With all the attention given to THC and CBD, it is easy to overlook the important role played by terpenes. These essential oils are located in the trichomes of the marijuana plant, and are responsible for the wonderfully diverse array of aromas and flavors associated with weed.
Terpenes are volatile molecules and evaporate easily, which means you have to be careful when vaping CBD-rich oil. If the temperature gets too hot, you will burn off most of the terpenes and potentially miss out on a host of medicinal effects.
There are approximately 200 terpenes in weed, although it is possible that many more lay undiscovered. However, only a small fraction appear in significant enough amounts that enable us to grasp their scent. The hemp plant contains an estimated 120 terpenes and alas, the processing method used by companies determines how many terpenes remain in the CBD oil you use.
Terpenes, Terpenes, Everywhere!
The number of terpenes found in marijuana merely scratches the surface of these interesting molecules. In fact, scientists have discovered over 20,000 of them and they appear to be critical elements of essential oils. Moreover, you probably don’t realize that you can find terpenes in food additives and perfumes!
As such, the average person is exposed to hundreds of terpenes daily without realizing it. For instance, plants such as basil, mint, and rosemary have a strong terpene profile, which is why they are known for their aromas and potential for aromatherapy.
Here are a few common terpenes, along with their perceived therapeutic effects:
- Vitamin A: This is probably the most surprising entry. Also known as retinol, Vitamin A helps our vision in dim light and improves the body’s natural defenses against infection and illness. It is the only terpene on the list that is not found in weed.
- Limonene: Found in the cannabis plant, citrus fruits, and peppermint, limonene has antidepressant and anti-bacterial effects. There is even a suggestion that it exhibits anti-carcinogenic properties, though this is not proven.
- Beta-Caryophyllene: This comes from the sesquiterpene family of terpenoids, and is found in oregano and black pepper. It is useful for treating certain ulcers and is potentially a therapeutic compound for autoimmune disorders and inflammatory conditions.
- Myrcene: Myrcene is one of the most common terpenes, and is found in most hemp and cannabis varieties. You can also find it in thyme, parsley, and bay leaves, and it is sometimes used to help treat insomnia and muscle cramps.
- Linalool: Linalool is associated with lavender, although it is also available in other flowers. It provides a soothing effect and is useful for treating anxiety. It works synergistically with CBD to relieve chronic pain, but when added to a THC-heavy oil, linalool has a sedative effect.
- Humulene: This is another member of the sesquiterpene family and is found in cannabis sativa, hops, and Vietnamese coriander. It is sometimes blended with beta-caryophyllene as a remedy for inflammation. Humulene has been a favorite in Chinese medicine for centuries, and is occasionally used as an appetite suppressant to aid in weight loss. Overall, it is said to be anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial.
- Pinene: As the name suggests, Pinene offers a pine and fir aroma. This terpene is found in conifers, pine woods, and citrus fruits, as well as in cannabis. In medicine, Pinene is used as an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and expectorant. In Chinese medicine, Pinene has been used as an anti-cancer agent for centuries.
What Does Science Say About the Therapeutic Effects of Terpenes?
As you can tell from their descriptions, terpenes are often championed as a form of alternative medicine. Therefore, it is essential for your CBD oil to contain terpenes. Although CBD isolates can also potentially help certain conditions, research suggests that adding terpenes to CBD oil will increase its efficacy as a medical treatment. The process of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes working together is known as the ‘entourage effect.’
A 2011 report* by Dr. Ethan Russo, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, analyzed the therapeutic effects of terpenes. In his conclusion, Russo said that marijuana chemotypes rich in phytocannabinoids and terpenes could “help improve the therapeutic index of cannabis extracts containing THC, or other base phytocannabinoids.” In other words, adding terpenes to CBD oil (or THC oil for that matter) offered a potentially better medical outcome.
A 2008 study* by Dr. Jurg Gertsch, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analyzed beta-caryophyllene’s binding affinity for the CB2 receptor and said it was a dietary cannabinoid. At the time of writing, it is the only terpene known to activate a CB receptor directly. This is one of the main reasons why leafy green vegetables are so healthy.
There is still a lot of research that must be conducted into terpenes, but it seems as if specific terpenoids dilate capillaries in the lungs. As a result, when you vape CBD oil laden with terpenes, the cannabidiol enters the bloodstream more easily. Nerolidol is a terpenoid known for its sedative properties, and it penetrates the skin and improves the absorption of cannabinoids when added topically. This makes it a key ingredient of any CBD oil that purports to ease localized chronic pain.
Final Thoughts on Terpenes in CBD Oil
Basically, terpenes work synergistically with the CBD found in hemp or marijuana, have their own potential medical benefits, and are responsible for your weed’s color, taste, and smell. When purchasing CBD oil, make sure you only spend money on a product that is backed up with a full lab report that shows the oil’s CBD and terpene content.
It is also a fact that a CBD oil’s terpene content and concentration could affect the way you feel. While one group of terpenoids could boost your energy, another set could make you feel sleepy. While the Hemp Farming Act will hopefully make a difference if it is passed into law, at present the CBD market is largely unregulated. That’s why you need a lab report from a reputable third-party source – otherwise, you don’t really know what you’re getting.
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