There’s been a lot of talk about a type of compound found in hemp and cannabis plants called terpenes. But terpenes are not the exclusive to hemp, but are in fact produced by most plants including fruits, vegetables, herbs and of course also hemp.
Their terpene profile is what gives a particular flower, herb or plant its distinctive aroma and flavor and act as both an attractant for pollinators as well as a repellent for pests. Terpenes also have powerful therapeutic effects and are what give essential oils their aromas and beneficial effects – with a long history of use in natural remedies such as aromatherapy, as well as a variety of supplements and cosmetics.
The Science of Terpenes
In a similar way in which certain smells evoke certain memories and feelings, terpenes and their therapeutic benefits are mostly due to the fact that our olfactory system is intricately tied to the emotional centres in the brain.
However, scientists are also now discovering that terpenes can also act directly on brain cells and modulate their activity. For instance, certain terpenes have been found to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and pain-relieving benefits with some even able to mitigate brain inflammation related to Alzheimer’s disease while yet other show anti-seizure and anti-epileptic effects.
In addition, the terpene caryophyllene can also activate cannabinoid receptors in the brain, influencing the body’s endocannabinoid system as well as other biological system associated with these receptors leading scientist to believe that they are an important part of cannabinoid based medicines.
What are the Health Benefits of Terpenes?
Scientists have a fair understanding of the benefits of terpenes. And although there is still a lot of research that needs to be done, what is clear is that terpenes do have physical as well as mental health benefits.
So let’s take a look at nine of the most common terpenes and what their effects are.
Bisabolol, which is also scientifically known as alpha-bisabolol or levomenol, is found abundantly within the candeia tree, chamomile, lavender and yarrow. This terpene is characterized by a pleasant, yet distinct floral aroma and is one of the reasons why it is popularly used cosmetics and perfumes. Recent research has however shown that bisabolol is a powerful analgesic terpene which explains both chamomile and lavender’s sedative qualities. It is also quite effective at treating wounds and fighting a variety of bacterial infections while having anti-irritant and anti-oxidant properties as well.
Found in abundance in black pepper as well as other spices and woody herbs like cloves, cinnamon, basil, oregano, and rosemary, caryophyllene is the only terpene known that binds directly to cannabinoid receptors. Researchers believe that this is why it provides such powerful analgesic effects. Caryophyllene also has potent anti-anxiety effects and shows promise in treating symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and even reducing cravings.
Eucalyptol is what gives eucalyptus, camphor and tea tree its particular aroma. This terpene proves to have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Eucalyptol has also been used for millennia as a decongestant and bronchodilator and as an effective treatment for asthma and other types of respiratory problems. More recently, eucalyptol has also been shown to inhibit the growth of plaques that cause Alzheimer’s Disease, making it a promising treatment for the disease.
Geraniol has a strong floral aroma and is what gives roses and geraniums their floral character. Therapeutic benefits include pain relief, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects as well as being anti fungal. Geraniol has also been shown to help the absorption of active ingredients through the skin, making it an excellent addition to any therapeutic or beauty cream.
Humulene found in hops, sage, ginseng and ginger has shown to have powerful anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition researchers believe it to be an appetite suppressant making it useful as a weight loss aid.
As the name suggest, limonene is found abundantly in almost all citrus fruits but also in many mints as well as celeries and even chaste tree. Mental benefits of limonene include alleviating anxiety while improving overall mood while physical benefits include being effective against bacterial strains, fungi, and even some cancers.
Linalool, most commonly found in lavenders, laurels and oreganos, is best known for its potent relaxing, sedative, anti-depressant, and anti-anxiety benefits. Research also indicates that it is effective at fighting seizures, arthritis, general inflammation, and tumor growth.
Myrcene is said to smell of red grapes and cloves and has a musky, yet fruity aroma and is found in mangoes, nectarines, hops, bay laurel leaves, thyme, lemongrass, and basil. Myrcene can be quite sedative and is useful to help induce sleep while also thought to reduce pain and inflammation.
As the name indicates, pinene is found in abundance in pine trees, conifers and eucalyptus, being what give it their distinctive and familiar smell. There are two different types of pinene terpenes known as alpha-pinene and beta-pinene both of which are potent anti-inflammatory compounds while also having expectorant effect making it effective against respiratory issues and asthma.
Terpenes & CBD: The Entourage Effect
It is clear that terpenes do more than just give a plant its flavor and aroma, but that it also has a wide variety of health benefits. However, there is also a synergistic effect between cannabinoids such as CBD and terpenes known as the entourage effect. The theory behind the entourage effect is that phytocannabinoids support each other in such as way that the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
And scientist now believe that with around 200 terpenes have been found in cannabis, they also form a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to the effectiveness of full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products. This may also be the reason why, when CBD products are either used in conjunction with other therapeutic herbs or these form part of the formulation, they tend to be more effective in treating symptoms.
DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult with a physician if you have a serious medical condition or use prescription medications. A doctor’s advice should always be sought before before embarking on any new treatment.