Teaching Series: Terpenes

Teaching Series: Terpenes

The hemp and cannabis marketplace are flooded with terms that can knock the novice customer out of the game before getting started. One of those terms is terpenes. Terpenes have been with us since the beginning of time but have grown more popular as the discussion about hemp and cannabis grows. So, what are terpenes?

Terpenes are chemical compounds which appear in plants and various animals. These chemicals compounds occur naturally. Examples of plants and foods containing terpenes are tea or tea leaves, some citrus fruits, mangos, apples, beer – the list is long for there are 30,000 terpenes in nature.  Plant terpenes function to attract pollinators and repel predators. For the human body terpenes have been known to relieve pain and produce calming effects. According to an article published, in November 2019, by the NIH (National Health Institute) terpenes in plants contains many medicinal properties like anticancer, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antihyperglycemic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiparasitic, antiplasmodial, astringent, digestive, diuretic, and many other properties.”

To make the connection on why terpenes are important a simple breakdown of different categories of products is useful to review.

Hempseed Oil, Isolate, Broad Spectrum, and Full Spectrum:

Products made with hempseed oil means– the product is made from the cold pressing of hemp seed not the complete hemp plant. This distinction is important if wanting the complete benefits of the cannabinoids in the whole plant and products made using the whole plant. While hempseed oil has some beneficial properties in the beauty and skincare space. Users should also know the hempseed oil does not contain any CBD.

An isolate has only one of the cannabinoids from the plant; for example, a CBD isolate has gone through a process of extraction, and it is in the purest form of the CBD compound. THC can also be produced in isolate form. THC and CBD are the most popular in the general market today, yet; that is changing as education surrounding cannabis and hemp grows. 

Broad spectrum CBD has no traces or undetectable traces of THC, however, has other cannabinoids and terpenes in it. Broad spectrum does not produce the entourage effect because there is no or undetectable traces of THC.

Full spectrum CBD derived products have traces of all the natural cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Most CBD products are made from hemp plant which is in the Cannabaceae plant species family. Hemp plants be it sativa, indica or hybrid has less than .03% of THC. Unlike their counterparts, which most people refer to as marijuana, the THC level varies and is over .03% of THC. The plants are both the same species of plant, but the distinction comes based on the levels of THC in the plant or product. Full spectrum CBD products also contain terpenes found within the plant. Full spectrum CBD can produce the entourage effect.

Entourage Effect and terpenes:

The entourage effect is when various compounds in the cannabis plant work congruently and produce a greater benefit than if alone.  Terpenes can work alongside the CBD and/THC to increase the benefits of the product. Why is this important when thinking about what products to choose when it comes the CBD or specific cannabis products a containing impactful level of terpenes may be of significant benefit. For example, the NIH published study by Current Neuropharmacology in February 2020 article looking at the entourage effect for treating patients with anxiety and/or depression the study concluded The use of various cannabis-derived compounds opens the arena to the option of avoiding the adverse effects of the available antidepressants and mood stabilizers while treating mood disorders. This may be particularly important for patients who are non-responsive or non-adherent to conventional treatment.”

As more people seek out ways to live a pain-free life and not suffer in silence, they are discovering that one of the root causes of chronic pain is inflammation. In addition to this welcomed information people are learning that inflammation can be addressed with the usage of hemp and cannabis derived products. Products with a wide range of cannabinoids may be of great assistance when choosing what is best to achieve a life without or lessened chronic pain. A Karger research study in the journal of Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids they concluded “that terpenes/terpenoids may be used to diminute acute inflammation effect, whereas the cannabinoids to inhibit chronic inflammation symptoms. Anti-inflammatory potential of terpenes present in cannabis was studied by Downer” 

Notable Terpenes:

Myrcene - Known for sedative properties, pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. Found in hops, guava, mango, lemongrass, and cannabis. 

Humulene - Known for anti-inflammatory properties. Found in ginseng, sage and cannabis.

Linalool - Known for sedative properties, mood stabilization, anti-anxiety, antidepressant, pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. Found in rose, lavender, jasmine, basil, cinnamon, cannabis. 

Limonene - Known for skin healing, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, and calming effects. Found in citrus, cannabis and hemp plants. 

Alpha-Pinene - Known for anti-anxiety properties. Found in parsley, dill, rosemary, some citrus, and cannabis. 

These are a few examples of how cannabinoids and terpenes can assist with common but often unspoken health concerns. For decades usage of cannabis and cannabis derived products has been stigmatized and regulated to shadow parts of health and wellness circles which living in the shadows isn’t healthy to the greater good of the person (s) or research. As the hard evidence and research continues to be brought to light and the public at large makes way for more choices in health and overall quality of life. Knowing what the categories of products and how terpenes work together to increase the results one is looking gives power back to person seeking out a breadth of choice as to how to have a healthier day to day experience.


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