This is why terpenes matter

This is why terpenes matter

Terpenes seem to be part of the latest health and wellness trends -  more and more people claim to get benefits from using products containing terpenes, while others are still unsure about them.

Therefore, let’s start by shedding some light on these versatile and a bit mysterious plant substances: Terpenes are a class of chemical compounds and are found naturally in organisms as so-called “secondary metabolites”. 

In total, there are over 8,000 terpenes.  Nearly all terpenes are natural compounds and therefore occur in plants and, less frequently, in animals. Due to their great versatility, they can be divided into several different categories. 

Terpenes have many different qualities and are therefore biologically and pharmacologically very important. They form the major component of the essential oils produced by plants. Therefore, they influence the smells and tastes of plants, trees, and flowers. The soothing smell of lavender, the rejuvenating fragrance of an orange and the fresh smell of lemongrass are caused by terpenes! 

Interesting fact: Did you know that there is a Japanese wellness phenomenon that revolves around terpenes? In Japan, many people enjoy so-called “forest baths”, which include long forest walks for relaxation. This includes breathing in the terpenes that are emitted by the trees and enjoying nature as in as much stillness as possible. Forest bath enthusiasts claim that they feel less stressed and more focused by incorporating long forest walks into their daily routine.

Are terpenes cannabinoids?

Of course, the cannabis plant also contains a variety of terpenes, which show different qualities. Just like CBD and THC, they are formed within the trichomes of the cannabis plant. But are cannabinoids, the active compounds of cannabis,  also considered terpenes?

Not exactly - but just like cannabinoids, terpenes are active plant substances within the cannabis plant. Did you know that researchers have found more than 100 different terpenes in the hemp plant? Yet, the roles of cannabinoids and terpenes are not the same: Terpenes produce certain odours to attract and repel animals, which ensures the survival and dispersal of the respective plant. 

These terpene groups are the most important ones in the cannabis plant: 

  • Monoterpenes (C 10):  Monoterpenes are organic plant compounds that determine the distinctive odour and flavour of the cannabis plant.
  • Sesquiterpenes (C15): Sesquiterpenes are known as one of the fragrant oils of the cannabis plant. Of all terpene groups, researchers have found out that sesquiterpenes are the most potent when it comes to passing the blood-brain barrier in humans. 
  • Diterpenes (C20): Diterpenes represent an additional terpene category within the cannabis plant, which is also found in coffee. Diterpenes are known for their deep, earthy smell and taste.

Besides the fact that terpenes are responsible for the smell and taste of plants, such as the cannabis plant, there are also other possible effects of the versatile plant compounds, which are currently still being investigated. 

Examples of terpenes in Cannabis

Let’s have a look at some of the many terpenes found in the cannabis plant:

  • Caryophyllene: Caryophyllene belongs to the group of sesquiterpenes and is also found in black pepper, rosemary and has a warm, woody and spicy note. 
  • Limonene: Limonene belongs to the category of monoterpenes and is known for its strong orange fragrance. It is also dominant in lemons, oranges (obviously) and grapefruits.
  • Linalool: Linalool is also a member of the “monoterpenoid-family” and offers a slightly spicy, floral bouquet. It is also present in plants such as lavender, birch, mint rose and jasmine. 

About terpenes in CBD oil

Full-spectrum CBD oil contains a plethora of terpenes (along with flavonoids and cannabinoids). The distinctive terpenes present in a CBD product depends on the hemp strain the CBD was extracted from. 

In addition, some of the terpenes found in the cannabis plant bind with the same receptors in the mammalian body as cannabinoids do, and also affect the body’s and brain’s endocannabinoid system. 

Yet, there is even more to this:  Together, terpenes and cannabinoids can create the so-called “Entourage-Effect”. This means that in this case, terpenes are thought to influence how cannabinoids bind to the receptors of the endocannabinoid system in the human body via the entourage effect, thereby increasing the cannabinoids’ potential. 

Why should you use CBD oil without them?

Maybe you have noticed that there is also CBD oil without terpenes. What could be the reason for this? Don't worry - it's not because terpenes are harmful, it's just because pets don't always tolerate them. CBD oils without terpenes are therefore adapted to suit the special requirements of cats and dogs.  

This is how they affect your body

At the moment, there are only a few studies on terpenes and their effects on the human body.  Even though research is still very limited, some studies suggest that terpenes such as could have anti-inflammatory as well as anti-depressant effects, offer natural pain relief and could help with muscle spasms and anxiety. A recent study from 2017, carried out by the  Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea, additionally examined the role of terpenes as a potential aid against cancer. 

However, science is still in its infancy here, so much more intensive research needs to be done to move the actual effect of terpenes on the human body away from anecdotal evidence.

Between myth & fact - is it true?

Since research still needs to fully understand terpenes and their effects on the human body, there are many myths and misunderstandings regarding the much-discussed plant compounds. Therefore, we have decided to answer the most common questions about them: 

Can terpenes be harmful?

Unfortunately, more studies need to be carried out to determine the potential dangers of terpenes. Apart from positive effects, so far some terpenes have shown an allergy-provoking effect in some people, especially when used in excess.

Are terpenes psychoactive?

No, terpenes are not psychoactive. 

Will terpenes get you high?

In contrast to cannabinoids like THC, terpenes cannot get you high, as they don’t contain any psychoactive compounds. 

Terpenes can help against anxiety 

Anecdotal evidence as well as some studies suggest that this may be the case, but further research has to be done to solidify these findings. 

Terpenes are good for depression

As with their potential benefits against anxiety, further research is also needed in this area to determine the full effect of terpenes on people suffering from depression. 

Are terpenes legally sold in the UK & Europe

Yes, terpenes are completely legal in the UK and the European Union as well as the entire world, as they are non-psychoactive compounds that naturally occur in fruits, vegetables and other plants. Often, they are also used in foods, drinks and cosmetic products. 

Are they the same as terpenoids?

Terpenes and terpenoids are not the same: While they are both organic substances, terpenes are made up of simple hydrocarbons while terpenoids are altered terpenes that have been oxidised. 

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