene, valencine
- Best terpenes for anxiety — caryophyllene, myrcene, nerolidol
- Best terpenes for pain — bisabolol, borneol, caryophyllene
What to Look For When Shopping for Terpenes
Extracting terpenes requires specialty equipment to do correctly and responsibly. More primitive methods involve the use of toxic chemical solvents like butane or hexane. The best companies in this space are using much safer methods of steam distillation or supercritical CO2 to remove the terpenes.
Be careful and know where your terpenes are sourced, as some companies are selling synthetic fragrance oils under the guise of “all-natural terpene extracts.” Fragrance oils do not offer any health benefits, and they bring a risk of an allergic reaction, irritation, or other harmful side effects. Some of these compounds have even been shown to interfere with hormone activity in humans (also known as endocrine disruption).