The entourage effect you get from hemp doesn’t just come from CBD. In fact, it doesn’t just come from cannabinoids. There are other essential cannabis oils involved, including terpenes and flavonoids. These essential oils are made in the trichomes, which are hair-like structures found all over the plant, but are located most abundantly on the flowers of female plants. While there are over 100 cannabinoids, around 150 cannabis terpenes have been identified in various cannabis plants.
There’s a reason why terpenes are being sought after in certain strains, why people are choosing full spectrum CBD over CBD isolate, and why people are purchasing them in concentrates and adding them to food and drinks. And why researchers are eager to discover (now that they can study cannabis more freely) the wide range of medicinal potential terpenes have to offer and how they contribute to the entourage effect of cannabis compounds.
And that reason is because terpenes are believed have a horde of therapeutic properties which have already been proven in preliminary studies and felt by consumers who use cannabis for healing.
What Are Terpenes?
Truth be told, humans have always had a medicinal relationship with cannabis. For our purposes here, remember that hemp is cannabis. And it’s legal in the U.S. as long as it doesn’t bust the .3 percent cap on THC. (Btw, that’s so you won’t get high, in case you didn’t know.)
But we, as humans, haven’t always known about cannabinoids, terpenes, and all the various contributing compounds in the plant. What’s more, like flavonoids, terpenes are not even unique to cannabis. They’ve had a role to play in nature all along. Terpenes are essential oils that are found in many different kinds of plants and their fruit, like pine trees, lemons, eucalyptus, lavender, etc. Terpenes give plants their distinctive aroma that is so familiar, just like they do in cannabis—there’s no other odor like it, is there?
Their purpose in their plant hosts is to defend against predators and environmental factors.
Which is also their main contribution to the cannabis plant. Aside from giving its unique aromatic character, that is.
Terps, Terpenes, or Terpenoids
You will hear terpenes referred in several ways. “Terps”, of course, is simply a casual term, but if you like to get a little nerdy, there are chemically structural differences between “Terpenes” and “Terpenoids”. Terpenes are hydrocarbons. Terpenoids can include oxygen and other elements, so it’s kind of an all-encompassing term. It’s likely that, unless you’re reading a research study, all these terms will have the same general meaning.
How Are Terpenes Made in Cannabis
Like other compounds in cannabis, terpenes happen through biosynthesis, “a multi-step, enzyme-catalyzed process
where substrates are converted into more complex products in living organisms.” And they end up in those glorious trichomes, where they secrete the odor and flavor that act as deterrents to bugs and animals that might otherwise view a cannabis field as a giant buffet. However, some of them are meant to be pollinating-power to attract insects to flowers. Cannabis is complex … go figure.
This tango of defense mechanism and allure, of course, is what also gives various types of cannabis (strains) their characteristics. What tells some insects to bug off and some to come on over, many humans find very inviting … and some don’t. It’s like anything that involves an acquired taste: Scotch, wine, coffee, craft beer, cigars … you get the point. In fact, terpenes do the same thing for hops in beer—give it that bitter taste that so many people love. Terpenes create taste experiences. But is that all they do?
Are Terpenes Good for You?
Aside from making certain things taste and smell the way you want them to taste and smell? The answer according to preliminary science is “yes.”
First, before we get into how great they are, we’ll answer a few quick questions you might have.
Are terpenes legal?
Unless they are in cannabis that has more than the .3 percent THC, they are legal in the U.S. If you are in a state that has a medical marijuana program or legal recreational cannabis, act accordingly. But otherwise, terpenes that are in hemp-derived products are legal.
Can terpenes get you high?
No. Only THC can get you high after a certain amount.
Are terpenes harmful or toxic?
In general, terpenes are not harmful. However, terpenes are available in concentrates now, many of them from non-cannabis sources. They are very strong and can be quite extra if you over-add them to food or drink. This will only be “harmful” to your senses. Also, we have heard that smoking or vaping terpene concentrates at high temperatures can degrade terpenes, rendering them nontherapeutic, and there is even evidence that these high temperatures could degrade beneficial terpenes into toxic chemicals like methacrolein and benzene.
Can terpenes be vaped?
Yes. However, with the information above, it is important to know, if you are using a cannabis concentrate or a terpene concentrate, what temperature they should be vaped at. It’s important to look into this information if you are going to be dabbing or vaping terpene concentrates.
What Terpenes Do What?
There’s a good deal of preliminary evidence that terpenes—in all plants—have therapeutic properties. A scientific review from 2017 titled Terpenes from Forests and Human Health, provides several studies on animal models as evidence that terpenes have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-tumor effects.
While there are certain flavonoids that are unique to cannabis, called cannaflavins, the terpenes in cannabis are found in many other plants in nature. However, the myriad cannabis compounds are thought to work in a synergistic manner known as the entourage effect, and researchers have their eye on cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions.
A study in 2018 looked at the distinct compositions of terpenoids in certain cannabis strains and concluded that terpenes had acute anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive (blocks pain detection) properties in animal models.
Neurologist and cannabis expert Dr. Ethan Russo believes there are many cannabinoid-terpenoid relationships that contribute to the entourage effect. The following is a list of eight major terpenes from his research that shows the effects of these cannabis terpenes, where else they can be found in nature, and what cannabinoid(s) they may interact with to execute the entourage effect.
- Limonene is also found in lemon. This terpene has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-acne properties. Studies also suggest that it can treat anxiety and depression. Suspected entourage effect partners: CBD, CBG, and THC
- Pinene, like the name suggest, is also found in pines. Its therapeutic effects include anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator, and memory aiding properties. Suspected ntourage effect partners: CBD and THC
- Myrcene is in hops and lemongrass. This terpene abundant in cannabis is about blocking inflammation, pain-relieving, sedating, muscle-relaxing, and antibiotic effects. Suspected entourage effect partners: CBD, CBG, and THC
- Linalool can be found in lavender too. Effects include anti-anxiety, sedation, anesthetic, pain-relieving, and anti-seizure. Suspected entourage effect partners: CBD, CBG, THC, THCV, CBDV
- Caryophyllene is also a terpene in pepper. It’s believed to be the only terpene to act on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). In this way it’s believed to help moderate pain sensation and inflammation, and enhance cannabis’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Suspected entourage effect partners: CBD and THC
- Caryophyllene Oxide is found in lemon balm. Anti-fungal, insecticidal, and decreases platelet aggregation. Suspected entourage effect partners: CBC, CBG, THC, THCA, CBGA
- Nerolidol terpene is found in oranges. Preliminary studies show it’s a sedative, a skin penetrant, antimalarial, and anti-leishmanial. Suspected entourage effect partners: THC, CBN
- Phytol exists also in green tea and is the product of chlorophyll breakdown. This terpene demonstrates sedative and anti-anxiety effects by inhibiting the enzyme that degrades GABA. Suspected entourage effect partners: CBG
Terpenes Add Benefits
Terpenes are another argument for full spectrum CBD and hemp flower. Full spectrum CBD like Ananda Hemp or Puffin Hemp Liposomal extract CBD to include beneficial terpenes. The Hemp Haus now sells hemp flower in several strains from our Stardust brand. Always remember that high-quality is the most important thing to consider when buying a cannabis product of any kind. If you can’t vet the product, we would not recommend it.