What Are Terpenes And What Do They Do?

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It doesn't take long for terpenes and cannabinoids (CBD) to intersect. It’s not that they’re the same thing; it’s that they’re in the same places. 

Terpenes are present in several plants, and you probably encounter a handful of them every day. But it's their prominent role in cannabis that launched terpenes as a semi-household name. 

We'll walk you through the natural sources, including cannabis and other plants, and their natural benefits. 

What Are Terpenes? 

Terpenes Facts

Terpenes are natural chemical compounds largely produced by plants and fruits. But a few of them, like squalene, are produced by animals, too -- including us! 

  • Terpene structure is chemically consistent: They're always carbon in groups of 5 and hydrogen in groups of 8. 
  • Terpenes with modified structures, like oxygen added through oxidation, result in a terpenoid. 
  • These are chemically different but functionally the same. 

What Do Terpenes Do?

Out in the real world, you could call terpenes aromatics. They give fruits and plants distinctive smells. 

  • We can isolate or synthesize terpenes, then use them to flavor and scent various products. 
  • Sometimes they naturally end up in what we eat and drink, but you'll also find them in cosmetics, perfume, and household products. 
  • For example, linalool gives lavender, roses, and jasmine their fragrance. Pinene smells of fresh greenness and is incredibly common, from basil and parsley to cedar and conifers.

While smelling good might be enough for us, plants have a specialized use for their terpenes. 

  • The scents can deter would-be predators (when you're a plant, even a tiny insect might be a destructive predator) and help prevent disease. 
  • They might attract beneficial creatures such as pollinators. 

Finally, across all organisms -- and independent of smell -- terpenes help produce biological steroids and hormones. Remember we mentioned squalene? That's the stuff.

CBD Terpenes

So, that's your crash course in terpenes. What does it have to do with CBD? 

You might have already guessed. The cannabis plant isn't just brimming with phytocannabinoids -- a Sativa leaf is also chock-full of terpenes. 

  • They give cannabis its familiar musky scent. 
  • For each strain with its own distinctive smell, you have a unique terpene makeup to thank. 
  • They're also part of the reason behind the bitter, earthy taste of CBD oils (and why we help cut the flavor with citrusy sweetness in our Orange Blossom tinctures).

More importantly, terpenes are bioactive to some degree. They produce effects in the body. But do terpenes get you high? Not at all, just as CBD doesn’t induce any high.

CBD Terpenes

Instead, bundled together with cannabinoids, terpenes produce what's known as the entourage effect -- when all the components in cannabis work together to amplify results. 

  • Usually, we consider this effect in terms of CBD working better when THC is also present, even in trace amounts. 
  • But it involves the plant’s whole host of less prominent cannabinoids and the terpenes, too.
  • That's the main benefit behind full-spectrum CBD, which is the variety we offer at Flora CBD. Since it's an undiluted, whole-plant extract, we regard it as the best choice for this natural boost. 

List of Terpenes in Cannabis and Their Benefits

Let’s take a look at the terpenes most commonly found in cannabis plants. They’re generally present in large amounts and well distributed across many popular strains. (Strains may relate more to weed than CBD, but these are about as common in hemp as marijuana.)

Research is limited so far, but studies hint at terpenes’ benefits. Weedmaps has a comprehensive terpenes chart outlining them, and we’ll touch on a few here. 

Myrcene

One of the most dominant cannabis terpenes is also found in lemongrass, thyme, and hops. Cannabis products high in this terpene (no pun intended) tend to have a strong earthy smell.

Myrcene is classified as very calming, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. So myrcene-dominant hemp may be especially helpful for managing pain and sleeplessness.

Limonene

List of Terpenes in Cannabis and Their Benefits: Limonene

Limonene isn’t uncommon in cannabis, but it’s a bright, citrusy terpene we associate with lemons and orange rinds. That scent profile carries over to limonene cannabis.

Limonene is described as more energizing, helpful for managing stress and low mood. Initial studies also suggest limonene can boost the immune system, promoting overall wellness, among many other limonene protective benefits like anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Terpinolene

Terpinolene occurs in everything from lilacs to nutmeg to apples. In cannabis, it produces a floral-esque herbal smell. 

Leafly describes cannabis with this terpene as energizing and uplifting, while preliminary animal research finds terpinolene sedative. Since studies are so limited, there may be a disconnect between initial findings and wider anecdotal evidence. 

But this illustrates why it’s so important to try products for yourself and find out your individual results. Terpenes have real effects, but they’re only one small part of a larger equation when it comes to CBD.

Caryophyllene

Beta-caryophyllene is a spicy, herbal terpene found in black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves. In hemp, it lends a sharp, slightly woody aroma. 

It’s unique among terpenes because it can interact with our bodies’ endocannabinoid system. For example, studies suggest caryophyllene may act as a pain reliever, with anti-inflammatory and sedating properties. And since it can bind to cannabinoid receptors, it might provide holistic benefits in a way very similar to CBD itself.

Takeaway

Flora full-spectrum CBD contains all the original goodness of the hemp plant, from the cannabinoids to the terpenes to the flavonoids (the final piece of the full-spectrum puzzle).

But at the end of the day, specific terpenes aren’t going to ultimately make or break your CBD experience. They’re a plant compound distinct from cannabinoids -- yet complementary.

  • Aside from being aromatic, terpenes help trigger the synergistic entourage effect.
  • Terpenes bring their own benefits to the table. 
  • They might enhance an existing quality of the CBD or tone it down, bringing better balance. 

What they won’t do is overpower your CBD in any negative ways. So, give full-spectrum a try and feel free to experiment with terpenes. They can only add to your CBD experience.

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