When talking about the hemp plant, we usually fixate on CBD (cannabidiol), and for good reason. CBD is the dominant compound in the hemp plant, and the one with the most research behind it documenting its many useful properties. CBD is wonderful all on its own, but there are plenty of other compounds in hemp that are just as worthy of our exploration.
CBD belongs to a class of compounds called cannabinoids, which are unique to the cannabis genus, to which both hemp and marijuana belong. A secondary class of compounds found in the hemp plant is terpenes, and terpenes, unlike cannabinoids, are actually found in all plant life. In other words, you and I consume terpenes regularly when we eat vegetables, use essential oils, and take herbal supplements.
What is unique about hemp is that its terpene content is particularly rich in properties that can be incredibly useful to us. In fact, many regular hemp users underestimate just how many of the effects they are experiencing are coming from terpenes rather than solely cannabinoids. Because terpenes play such an important role in CBD products on the market today, we have decided to make a comprehensive guide to these compounds, explaining what they are, what they offer and how to buy hemp products moving forward while being more selective about the terpenes in the product.
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes, like we said, are compounds found in all plant life. They serve multiple purposes in their original form. For one thing, when we eat or smell a plant, it’s mostly the terpenes that are informing the aroma and flavor profile. Each terpene has a distinctive taste and smell, and a plant’s particular composition of terpenes determines its overall profile.
Terpenes also protect plant life, with specific properties that keep the plant in a state of health. For example, many terpenes have antibacterial properties that fight off bacteria that could kill the plant or even threaten the existence of the entire species. Other terpenes can fend off predators such as insects that eat plants, which is why so many terpenes are great insecticides for our homes and even our bodies.
Clearly, terpenes are beneficial to plants. But, when we extract terpenes from their plants, like we do when we make a broad or full spectrum hemp extract, we are able to experience these properties in our own bodies. The same properties that can benefit plants can be useful to us. Beyond that, terpenes can carry additional properties that serve specific functions for humans as well as other mammals.
For instance, the lavender plant is renowned for its calming effects, as well as its anti-inflammatory ability. This has a lot to do with its dominant terpene, linalool. Linalool has anxiolytic and anti-inflammatory effects, which is why lavender is used medicinally all over the world. Hemp also contains linalool, which means that hemp offers these same properties thanks to its presence of the terpene. And, that’s just one of over one hundred terpenes that can be present in the plant material.
Now, you can see why terpenes play such an important role in hemp. They actually give hemp a more diverse array of properties that work alongside cannabinoids to deliver desirable responses in the body when consumed. Further, there’s reason to believe that terpenes actually boost the efficacy of cannabinoids through natural synergy, meaning that consuming terpenes and cannabinoids at once creates a more powerful product overall.
The Role of Terpenes in the Strain of Hemp
Now that you understand what terpenes bring to hemp’s chemical composition, we can dive into strains. The strain of hemp refers to its breed, as various strains are bred together to produce specific chemical compositions that yield certain effects, whether they relate to mood, sleep, pain, or something else that’s desirable.
The strain of the hemp plant is based on its terpene profile, as terpenes can be present in different levels in the hemp plant. There are three main types of strains: indica, sativa and hybrid. The determining factor largely revolves around its myrcene content, as a terpene profile with 5% myrcene or more makes a plant an indica, while less than 5% is sativa. Then, if you breed an indica and sativa together, you get a hybrid strain.
Indica strains are associated with being more calming, and sativa strains are associated with being more energizing. Hybrids, naturally, give you something in the middle. Within each category is an endless variety of strains, as new strains are constantly being developed by breeders.
Each strain has its own CBD content as well, as the CBD in hemp can range from as low as 10% to as high as 25% or more. But the terpenes are mainly responsible for the specific effects of each strain.
Also, keep in mind that as each terpene has its own taste and aroma, each strain has a unique flavor profile and aroma profile. Strains can taste like cookies, candy, berries, citrus fruits, diesel and more, depending on the arrangement of terpenes in the plant.
Terpenes Commonly Found in the Hemp Plant
Now, let’s break down the most common and abundant terpenes in the hemp plant. Like we said, there are over one hundred, but these are the ones that are the most prevalent in the plant, and the ones that are the most sought after for their specific effects.
- Limonene: A terpene that’s abundant in citrus fruits, and gives hemp its citrusy kick along with uplifting and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Pinene: Has a pine-like flavor, aroma, and contains anti-inflammatory activity as well as calming effects.
- Myrcene: Present in bay leaves, is a terpene that determines whether a strain is an indica or a sativa and is known for its powerful calming properties.
- Linalool: Widely associated with lavender, is another calming terpene that has anti-inflammatory properties and may enhance sleep.
- Caryophyllene: A terpene that has the unique ability to bind to CB2 receptors, to perhaps enhance the endocannabinoid system’s ability to utilize cannabinoids like CBD. Furthermore, it has relaxing effects on the mind and body, plus anti-inflammatory properties.
- Humulene: A mild appetite suppressant, and is present in hops, which is why some strains have a beer-like flavor.
- Eucalyptol: Unsurprisingly gets its name from eucalyptus and is responsible for the plant’s cognitive-boosting and analgesic properties.
- Camphene: Truly a powerful antioxidant, and a prevalent terpene found in pine needles.
- Borneol: Might be an antispasmodic and has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine for help with muscle issues.
Selecting a Strain Based on Its Terpenes
Now that you know what terpenes bring to the CBD table, let’s apply this information in a way that will help you with your CBD purchased moving forward. The first thing to do is make sure you have access to a product that comes in a variety of strains. Usually, you can find both CBD flower and vaping goods in all kinds of strains, with other products like tinctures and gummies having less of a variety, if any.
Note: CBD isolate products do not contain any terpenes at all.
Now, decide if you want an indica, sativa or hybrid, based on the type of experience that you’re looking for. From there, you will need to narrow down your choices based on what’s available, and we encourage you to research particular strains to understand which terpenes they contain, and how these terpenes produce specific effects. Most of us have a particular goal in mind when taking cannabidiol, and the terpenes in particular strains can bring us that much closer to reaching our goals. So, choose a strain based on what it is what you want to feel when you take cannabidiol.
The Role of Terpenes is Remarkable When It Comes to CBD
It’s impossible to deny that terpenes are actually a very important component of one’s hemp experience, giving the hemp plant a wide array of properties just like cannabinoids do. Now that you have a deeper understanding of terpenes and what they do to strains of hemp, you can come up with a more personalized routine that is even more likely to satisfy your particular preferences and goals with CBD.