Although many will be familiar with the CBD compound and its benefits, few are aware of the significance another set of naturally-occurring compounds found in the cannabis plant which are called terpenes play. Whilst we have been aware of the presence of terpenes for a long time, research is now suggesting that terpenes are important in contributing to the overall effectiveness of your cannabis oils, capsules, E-liquids, and any other CBD product.
Terpenes are found in many plants throughout the natural world, and in high concentrations in cannabis. They imbue the plant with its distinctive aroma, but their salient properties go beyond mere scent: like CBD, they actually interact with your body’s Endocannabinoid system. The sets of cannabinoid receptors within this system are called CBD1 and CBD2, with the former being abundant in the central nervous system, and the latter in the certain types of brain and vascular cells. Both cannabinoids and terpenes play a role within these receptors, triggering certain responses in your body, which can lead to certain effects such as reduced anxiety and inflammation, to name a few.
Due to regulations in the UK, full spectrum products are no longer viable, as they exceed permissible THC levels. Isolated extracts are a way around this; however, this type of extract, as well as removing the THC component, also removes all the other minor cannabinoids, such as CBDA and the naturally occurring terpenes and other beneficial cannabis compounds. Therefore, a more preferable option is a good quality broad spectrum extract, which when carefully extracted retain a large concentration of terpenes whilst at the same time reducing the THC content to below detectable levels and remaining legal in the UK.
Terpenes can also be added in afterwards and are generally in this application derived from natural non cannabis sources. This is becoming more common, in part as a result of some hemp strains having a lower concentration of terpenes than illegal recreational strains of cannabis. This also allows for the terpene profile to be controlled and tailored with a wide scope of possible uses and potential benefits as well as aroma’s. Since each strain of cannabis has its own unique concentration and combination of terpenes, these can also be mimicked and added to CBD extracts in order to produce a similar effect. For instance, the terpene profile of an Indica strain of cannabis can be replicated and added to a Sativa derived extract – since sativa strains are the only strains legally permitted in the UK – this is a way to impart some of the characteristics of an Indica strain which typically produces a more relaxing effect than Sativa strains which are generally more uplifting.
Let’s look at some specific examples of terpenes that are commonly found in the cannabis plant and good quality broad spectrum extracts and explore their properties.
Beta caryophyllene is a natural bicyclic sesquiterpene compound which binds with the CB2 receptors of the Endocannabinoid system found in all mammals. Research has indicated that via this interaction, it may help with anxiety as well as possibly having anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Beta-Caryophyllene is also considered to be a cannabinoid due to the way that it interacts with the endocannabinoid system and is the only terpene which has been recognised as such. BCP can be found in non-cannabis sources for example cloves contain a significant quantity of Beta-caryophyllene.
Limonene is another common terpene found in sativa strains of cannabis, lending its distinctive citric scent. Certain studies on the terpene in isolation have indicated that it can help to relieve stress, as well as aiding the absorption of other terpenes. Direct inhalation of limonene has even been implicated in increasing serotonin levels, an important neurotransmitter that plays a key role in improving your mood. Limonene as the name suggests is also commonly found in citrus fruits and is commonly used in cleaning products.
Linalool is commonly found in flowers and plants with a spicy scent and interacts with the bodies serotonin receptors which are known to have a powerful effect on mood. Linalool is best known as a key contributor to the aroma present within lavender, though it is also found in hops used in beer, tea and coffee.
Myrcene is found in both sativa and indica strains, as well as in hops, thyme and other plants, which imbues them with the peppery scent. It is very popular in cannabis strains today, and perhaps the terpene with the highest concentration in most CBD products containing terpenes. Myrcene is typically thought to have a relaxing effect, as well as possibly having anti-inflammatory properties. Indica dominant strains typically contain Myrcene and can be associated in part to the couch lock which is a term sometimes used by recreational cannabis users describing being heavily sedated.
Pinenes are terpenes that are commonly found in two forms – Alpha and Beta. Both are abundant throughout the natural world, contained in many plant resins, including pine and cannabis. Both are thought to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions, as well as having unique effects of their own. Alpha Pinene is particularly bioavailable, meaning it is easily absorbed by the body. In addition to its potential anti-inflammatory properties, it has also been suggested to help benefit memory function too.
The Entourage effect is a term that describes the interaction between cannabis compounds and that by combining these compounds, a more powerful result is achieved due to a magnification of their processes. Another way to describe the Entourage effect would be that the overall effect is greater than the sum of its parts. Terpenes play a significant role in delivering the Entourage Effect and without them, the Cannabis plant would not be able to produce the wide number of use cases and profound health benefits that greater understanding of the cannabis plant is continuing to present.
A word of caution on terpenes however, is that they can trigger an allergic reaction. If you are allergic to fragrances, it is likely caused by the terpenes present in them. If a product has too high a concentration of certain terpenes, then this can elicit allergic reactions in people sensitive to them. As long as the added terpenes are in sensible ratios and close to what you find in the plants naturally occurring levels of those terpenes, then there should be little cause for concern.