What Are Terpenes?

Last updated on January 31st, 2020

Terpenes are chemical compounds found naturally in cannabis and other plants. They have medicinal properties, strong odors, and have been used industrially for many years. The terpenes in lemon peels, for example, are used as fragrance additives in common household cleaners.

Terpenes impact the experience and effectiveness of a CBD product. When cannabidiol is extracted from hemp, manufacturers have the option of isolating the CBD and adding it to a separate mixture just on its own — a “pure CBD” product.

There are many healthy, natural chemicals inside of cannabis that work together with CBD to enhance its effects, however. Manufacturers that want to leverage this synergy will explain their extraction techniques as “full spectrum” or “broad spectrum”, which is just another way of saying that they retain those other chemicals in the final product. Full spectrum products contain THC, while broad spectrum do not.

Cannabis Terpenes

Cannabis plants produce more than 100 different terpenes, but in nature there are over 20,000 found in things like grapefruits, lemons, limes, and pine.

What are the most common terpenes found in cannabis?

LIMONENEAnti-inflammation, antioxidation, anti-cancer
MYRCENEAnti-inflammation, anti-cancer
CARYOPHYLLENEAnti-inflammation, anti-cancer, antioxidation, neuroprotection
A/B-PINENEAnti-inflammation, anti-cancer, antioxidation, neuroprotection
BORNEOLAnti-inflammation, antioxidation, neuroprotection

*The source for medicinal properties in this table is Terpenes from Forests and Human Health – a study that analyzes the biological activity of each of these chemicals in detail. The science behind these claims is still active.

The spectrum of experiences attached to terpenes is complex and multi-layered. As a consumer, you have to consider the desired outcomes of CBD-containing products that you purchase. Do you want to fall asleep? Do you want to have high energy? Do you want to be alert and focused?

Can I buy terpenes?

Yes, it’s possible to buy concentrated terpene solutions, but they have specific purposes. People usually buy the essential oils and lotions on store shelves that are filled with them.

It is legal to consume terpenes derived from cannabis for their medicinal qualities. As long as the CBD product you’re consuming has less than 0.3% THC content, you will experience no high. When looking for terpene-containing CBD oil products, you can group them by their terpene profiles to test their effectiveness.