Have you ever noticed how certain scents can change how you feel? Whether it’s the energizing aroma of a freshly-squeezed lemon, the grounding scent of sage, and even the funky, herbaceous fragrance of hemp, many of the smells we know and love come from terpenes. In this post, we’ll discuss what terpenes are, what they do, and how terpenes affect CBD.
What are terpenes?
Put quite simply, terpenes are a class of aromatic compounds found in plants. Most of the fragrances that plants emit come from the combination of terpenes found in them. Consider the scents of pine, citrus peels, and flowers like lavender—terpenes are responsible for these unique aromatic experiences.
The term “terpenes” refers to the organic compounds as they exist in the live plant. These hydrocarbons are the main components of essential oils. When terpenes oxidize, they become what is known as terpenoids, though these terms are often used interchangeably.
Terpenes are used commercially in the creation of fragrances for a variety of products including perfumes, cleaning supplies, and bath products. Some of these fragrances are naturally derived, while others are lab-synthesized.
More recently, terpenes have become a topic of conversation in the legal cannabis industry. Terpenes contribute to the flavors and the aromas given off by various strains of hemp, but there may be more to the story. Researchers have become increasingly interested in how terpenes may also contribute to the effects of hemp extracts like CBD.
The terpenes found in hemp are produced in the trichomes of cannabis plants, which are the same glands that synthesize cannabinoids. Different strains of cannabis produce dramatically different terpene profiles, which may be one reason why these strains each promote a unique experience.
Why do plants produce terpenes?
It’s likely that terpenes have an evolutionary benefit for plants. The terpenes found in some plants are highly effective at repelling pests and deterring grazing animals. For example, the terpenes found in citronella essential oil have been widely used to repel mosquitoes and other insects.
Other combinations of terpenes in some plants can attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. This is one of the reasons for the pleasant scents of many flowering plants. Terpenes may also protect plants from disease or help them recover from damage.
The specific terpene profile of a hemp plant cultivated for CBD depends on the variety and genetics of the strain. Environmental factors such as climate, soil, and the use of fertilizers can all impact terpene production. Sustainable agriculture practices, like those used at Luce Farm, can improve terpene production by responding to site-specific conditions and harvesting at peak production levels.
What plants contain terpenes?
Many associate terpenes with cannabis, as they are found abundantly in these plants. Terpenes, however, are found in a wide variety of plants including:
- Citrus fruits
- Black pepper
- And many more!
Even some insects emit terpenes. One interesting example is the soldier termite (Nasutitermes corniger). This species has a horn-like protrusion known as a “fontanellar gun” that it uses to spray a cocktail of terpenes as a defense against predators.
Types of Terpenes
Scientists have identified hundreds of terpenes in a wide range of living organisms. The following are a few of the major terpenes found in hemp.
- Myrcene is the terpene that is most abundant in North American cannabis cultivars, comprising up to 65% in some terpene profiles. The aroma of myrcene is often described as earthy and citrusy. Others have described it as the scent of clove or musk. This terpene is also found in mangoes, bay leaves, hops, and lemongrass. Myrcene has been studied for its potential effects on inflammation, oxidation, and much more. It may also promote better sleep.
- Limonene is the second most abundant terpene found in cannabis. Have you ever noticed how the smell of a fresh lemon or orange peel can uplift your spirits? Lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits also contain significant amounts of limonene which contribute to their bright and citrusy scents. Limonene may offer mood-improving benefits that can help you feel less tense after a long day.
- Pinene is another terpene found abundantly in cannabis. There are two types: alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. As the name would suggest, pinene is responsible for the distinctive scent of pine. It is found in many coniferous plants as well as rosemary, basil, and parsley. If you’ve ever inhaled the delightful aroma of a freshly pruned pine bough, you’ve probably already enjoyed the invigorating and mood-elevating effects of pinene. This terpene may also promote focus and alertness.
- Linalool is responsible for the recognizable spicy and floral smell of hemp and many other flowers and herbs including cinnamon, mint, and coriander. It’s also a major component in lavender essential oil. Linalool is often used in aromatherapy to promote a sense of calm well-being. Many people use lavender candles, lotions, or bath salts right before bed to help enjoy a good night’s rest.
- Caryophyllene may be one of the most interesting terpenes because of how it interacts with the human body. It’s the only terpene that binds to CB2 receptors and can thus have a direct influence on our internal biology. CB2 receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system, the neuromodulatory system responsible for how we experience the benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids. Caryophyllene’s aroma is described as spicy and pungent. It is also found in spices including black pepper, cloves, oregano, and many others.
How Do Terpenes Affect CBD?
So what do terpenes have to do with CBD? You may have noticed that some CBD products are called “full-spectrum” while others are labeled “CBD isolate”. As the name would suggest, CBD isolate is pure CBD, while full-spectrum hemp extract contains CBD along with other cannabinoids and terpenes.
While “pure CBD” may sound like the most effective option, there’s evidence that using a wide range of plant compounds can actually amplify the effects of hemp extracts. Like CBD, terpenes are considered “bioactive,” which means they are known to have an impact on the human body.
Full-spectrum extract is said to enhance the benefits of CBD through a phenomenon called the “entourage effect.” In a 2010 scientific review, Dr. Ethan Russo concluded that the compounds in cannabis work synergistically in the presence of each other. In other words, the presence of terpenes may make hemp extract more effective compared to taking CBD alone.
At Luce Farm Wellness, we’re proud to offer organic, full-spectrum hemp extract so that you can get the most out of your CBD (or CBG) experience. These products allow you to take full advantage of the entourage effect with all the major cannabinoids and terpenes working together.
What are the benefits of CBD with terpenes?
How can aromatic compounds impact CBD? Can scent really benefit wellness? More research is needed to determine all the benefits that terpenes have to offer, but the early research is promising.
To get a better idea of how terpenes may benefit humans, we can look to another emerging facet of natural wellness: aromatherapy. This holistic wellness practice uses plant extracts to promote health and wellness. The plant extracts used in aromatherapy contain terpenes like those found in full-spectrum CBD, including limonene, myrcene, and linalool.
Practitioners of aromatherapy rave about the positive effects they experience with the use of these aromatic compounds. Many have used essential oils to support their sleep, help manage their emotions, and even ease physical discomfort.
Though there isn’t enough research yet to confirm their effects, it stands to reason that these same terpenes used in aromatherapy could offer similar positive benefits when used in combination with CBD. Check out the following studies to learn more about the growing body of research regarding the positive effects of CBD with terpenes:
Current research supports the belief that terpenes have many of the same benefits as cannabinoids on human wellness and that these compounds may work better together. Whole plant hemp extract, like the full-spectrum CBD products offered by Luce Farm Wellness, include a wide range of terpenes, while CBD isolate contains none.
Now that you know a bit more about how terpenes affect CBD, consider giving full-spectrum CBD a try to experience the benefits for yourself.