CBD products are more popular than ever. Colorado Botanicals found a 2019 Gallup poll that showed that 1 in 7 Americans use them to treat a variety of issues including pain, anxiety, and poor sleep. The public’s growing interest has led to big sales. The U.S. CBD industry is expected to produce $23.7 billion annually by 2023. But given that CBD is just now catching on, there’s still a lot that customers don’t know about it, including the fact that not all CBD products are the same. And here at Colorado Botanicals, there’s one ingredient in particular that we feel deserves attention — terpenes.
What are terpenes?
Scientifically speaking, terpenes are aromatic compounds that are found in several species of plants and herbs. These are the compounds that give plants their characteristic scents. Essentially, terpenes make pine smell like pine, lavender smell like lavender, and orange peel smell like orange peel. They’re commonly used to manufacture flavors and scents in a lot of consumer grade products like fragrances, lotions, and even some foods. But they’re most frequently associated with cannabis. That's because more than 200 different terpenes have been found in cannabis plants – a much higher concentration than other plants. We at Colorado Botanicals think that is important.
Research shows that there are more than 20,000 terpenes in the environment, and they play a lot of important roles in the plants they inhabit. Among other responsibilities, they attract pollinators and protect plants by repelling predators. They also help plants recover from damage and boost plant immune function. But they don’t just help plants – humans benefit from the power of terpenes, too.
What are the benefits of terpenes?
A lot of terpenes are classified as bioactive. Basically, this means that they could affect the body when ingested. But this depends on their concentration and how they’re consumed. Terpenes bind to our brain’s receptors when we consume them. This produces a physiological response that can influence the production of different neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. In other words, terpenes can have a positive impact on our physical, mental, and emotional health. This is why they’re used in essential oils and aromatherapy to impact mood, stress levels, and other health indicators.
To understand how wide-ranging terpenes’ benefits are, it helps to take a deeper look at some of the specific terpenes found in CBD:
Aside from CBD, limonene is often found in the rinds of fruit. This terpene gives them their citrusy smell. But it does a lot more than offer a pleasant scent. Limonene has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antidiabetic, and anticancer properties. It has also shown some effectiveness in aiding weight loss and healing peptic ulcers. Plus, it helps with stress relief and combatting depression symptoms.
Alpha-pinene is one of the most common terpenes in the world, and it’s found in pine needles, rosemary, and basil in addition to CBD. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties, and it works as a bronchodilator, which means it opens up the airway passages quickly in emergency situations like an asthma attack. Alpha-pinene also helps with pain relief, aids memory, and boosts energy levels.
Myrcene has more of a musky scent and is most common in modern commercial cannabis. It’s a truly versatile terpene, with antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties. It’s also an analgesic, which means it helps reduce pain and inflammation. Additionally, myrcene has sedative effects and blocks cancer-causing properties of fungi that end up in our food. Furthermore, it guards against DNA damage and works as a cough suppressant.
These compounds have tremendous therapeutic effects, as these three terpenes demonstrate. On top of all that terpenes can accomplish, a growing body of research suggests they play a major part in one other benefit – the Entourage Effect.
The entourage effect and why it’s so important
The Entourage Effect is usually discussed in relation to cannabis but still applies to CBD. Cannabis produces a high, and a lot of people mistakenly attribute that high to THC and THC alone. But several other ingredients in each specific strain of cannabis affect or enhance the high. The Entourage Effect occurs when all of the chemicals in cannabis – THC, terpenes, flavonoids, cannabinoids, and hundreds of others – work synergistically to create psychoactive effects. Chemist Chris Emerson described this as “the magic or power of cannabis” in a 2017 Scientific American report about the Entourage Effect.
Two professors – Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat – first discovered the Entourage Effect in 1998. They found that certain terpenes either prohibited or encouraged binding to cannabinoid receptors in the body. Their findings were later backed by several other studies, most notably 2007 and 2018 studies from Dr. Ethan Russo, MD.
So, essentially, a product with only one pronounced chemical won’t have as much of an impact as a product with several chemicals. The combination of chemicals impacts how we metabolize them and how we feel or react to them.
The Entourage Effect & CBD
What does this mean for CBD products? CBD products also benefit from the Entourage Effect. For example, terpenes present in CBD oil help the body in three important ways. They improve our ability to absorb beneficial chemicals through the blood-brain barrier, overcome bacterial defense mechanisms, and increase the absorption and effectiveness of cannabinoids.
A 2011 study by Russo proved that, even without the presence of THC, terpenes still worked synergistically to produce the Entourage Effect. This resulted in a more complete therapeutic experience for the user. This means that a CBD product with CBD and terpenes is far more effective than a product that only contains CBD. But this leaves one question unanswered. How do you know that your product has terpenes?
What’s the best type of CBD oil?
You should look for either Full Spectrum or Broad Spectrum products when you purchase CBD. Full Spectrum products contain all phytochemicals naturally found in hemp plants, including CBD, cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils. They have THC content of .3% or below. Broad Spectrum products contain CBD and all other compounds from the hemp plant, but all THC has been removed.
You might also see CBD isolate products on the market. These are 99% pure CBD with no other plant compounds present, which means no Entourage Effect.
Once you’ve found Broad or Full Spectrum CBD products, you should verify that they actually contain terpenes. You can check this information by viewing the CBD company’s lab reports. Below, you’ll find a lab report that demonstrates what a good terpene profile looks like.
Also, buy CBD from companies like Colorado Botanicals that are transparent about their production processes. Colorado Botanicals advocates for the importance of terpenes. The company uses third-party lab testing to verify that all of their products contain them and shares those results on its official website. Additionally, Colorado Botanicals uses colder extraction and separation techniques to retain more terpenes and flavonoids, resulting in more effective products.
There's more to CBD products than CBD. Terpenes play a role in producing the Entourage Effect and unlocking the many health benefits of CBD. Be sure to do your homework when purchasing your next round of products to ensure you’re getting the full experience.