• Monica nouhan

What Are CBD Terpenes?

Picture yourself holding an orange. Now imagine you are peeling it. Think of the senses you would feel when peeling this fruit. Envision the mist that cascades off of the peel and kisses your skin, recall the citrusy smell that permeates through the air and taste the tang dancing on your taste buds. All of these senses are caused by trillions of aromatic molecules unique to the orange peel known as terpenes.

Terpenes are unique compounds present in all plants. These chemical compounds are the driving force behind the scientific study of aromatherapy. However, terpenes are also a big part of the budding CBD oil movement. Let’s take a look at just what terpenes are and how they affect the potency of CBD products.

What are Terpenes?

Life is an evolutionary process. All of the living creatures that are here today are not in the same form they were centuries ago. In order to survive the ever-changing climate, persevere through the industrial revolution and even adapt to the increase of frequencies of Wi-Fi waves in the decades to come, living beings always need to evolve.

Due to evolutionary changes, giraffes grew longer necks to regulate body temps in African heat and reach high tree canopies for food. Crustaceans that dwell at the bottom of the ocean are currently losing their eyesight and developing stronger senses of smell because they don’t need to see anyway.

Suffice to say, the plants of today do not have the exact same genetic makeup as the ones that our ancestors first started planting. Seeing as plants don’t have fists or teeth to fight off predators (nor could they run), they had to develop another means of survival. That means is to grow terpenes.

Terpenes are the aromatic chemicals responsible for the earthy smell of sage, spicy scent of cinnamon and citrusy notes of that orange peel. The reason plants created these distinct smells is that they evolved to figure out which scents repel possible predators. Whether it be to keep deer, rabbits or insects at bay, the only way for plants to put up their defenses is to make themselves as undesirable as possible to those who want to prey on them.

However, there’s a fine line between deterring pests and turning everyone else away. Just like plants need predators to stay away in order for them to survive, plants also need pollinators for their species to thrive. That’s why plants developed sweet scents that attract bees, hummingbirds…and us. Those scents are terpenes at play.

CBD and Terpene Connection

While there aren’t many conclusive studies on CBD, there have been quite a few on the science behind aromatherapy. While CBD isn’t used for aromatherapy, its dependency on terpenes for quality, potency and effectiveness is exhibited in studies surrounding aromatherapy.

In aromatherapy, you smell the aromatic molecules that are present in the volatile oils of plant-based products. When this happens, the chemicals stimulate receptors that lie within the olfactory bulb of your nasal cavity.

The olfactory bulb acts as your mind’s toll booth. It interprets messages from aromatic chemicals and then your brain interprets how those scents made the receptors feel.

For instance, think back to that orange peel analogy. When you peel an orange and the mist spritzes on your skin, it causes a lingering, citrusy smell. Imagine sniffing that air up. How do you feel? In your mind’s eye, are you smiling as you breathe in that scent?

Studies surrounding aromatherapy show that the chemical compounds present in essential oils have therapeutic properties that are unique to each organic substance.

For instance:

High doses of linalool in lavender essential oil reduce buildup of glutamate receptors, easing pain

A-pinene, a terpene in peppermint essential oil, acts as a bronchodilator

Large quantities of limonene in orange essential oil suppress pro-inflammatory cytokines

What makes each plant so unique is that it has different levels of beneficial terpenes. That’s why CBD oil is not interchangeable with peppermint oil, which is not interchangeable with orange oil. Sure, some of the benefits may overlap. However, their effectiveness will vary based on their genetic makeup, your genetic makeup and the ailments you are attempting to address.

Terpenes in CBD

Thanks to extensive research in aromatherapy, you now understand what terpenes can do for the body. Now, let’s get to the specifics in terms of terpenes in CBD.

To get into terpenes that are prevalent in CBD, you should first take into consideration that there are over 20,000 identifiable terpenes in the plant world. However, CBD only covers around 200 terpenes.

Terpenes is a blanket statement for specified categories of aromatic chemicals. Classification of terpenes can be broken down into two groups:


These hydrocarbons work together with oxygenated compounds that are abundant in plants known as phenols. When phenols interact with sesquiterpenes, their reaction is to sweep up bad information that is plaguing your DNA. The aromatic compounds attached to sesquiterpenes increases the half-life of smaller molecules. This action pushes out the potentially harmful info attempting to encrypt your genetic makeup.


After the sesquiterpenes do their initial sweep, the closers come in. Monoterpenes restore the correct information your DNA structures need. Thanks to sesquiterpenes working with phenols, the monoterpenes don’t have to worry about fighting off toxins. Instead, they go in and boost all the phytocannabinoids in CBD. This furthers the theory that CBD has an entourage effect on other chemical compounds.

