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What are the Health Benefits of CBD Terpenes?

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The Health Benefits of CBD Terpenes


What distinguishes one strain of cannabis or hemp from another? There are many different factors, including the cannabinoid makeup, the aroma, the appearance of the bud, and the effect it has on your mind and body. Another major factor is the terpene profile.

Terpenes are responsible for the fragrance of CBD and hemp plants, which reminds users of lemons and blueberries. In addition to smelling good, CBD terpenes are both effective on their own and as a supplement to enhance the therapeutic effects of CBD oil. They’re easy to get a hold of at any CBD shop, and even easier to enjoy.

It is helpful to understand the benefits of terpenes. Hemp connoisseurs can use their knowledge of terpenes to choose new strains in the future. For example, if you find that limonene-dominant strains energize you, you might look for new strains that are also limonene-dominant. CBD users, too, can benefit from choosing CBD products that are high in certain terpenes.

What Are Terpenes?

Despite being part of our everyday lives, you may have never heard of the term “terpenes.” Terpenes are found all over in nature, from conifer plants and herbs to insects and fruit. If you’ve ever walked into a conifer forest and been blown away by the pine fragrance, or if you’ve breathed in the relaxing scent of lavender, you’ve experienced the magic of true terpenes first-hand.

Simply put, terpenes are aromas. The smell of a bouquet of flowers, the tang of fresh citrus fruits, and the fragrance of your favorite shampoo—their scents are all thanks to the compounds within terpenes. The main purpose in nature for these compounds is to generate pungent smells to either repel pests and predators with unpleasant odors or attract pollinators with pleasing ones. Lucky for us, terpenes also contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, especially CBD terpenes.

So where does CBD come into play? One of the richest sources of terpenes is Cannabis Sativa. This includes its close relative hemp, which has been made entirely legal to cultivate, harvest, and extract from thanks to the 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act.

When it comes to CBD terpenes, generally speaking the stickier the cannabis is, the better. This is because more trichomes mean more cannabinoids and terpenes. More trichomes also make the cannabis’s odor stronger and make the bud appear more “sparkly” when you hold it to the light.

How are Terpenes and Terpenoids Different?

In addition to terpenes, there are also terpenoids. The difference between terpenes and terpenoids is that terpenes are the natural compounds found in the flower or bud of a cannabis plant like hemp, while terpenoids are specific terpenes that have been chemically altered. This alteration occurs during the process of drying and curing cannabis flowers—the terpenoids naturally form during that alteration.

Products like broad-spectrum CBD tinctures contain other components of the cannabis plant than just CBD, and will therefore also contain terpenoids; but purer CBD products like CBD isolate, which is the purest form of CBD, will lack terpenes because they’ve been processed out. In fact, terpenes are often added back into such pure CBD products to enhance the effects of CBD.

How do True Terpenes Affect Our Bodies?

When it comes to the physical and mental effects of dry herbs, we often talk about cannabinoids. Cannabinoids like CBD and THC are responsible for how our bodies and minds react to dry herbs. They interact with the endocannabinoid system, which in turn affects our digestive system, skin, brain, cardiovascular system, and more.

While cannabinoids are important for shaping our experiences with dry herbs, terpenes can also produce certain physiological effects. You may have heard this anecdotally from people who have used certain strains of dry herbs to produce certain effects. According to a 2018 review in the European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, true terpenes are generally safe to consume and are tolerated well by humans.[1]

The review also notes that the terpenes found in specific herbs may have the following properties:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Analgesic
  • Anticonvulsive
  • Antidepressant
  • Anxiolytic (anti-anxiety)
  • Anticancer
  • Antitumor
  • Neuroprotective
  • Antiallergic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Anti-diabetic

Terpenes must be studied further before we can fully understand their benefits, but experts are optimistic about the possibilities.

What Types of Terpenes are Found in Cannabis?

As we mentioned earlier, Cannabis Sativa is one of the richest sources of terpenes, so let’s review some of the terpenes you can expect to find.

Humulene – Humulene isn’t very common and is one of the lesser-studied terpenes. Humulene-dominant strains are quite uncommon. Strains that contain humulene includes Sherbet and Gelato. This terpene is said to have a woody, herb-like aroma that provides a soothing and relaxing effect to its users. Although there isn't a great deal of research on humulene, one study suggests it could have anti-inflammatory properties.[2]

Myrcene – Named after the Brazilian shrub Myrcia Sphaerocarpa, a plant routinely used for diarrhea, high blood pressure, and diabetes, Myrcene has a sedative effect. This terpene is found in most cannabis chemovars, as well as in plants like hops, lemongrass, basil, and mangoes.

Beta-caryophyllene – This terpene has a unique black pepper scent and can be found in most varieties of cannabis plants. Beta-caryophyllene interacts with cannabinoid receptor 2 in the body, which suggests it could be an effective terpene for pain and inflammation reduction.

