If you’re researching CBD, whether you’re currently using it or learning more about it, you’ve very likely run into information about terpenes. While you might not have spent much time exploring more in-depth about what terpenes are, they do play an essential part in how CBD affects the body, and individual strains of terpenes will affect your body in their own distinct ways.
We believe that understanding the role terpenes play in the efficacy of the CBD products you use is essential to determining the right products for you. In this article, we will examine the role that terpenes play in your overall health, especially in relation to how they interact with CBD. Read on to learn more!
What are Terpenes?
Although you’ve likely heard of terpenes in accordance with their relation to CBD, terpenes are not exclusive to cannabis. They are found in many plants, as well as animals, bacteria, and fungi. They’re used in an enormous variety of consumer products, including perfume, flavorings, essential oils, and medicine. The science of mass spectrometry has given us the ability to identify countless types of terpenes, allowing us to discover more about what they can potentially do. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on terpenes and cannabinoids to help you make more informed decisions when it comes to the CBD products you use.
We mentioned that terpenes could be identified through mass spectrometry, but another way to determine is through smell. Each strain has a distinctive aroma, which can range from floral to citrusy to piney to earthy…and everywhere in between!
Some plants, including hemp, employ terpenes as a way to repel pests and germs and even kill predators. Terpenes also attract bees and other pollinators for the purpose of reproduction, and they can also heal damage to plants and act as their immune system against disease.
Where do Terpenes Come From?
We’re going to focus specifically on how terpenes are isolated from the CBD plant here. Let’s start with this fact: not all cannabis plants are created equal. Much like the hops plants that provide aroma and flavor to beer, cannabis and hemp plants have innumerable strains, each with its own aromatic and chemical composition profile.
Trichomes are the tiny hairs on the cannabis plant that produce terpenes, phytocannabinoids, and flavonoids. When you touch the flower, stem, and leaves, this is what produces the sticky, resiny substance that comes away on your fingers.
Extracting terpenes from the plant is a delicate process—heat breaks down terpenes fairly quickly but is also a crucial part of the CBD oil production process. Some producers use solvents to extract the terpenes before applying heat to finish the cannabis extraction. Once these two separate processes are complete, manufacturers can re-combine the terpenes with the CBD oil for the finished product. Other methods can include vacuum-drying ovens, supercritical carbon dioxide extraction, and winterization. To ensure that the terpenes are still in a bioavailable condition in the finished product, be sure to read the third-party lab report associated with the product you’re using, which will show how much is in the sample.
How Terpenes Affect the Body
Now that you understand a bit about the role terpenes play in plant bodies, let’s explore more about how terpenes work and how they affect the human body. With this knowledge, you should be able to identify the terpenes that are most appealing to you, and maybe even seek them out when you buy CBD.
How Terpenes Work
CBD is not a one-size-fits-all product, so investigating a product’s terpenes will help you make a more informed buying decision. Up to 200 terpenes have been identified in hemp and cannabis plants, and each has specific properties and functions in the human body. Where some create a calming or sedative effect, others can produce a more energetic result, and others can help pain or even increase sex drive.
Think of aromatherapy, and how you feel when you inhale lavender, lemon, rosemary, sage, or peppermint. Each aroma invokes a distinct experience. For example, where lavender has been found to inspire relaxation, peppermint and lemon are more likely to make you feel energetic. While some people prefer to use a diffuser to enjoy the aromas, others mix them with teas, apply them directly to the skin, or take them sublingually. Please use caution before using any essential oil and conduct thorough research to ensure the safest methods for use! The same concept applies to terpenes. Each has a distinctive profile, interacts with different molecules and receptors in the body, and produces a unique effect. We will cover some of the most popular terpenes below and how they have the potential to affect the body.
