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What are Terpenes: An Introduction To Terpenes for Health & Healing


What are Terpenes and What are the Benefits of Terpenes. Effects, Benefits, Research, Science & More:

Heard of Terpenes? But, don’t know where to start, or what the benefits are for you?

We take you through the benefits, options, important criteria you should consider when looking at terpenes.

Introduction into Terpenes

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Vance Green, PharmD.
Updated on September 24, 2021

Terpenes are powerful, scented compounds found in many plants including hemp and cannabis. Researchers believe they help plants in many ways … and could offer similar benefits to humans, too.

Terpenes are found in all forms of hemp and cannabis, and give the strains people smoke their distinctive bouquet of smells, from fruity citrus to deep pine and earthy grass. You might be surprised to learn that other plants have terpenes too.

Currently, research into the potential use or benefits of terpenes is cutting edge science. You may also see them promoted by hemp and cannabis brands. We wanted to take a closer look at what terpenes are and could do to help people, according to the latest research.

Terpenes are natural, scented organic compounds. Terpenes give hemp and cannabis, along with other plants like hops, their unique scents and, researchers think, unique benefits.

This is just our introduction to terpenes. In the near future, we’ll expand to write short articles taking a closer look at specific terpenes prevalent in cannabis and hemp. First though, let’s define our terms.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the more common Terpenes, their benefits, and the science behind them.

Table of Contents

  • What are terpenes, anyway?
  • Where can you find the most terpenes in hemp and cannabis?
  • What are some common terpenes found in hemp and cannabis?
  • Get to know our favorite ‘terps’

What are terpenes, anyway?

If you’ve enjoyed how a pine-scented candle, or a decorated tree, makes your home smell … then you’ve enjoyed the benefits of terpenes already. Pinene, to be specific.

And if you’ve ever cleaned your home with lemon juice, and loved the clean, fresh scent … that was limonene!

A terpene is a carbon-based (organic) compound which forms naturally in many plants, from fruit to conifer trees to yes, hemp and cannabis. Terpenes serve a host of functions for these plants. They form the main ingredients in most essential oils and can help plants resist predators, fight off bacteria and fungus, and even heal wounds.

Of course, the way these compounds interact with people is just as complex, and the subject of intense research. CBD probably helps the hemp plant fight off bacteria and fungus, yet has its own unique effects when it interacts with our bodies. That’s all true with terpenes too.

Terpene benefits - Terpene Molecule structures
Terpene benefits – Terpene Molecule structures

Scientists think terpenes play a key role in the “entourage effect.” In brief, the entourage effect is the idea that all the compounds hemp or cannabis are more effective working together rather than isolated into their individual parts.

All of this is why so many consumers report better effects from full-spectrum hemp supplements, versus those made with just CBD isolate. While the additional cannabinoids like THC, CBG and CBN play a role, so do the terpenes.

For example, researchers think myrcene, a common terpene in hemp flower, may contribute to its relaxing and mildly sedating effects.

What are Terpenes & Terpene Benefits

Where can you find the most terpenes in hemp and cannabis?

Different strains of hemp and cannabis are known for their unique aromas & ‘flavor profiles’. They might be sweet, fruity, pungent, earthy, spicy or fresh among many other prominent flavors.

Terpenes play a major role in that bouquet. Hemp consumers seek out the different strains not only because they enjoy their scents and tastes when smoked or vaporized, but also because they might offer unique benefits. Terpenes vaporize at many of the same temperatures as cannabinoids do. That means that when you smoke or vape hemp, you’re experiencing a rich array of compounds.

Some of the primary & common terpenes in hemp and cannabis include myrcene, limonene, pinene and linalool.

Terpenes occur most abundantly in hemp flower, and lots of them can remain in well-made, full spectrum extracts. However, the more processed a product becomes, the less terpenes that typically remain — although they are sometimes added back later from hemp or plant sources.

What are some common terpenes found in hemp and cannabis?

Here are some common terpenes found in the hemp and cannabis plants, though there are many more than we can list here.

  • Myrcene — As we mentioned above, scientists think myrcene may contribute to the relaxing effects of not just hemp and cannabis, but also plants like hemp, lemon grass and mango. It has an earthy, but slightly fruity scent.
  • Limonene — Limonene is found throughout the citrus family of plants, and also contributes to the citrus scent of some strains of hemp and cannabis.
  • Pinene — As the name suggests, pinene is found widely in coniferous trees like pines, in addition to giving hemp its piney smell.
  • Linalool — Linalool is found in large amounts in lavender, and may have strong anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. If you’ve ever felt more relaxed after smelling a lavender sachet or eye pillow, then some researchers think you may have experienced another benefit of linalool.
  • Humulene — Humulene is a terpene with a very strong earthy scent, like freshly turned up soil. It contributes to the hoppy aroma of beer.
  • Ocimene — Found in mint, parsley, and other herbs, it gives hemp and cannabis that pleasantly herbaceous smell … this smell is probably a major reason, in addition to the appearance, that some people just call cannabis “herb.”
  • Caryophyllene — Caryophyllene is a terpene with a spicy smell, found in some strains of hemp and cannabis. It also contributes to the scent of fresh cracked pepper, rosemary and cloves.
  • Farnesene — This terpene is found in green apples. In addition, you can find it in basil, turmeric, and eucalyptus.
  • Bisabolol — This terpene is most prevalent in Chamomile.
Bisabolol Terpene Icon Pinene Terpene Icon ocimene Terpene Icon Myrcene Terpene Icon Linalool Terpene Icon Limonene Terpene Icon Humulene terpene Icon Farnesene Terpene Icon Caryophyllene Terpene Icon Terpinolene-Icon-sml Camphene-Icon-sml

Terpene research shows many medicinal properties like anticancer, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antihyperglycemic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiparasitic

Get to know our favorite ‘terps’

As we said above, that’s just a few of the terpenes found in hemp and just a fraction of the ones found in nature.

Thanks to the years of prohibition and the stigma that grew up around hemp and cannabis, we’re only just beginning to learn about how compounds like terpenes work and could help us. Like the way we can enjoy the scent of lemon without knowing about limonene, as with so many things in nature, we’re often experiencing their benefits without fully understanding their inner workings.

In future articles, we’ll take a closer look at many of the terpenes mentioned above, and some others, and look at what the latest research says about how they might help. We hope this helps you make more informed choices when buying hemp.

Writer: Kit O’Connell is a writer and journalist from Austin, Texas. His work has also appeared in Yes! Magazine, the Texas Observer, and elsewhere. He served as Editor in Chief of the Ministry of Hemp from 2017 until 2021.

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