EducationWhat role do terpenes play in CBD oil?

What role do terpenes play in CBD oil?

7 min read

Kerry Charron

What role do terpenes play in CBD oil?


CBD oil, and CBD-infused products in general, are on what can only be described as a monumental rise in popularity and societal acceptance. In the world of health and wellness, CBD is the newest 'buzzword' – and rightfully so, as it has been found to offer a multitude of therapeutic and wellness benefits.

But what exactly is CBD oil, why has it become so popular, and why terpenes an important ingredient to consider? Let's find out…

The basics of CBD

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a phytocannabinoid found in both cannabis and hemp plants. It is one of over one hundred different phytocannabinoids present in the cannabis sativa L. genus (which includes both hemp and cannabis), but unlike its famous sister chemical THC, CBD does not come with any intoxicating or inebriating effects whatsoever. This means that it will not produce a "high" when taken, no matter the dosage size.

But what is a phytocannabinoid, and how does this class of compounds interact with our bodies?

The answer lies in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Never heard of it? Well, you're not alone. The ECS wasn't discovered until the late 1980s, and investigation into its functions is still ongoing.

Clinical research has uncovered that it is actually the largest neurotransmitter system in the human body, and it affects a wide array of physiological processes such as appetite, pain sensation, mood regulation, and even reproductive function. It is thought to be the 'universal regulatory system' of the body, responsible for maintaining homeostasis and keeping us in a state of balance.

Now, you might have noticed the similarity between the terms 'cannabinoid' and 'endocannabinoid system'.

There are two distinct types of cannabinoids – endocannabinoids, which are produced naturally by our bodies, and phytocannabinoids, which are found in plants like cannabis. Cannabinoids, whether produced by the body or ingested from plants, work by interacting with receptors found in the ECS, the CB1 and CB2 receptors. When activated, these receptors regulate various body functions in order to maintain balance.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's discuss the three different subtypes of CBD oil, and how terpenes fit into the picture.

The different types of CBD oil available in the UK

Here in the UK, and in many other countries, non-prescribed CBD oil options are sourced from hemp plants. This is due to the fact that modern day hemp cultivars have been selectively bred to contain a higher percentage of CBD and lower levels of THC (0.2% or less) compared to cannabis plants.

CBD oil can be broadly categorized into three types: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.

  • Full-spectrum CBD oil contains the entire chemical profile of the source hemp or cannabis plant, including all phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. In the UK, full spectrum CBD oil must contain less than 0.2% THC, or less than 1 mg of THC per container.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD oil is similar to full-spectrum, but with one key difference – the THC content has been completely removed.
  • CBD isolate oil is the purest form of CBD, with all other compounds removed. This means that it contains no terpenes or flavonoids.

The role of terpenes in CBD oil

Terpenes are aromatic compounds produced throughout nature and found in many plants, including cannabis. They are responsible for the distinctive scents and flavours of different strains of cannabis, but recent research has uncovered that they also play a role in its therapeutic effects. This is known as the "entourage effect”.

New patients often hear the term "CBD isolate" and think that it is the most beneficial form of CBD, but this isn't necessarily the case. Sure, CBD isolate products are the 'purest', in terms of containing 99%+ cannabidiol, but they lack the important terpenes and other beneficial compounds that enhance the therapeutic effects of CBD.

Terpenes have been shown to work in synergy with cannabinoids to enhance their therapeutic effects. This means that a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD oil, which contains terpenes, could potentially offer more benefits than an isolated CBD oil option. Research suggests that terpenes can increase the potency of cannabinoids by enabling them to pass through cell membranes more easily. They also have their own unique properties and effects, which we will dive further down in this article.

So, to answer the question 'Why are terpenes important in CBD oil?'

In short, terpenes work together with cannabinoids to enhance the therapeutic effects of CBD. They are not just responsible for the aroma and flavour of cannabis and hemp, but also play a vital role in improving the efficacy of CBD as medicine.

The therapeutic properties of terpenes

While there have been over 20,000 terpenes isolated and identified throughout the plant kingdom as a whole, cannabis and hemp plants have been shown to contain around 150 distinct types. Different strains of cannabis and hemp will have their own unique terpene profiles, which can contribute to the distinct effects and benefits that each strain offers.

The terpenes most commonly found in the highest concentrations in cannabis and hemp plants include:

  • Myrcene: Known for its sedative and muscle-relaxing effects, myrcene is also a potent anti-inflammatory agent.
  • Linalool: This terpene has been shown to have anxiolytic (antianxiety) and anticonvulsant properties.
  • Caryophyllene: Not only does this terpene have anti-inflammatory properties, but it also has been shown to interact with the body's endocannabinoid system, potentially increasing the therapeutic effects of CBD and other cannabinoids.
  • Limonene: Known for its uplifting and energizing effects, limonene has also shown promise in treating anxiety and depression.
  • Pinene: The most commonly found terpene in nature, pinene is known for its anti-inflammatory and bronchodilatory effects.

These are just a few examples of the therapeutic properties of terpenes found in cannabis and hemp plants. With the further access that researchers are now being afforded thanks to the political and social shift currently underway globally, we can expect to learn much more about these beneficial compounds in the coming years.

For a more complete breakdown of terpenes and the role they play in medical cannabis products, head over to this article.

The bottom line

As medical cannabis research continues to progress, we are beginning to understand just how complex and dynamic this plant really is. Not only do terpenes provide cannabis with its unmistakable aroma, but they also work together with cannabinoids to enhance their therapeutic effects.

When considering what type of CBD oil to choose, it's important to remember that full-spectrum or broad-spectrum products may offer more beneficial therapeutic properties than products containing isolated CBD due to the presence of terpenes. Ultimately, the decision will depend on your personal needs and preferences, and the advice of a medical professional.

Releaf understands that embarking on your medical cannabis journey can be overwhelming, and even slightly intimidating – that’s why we offer tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and our unique medical cannabis card to give you the peace of mind that your treatment is protected, all based on your medical cannabis prescription.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Kerry, with experience as a medicinal cannabis cultivation technician and expertise in business licensing applications, is passionate about developing educational content and advocating for better access to medical cannabis worldwide.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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How long does it take to feel the effects of THC oil?

The time it takes for you to feel the effects of THC depends on the methods of administration as well as your own physiology. Fortunately, there are fast and slow-acting options, as well as ways to take low or high doses in order to facilitate control over the way your body reacts to your medicine.

Editorial Team