Entourage Effect of Terpenes
What is the entourage effect? Think about this: 1 + 1 = 2, but when you combine cannabinoids with terpenes, 1 + 1 can equal 3, 5, 7, and beyond. To quote Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Terpenes and CBD work synergistically with one another in what’s known as the entourage effect. Using CBD as an example to illustrate this, it means that mixing terpenes with cannabinoids would create a different impact than only taking one on its own. Terpenes can affect the way that CBD binds to your endocannabinoid receptors, producing amplified results in some cases…or even buffering effects.
So if, for example, you opt for a CBD isolate, it will be free of all terpenes and flavonoids and only contain CBD. You might decide to introduce your own blend of terpenes, which you can procure separately to add to CBD isolate. Mixing terpenes with CBD isolate isn’t always the best option for many, so we recommend checking out broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD oils and reading the lab reports for the brands you use to determine which terpenes are present.
Formulating Terpenes with CBD
Understanding the entourage effect and the production process for formulating terpenes with CBD oil will provide a better understanding of the quality of the products you use. Let’s look at a quick comparison of full- and broad-spectrum formulas, as well as isolate, and how they can impact the overall outcome.
High-quality full-spectrum CBD contains higher levels of CBD, as well as trace amounts of TCH (up to 0.03%), essential oils, and, of course, terpenes. This type of product is formulated with the entourage effect in mind because of its composition and is considered to be much more effective than CBD isolate, for example. The amount of THC in full-spectrum CBD is not enough to produce a high feeling.
Broad-spectrum CBD is similar to full-spectrum, but when it is extracted, it is done with all the terpenes, cannabinoids, and essential oils, but is put through a refinement process to eliminate any remaining traces of THC. This type of CBD also triggers the entourage effect, and the main difference between this and full-spectrum CBD is that it doesn’t have any THC in it.
Isolate CBD is the purest form of CBD. During the production process, all cannabinoids (aside from the cannabidiol) are stripped away, including essential oils and terpenes. CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD and still does provide the same benefits of CBD, but it does not produce the entourage effect.
The type of CBD you use will depend on the desired outcome you’re hoping for. Some may also opt for a broad-spectrum or isolate because they’re cautious regarding drug testing for work or other reasons. Keep in mind that while these two products do not contain THC and are lab tested for trace amounts of it, a drug test might still show up as THC because it cannot distinguish between different cannabinoids. If this of concern to you, proceed with caution when using CBD.
Terpenes and Flavonoids
A compound that is similar to terpenes is flavonoids, which work in concert with terpenes and cannabinoids to produce therapeutic effects. They are similar to terpenes in that they produce flavor and aroma, and roughly 20 compounds have been identified in cannabis (they are also known as cannaflavins). Terpenes and flavonoids both protect the plant, but flavonoids provide color–that’s why you see such a beautiful array of hues in cannabis plants!
Benefits of Flavonoids in CBD
Some flavonoids have been studied enough to identify some potential health benefits. Cannaflavin A is a compound that one study found to have more potent anti-inflammatory effects than aspirin. Early studies are finding that other strains have the potential to help fight infection and fungus, where others have antioxidant properties. They also play a role in the entourage effect to modify and/or bolster the effects of cannabinoids in the endocannabinoid system.
More research is needed to fully understand the effects of terpenes with flavonoids in the body, but what we have seen so far shows promise.
The Difference Between Terpenes and Terpenoids
In our research, we have found that terpenes and terpenoids are used interchangeably. While they are similar, terpenes are “wet” and contain carbon, and terpenoids are “dry” and contain oxygen. Terpenoids actually start out as terpenes, but after oxidation, terpenes become terpenoids. This usually happens when the plants are dried or chemically altered.
Types of Terpenes
Knowing more about the types of terpenes that are available in CBD will help form a better understanding of how the product you’re using can potentially benefit you. While this list below is by no means exhaustive, it is comprised of the most common terpenes found in CBD, CBN, and CBG products.
Before using any terpene, it is crucial to understand that many more studies are required to truly assess their possible benefits. While these prospective health benefits have been identified through preliminary studies, terpenes are not designed to replace the care of a medical professional.