Terpenes have gained a lot of attention in recent years — and it’s easy to see why. These amazing plant compounds are to thank for many of the rich flavours and scents we all enjoy, after all.
Cannabis sativa plants have a rich and well-studied terpene profile. If you’re interested in adding CBD products to your wellness routine or in upping your CBD game, you’ll want to learn about the role terpenes play.
This guide explains what terpenes are, why people are going crazy for them, and what to do to ensure your CBD products are rich in terpenes.
What Are Terpenes? Why Do They Matter?
Terpenes, also called isoprenoids, make up the most diverse type of compound in plants. Together, they create a plant’s aroma, taste, and pigment. Terpenes form part of the defence mechanism plants have developed over time, and they can repel certain pests while attracting pollinators. (As an aside, it’s interesting to note that even animals can have terpenes, but we’re not discussing that today!)
Plant terpenes developed to protect plants — but that’s not the only thing they’re good for.
Not only do terpenes help us enjoy wonderful aromas and flavours, but they can also have medicinal properties.
Research into the potential benefits of terpenes is still in its early stages, unfortunately, but it’s already clear that many widely-beloved plants have interesting terpenes:
- Tea (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulifolia)
- Citrus fruits
- Tea tree
- Cannabis sativa (marijuana and industrial hemp)
The terpenes in thyme and citrus fruits have antifungal properties, for example, while Spanish sage has been found to improve memory and learning. The terpenes found in lemongrass can be incorporated into effective insect repellents.
While humankind is only just beginning to learn about the potential therapeutic benefits of terpenes, we all experience their aromatic benefits every day. Terpenes play a vital role in shaping the aroma and flavour of any plant you eat! If you enjoy perfume or aromatherapy, you can bet that terpenes are to thank for that, too.
What Terpenes Do Cannabis Sativa Plants Have?
Cannabis terpenes have attracted a lot of attention, and they’re among the better-studied types of terpenes. Over 400 cannabis terpenes have been identified to date, each with different characteristics. It would be impossible to cover them all, so we’ll have to be selective.
The most common terpenes found in Cannabis sativa plants include:
Research into the potential health benefits of these terpenes remains ongoing — and the US National Institutes of Health has funded US$3 million worth of research seeking to uncover the potential pain relief effects of cannabis terpenes.
However, it’s important to note that CBD manufacturers and stockists can’t make any health claims related to cannabidiol, which the UK considers a novel food product. We’ll stick to the impact cannabis terpenes have on the taste and aroma of the products that contain them, then:
- Myrcene is also present in hops and mangoes. It creates an earthy, comforting aroma.
- Pinene, which gets its name from the fact that it’s also in pine trees, has a fresh, woodsy aroma that makes it popular in aromatherapy.
- Limonene is the main terpene in citrus fruits, as the name already gives away. Nobody will be surprised to learn that limonene has a fresh, fruity flavour.
- Beta-caryophyllene, also found in black pepper and cloves, is best known for its spicy flavour.
- Terpinolene has a floral flavour profile and is also present in cumin and nutmeg.
- Finally, Ocimene adds a little sweetness.
Do CBD Products Contain Terpenes?
CBD consumers who are interested in terpenes should know that three different types of cannabidiol products are on the market:
- Full-spectrum CBD products contain cannabidiol as well as flavonoids, essential oils, and terpenes. This most diverse type of CBD can also have a THC content of up to 0.02 per cent in the UK.
- Broad-spectrum CBD products have undergone further processing to eliminate as much THC as possible. Only trace amounts are left behind. These products will still contain flavonoids, essential oils, and terpenes.
- CBD isolates have been processed to isolate cannabidiol. This pure product does not contain any other cannabis compounds.
CBD enthusiasts may assume that full-spectrum CBD products would automatically give them access to all the 400-odd terpenes that industrial hemp naturally contains, but that isn’t necessarily true.
Terpenes are fragile — and the process used to extract cannabidiol from hemp plants can cause some to be lost.
Research suggests that supercritical fluid (CO2) extraction and organic solvent extraction are among the most promising ways to extract terpenes from industrial hemp plants. Some terpenes may be lost during these extraction processes too, however.
Heat is one of the environmental conditions that can destroy terpenes. Therefore, it makes sense that any further processing may reduce the terpene content of a CBD product — in other words, you may find more terpenes in CBD oil than in more processed CBD products, such as CBD gummies.
What Should CBD Consumers Who Want Terpenes Look Out For?
Both full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products may contain a wide variety of terpenes.
Because terpenes may be lost during the manufacturing process, it’s important for informed CBD consumers who would like their CBD products to contain terpenes to take proactive steps.
Some CBD manufacturers subject their products to third-party lab testing. These lab tests can include a terpene profile that shows you exactly what terpenes the product you are interested in contains.
Additionally, some manufacturers add terpenes back into their CBD products, ensuring they are rich in terpenes. These terpenes may be sourced from industrial hemp plants, but they may also come from other plants that contain the same terpenes. Reputable manufacturers are happy to tell customers about the process they use.
Meanwhile, CBD isolates are a pure form of CBD. They contain carrier oils and may be incorporated into products with additional ingredients, but CBD isolates do not come with additional cannabinoids or terpenes.
CBD, Terpenes, and the Entourage Effect: Why Some People Are Passionate About Terpenes
New CBD consumers may know cannabidiol as the primary non-psychoactive component of industrial hemp and assume that the effect they get from CBD products only comes from cannabidiol.
That’s not quite true. Terpenes are exciting natural compounds found in many plants, as well as some animals. They contribute to the overall flavour, aroma, and colouring of a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD product.
Many CBD enthusiasts actively look for cannabidiol products with a rich terpene profile because they believe that terpenes make a positive contribution to the desired effect by working together with cannabidiol. This hypothesis is commonly called the entourage effect, and researchers have also described it as a “botanical synergy”.
For this reason, some consumers specifically choose full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD products, which often contain terpenes. Of course, consumers should note that the entourage effect remains a hypothesis and inform themselves before they make any purchasing decisions.
CBD and Terpenes: A Recap
Scientists have recently woken up to the fact that terpenes — plant compounds that contribute to scent, flavour, and pigment and may have medicinal benefits — are a fascinating area of study. Cannabis terpenes are currently among the most-studied terpenes around, but there’s still a lot to learn about their potential effects.
CBD products with terpenes may have richer flavours and aromas, and they may also impact the effects consumers experience. Some consumers believe that terpenes and CBD work in tandem, creating a so-called entourage effect.
If you’re interested in terpenes, you should know you won’t necessarily find them in all CBD products. CBD isolate products don’t have terpenes, for example. Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products may have terpenes, but you’ll want to look out for third-party lab testing to confirm that.