Terpenes and Cannabinoids in CBD Products

Aromatic chemicals lie within the trichomes of cannabis plants. When pressure is applied to hemp, the little hairs burst open. As this happens, resin secretes from the hemp plant. These sticky residues are home to the thousands of cannabinoids and terpenes that comprise CBD oil.

When you break open the tiny hemp hairs, you will notice the all-too-familiar cannabis smell. The terpenes that cause this smell are trapped in CBD products.

When you consume a CBD product, the cannabinoids enter your bloodstream. Here the cannabinoids stimulate CB receptors. These receptors have a direct link to your endocannabinoid system.

Our endocannabinoid system regulates many of everyday functions. This includes:

In the case of vaping, you will receive cannabinoids through the smoke you inhale from the CBD vape pen. That makes the compounds readily available for your bloodstream to absorb. The same goes when you apply a topical like CBD salve. The cannabinoids will permeate your epidermis and stimulate the CB receptors living directly under your skin.

Lastly, you can also consume your CBD products such as with a CBD softgel. When this happens, the stomach acids will break down your supplement. From there, the cannabinoids will slowly be dispersed as your body continues the digestion process. This allows for a naturally regulated time-release of cannabinoids into your system.

Other Terpenes in CBD

Clearly, the benefits of CBD in a full spectrum oil don’t end with cannabidiol. Other terpenes that are prevalent in CBD oil also add to its therapeutic advantages. Here are some of the most common terpenes you will find in the genetic makeup of CBD oil and how you can expect them to interact with the rest of your system:


This is the most common terpene found throughout the genome of plants across the globe. Alpha-pinene is also known as a-pinene. As noted above with the peppermint essential oil study, this particular terpene acts as a bronchodilator. That means it opens up congested airways.

Anyone who has suffered from any sort of congestion knows that it will inhibit your ability to be your best. Therefore, opening up pathways to oxygenated red blood cells means you can help improve your cognitive function, alertness and memory.

Not to mention, a-pinene is known to impede the metabolic breakdown of a neurotransmitter known as acetylcholinesterase. Studies suggest that with less acetylcholinesterase in the brain, there will be a decreased number of negative repercussions for the hippocampus. Seeing as the hippocampus plays a critical role in long-term memory, the terpenes in CBD products may help preserve that cognitive function.


This terpene is known for its ability to thwart pain. Myrcene has been shown in studies to exhibit abilities such as:

Studies with rats who were administered hormones to mimic hyperalgesia showed promising results for myrcene and pain relief.


As the name suggests, this terpene gives many CBD vapes a citrus flavor. It also assists CBD in its potential anti-inflammatory capabilities. Studies involving limonene have demonstrated these terpenes’ ability to inhibit the growth (and spreading) of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

You know how inflammation is the precursor to all disease? Yeah, pro-inflammatory cytokines are the precursors to all inflammation. Once they set up shop and start the foundation, inflammation comes in and begins its reign of terror.

A study was conducted looking at the effects of limonene on proinflammatory cytokines in macrophages. Macrophages are a type of white blood cell. Their function is to sweep the body clear of debris that may lead to infections. Therefore, limonene present in CBD products may have a positive impact on white blood cells that are in a weakened state.


Linalool shows signs of amplifying serotonin-receptor transmission. Serotonin is our happy neurotransmitter. When our brain uptakes this messenger, it gives off feelings of euphoria.


Last is certainly not least here in this list of CBD terpenes. This sesquiterpene is common in many herbs, such as black pepper and oregano. It is known for increasing the bioavailability of chemical compounds. This only furthers the effectiveness of getting a full spectrum CBD oil.

This particular terpene has a unique relationship with CB2 receptors. These specific receptors are found throughout the body, including:

  • Blood Vessels

  • Bones

  • Endocrine Glands

  • Gut

  • Heart

  • Kidneys

  • Lymph Cells

  • Liver

  • Spleen

  • Reproductive Organs

As you can see, the CB2 receptor covers a lot of ground. Therefore, it’s imperative to keep that receptor happily stimulated. Luckily, beta-caryophyllene has a penchant for this receptor. Due to this relationship, beta-caryophyllene can implement its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and bio-availability-strengthening capabilities all throughout the body.

Due to the considerable amount of terpenes and cannabinoids in CBD oil, using CBD products may improve the quality of your everyday life. Whether you choose to use CBD as a tincture, salve or softgel, there are many ways to reap the benefits of the hemp plant’s aromatic compounds.

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