Alpha-humulene – Another common terpene found in cannabis chemovars, alpha-humulene has an earthy, fruity smell and can be found in hops, sage, and ginseng. This terpene is strongest at reducing inflammation, and research suggests it may even suppress appetite. [3]

Limonene – The most citrus of the terpenes, this limonene is used often to add a zesty lemon aroma to food, perfumes, and household cleaning products. This fresh and pungent terpene has a pleasing scent that some people find helps promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.

Pinene – Popular in traditional Chinese medicines, Pinene has, as the name suggests, a refreshing pine scent and is predictably found in pine needles and certain citrus fruits.

Linalool – Responsible for the popularity of lavender and spices like cinnamon, Linalool has sedative and relaxing properties that many have come to expect of lavender-scented products.

CBD Terpene Benefits

In addition to their unique aroma, CBD terpenes also offer the same health benefits as other products and can even be used as an enhancement to other CBD products for greater effect. CBD interacts with our body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates bodily functions like sleep, appetite, mood, pain sensation, stress management, and anxiety. By interacting with endocannabinoid receptors, CBD may help slow the production of cortisol, a hormone that causes stress, and help promote relaxation.

The anti-inflammatory properties make CBD even more useful as a potential remedy for pain. While other pain-relievers may mask the pain until your body naturally recovers, CBD helps aid in the process of eliminating inflammation for true relief.

Furthermore, CBD terpenes will not give you the intense effect that dry herbs would. The compound responsible for creating that high in marijuana is THC, which is typically processed out of CBD products as much as possible. It’s possible that some CBD products will have trace amounts of THC, but never enough to affect you unless that is your goal, in which case you would specifically seek out a product with a higher concentration of THC.

The Entourage Effect of CBD Terpenes

The way CBD terpenes are believed to supplement and enhance the effects of other CBD products is through something called the “Entourage Effect.” As the theory goes, the substances within plants, like CBD and THC, can synergize to make the effects and benefits of CBD more effective.

The entourage effect also includes terpenes. According to a 2019 article in Frontiers in Plant Science, terpenes seem to enhance the effect cannabinoids have on our bodies, and vice versa.[4] This means that cannabinoids and terpenes may work together to increase the effects of CBD such as pain relief, inflammation reduction, and the alleviation of anxiety and stress. This theory is still relatively young and requires far more research before the entourage effect and how it can be best used to our advantage is fully understood.

What to Look for with CBD Terpenes

Have you ever found that one brand (or product) of CBD makes you relaxed and sleepy while another makes you focused and energized? It could be because of the terpenes in the plant from which it was derived.

If you’re a CBD fan who wants to feel the benefits of terpenes, opt for full-spectrum CBD, as it contains terpenes as well as cannabinoids.

Full-spectrum CBD, however, can also contain THC. Many people avoid THC as it can be detected in a drug test and can be intoxicating in large doses. If you want to avoid THC but still want to experience the effects of terpenes, look for broad-spectrum, THC-free CBD. This means that THC has been removed from the product, but the rest of the cannabinoids and terpenes have been left as is.

The plant from which your CBD is derived matters. Quality plants means quality CBD, because a quality plant is bred to have certain levels of terpenes. While all plants may seem the same on the surface, the quality of how a plant was raised and taken care of can really influence the effect of your CBD products.

If you’re curious what terpenes are in a CBD oil tincture, look for products that have been tested by a third party and have received a valid certificate of analysis. This will help you determine if a product has terpenes in it, and if so, which terpenes are present if you’re looking to get a hold of a certain kind. As a bonus, the certificate will display the purity of the CBD if you’re searching for something with more or less THC. This could help you find CBD products tailored to your specific needs.


[1] Nuutinen T. Medicinal properties of terpenes found in Cannabis sativa and Humulus lupulus. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 2018 Sep;157:198-228. DOI: 10.1016/j.ejmech.2018.07.076. PMID: 30096653.

[2] Rogerio AP, Andrade EL, Leite DF, Figueiredo CP, Calixto JB. Preventive and therapeutic anti-inflammatory properties of the sesquiterpene alpha-humulene in experimental airways allergic inflammation. Br J Pharmacol. 2009;158(4):1074-1087. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2009.00177.x

[3] Rogerio AP, Andrade EL, Leite DF, Figueiredo CP, Calixto JB. Preventive and therapeutic anti-inflammatory properties of the sesquiterpene alpha-humulene in experimental airways allergic inflammation. Br J Pharmacol. 2009;158(4):1074-1087. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2009.00177.x

[4] Karunanithi, P. S., & Zerbe, P. (2019). Terpene synthases as metabolic gatekeepers in the evolution of plant terpenoid chemical diversity. Frontiers in Plant Science, 10.


The Health Benefits of CBD Terpenes