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What are terpenes?

Scientifically speaking, terpenes are aromatic compounds that are found in several species of plants and herbs. These are the compounds that give plants their characteristic scents. Essentially, terpenes make pine smell like pine, lavender smell like lavender, and orange peel smell like orange peel. They’re commonly used to manufacture flavors and scents in a lot of consumer grade products like fragrances, lotions, and even some foods. But they’re most frequently associated with cannabis. That's because more than 200 different terpenes have been found in cannabis plants – a much higher concentration than other plants.

Research shows that there are more than 20,000 terpenes in the environment, and they play a lot of important roles in the plants they inhabit. Among other responsibilities, they attract pollinators and protect plants by repelling predators. They also help plants recover from damage and boost plant immune function. But they don’t just help plants – humans benefit from the power of terpenes, too.


What are the benefits of terpenes?

A lot of terpenes are classified as bioactive. Basically, this means that they could affect the body when ingested. But this depends on their concentration and how they’re consumed. Terpenes bind to our brain’s receptors when we consume them. This produces a physiological response that can influence the production of different neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. In other words, terpenes can have a positive impact on our physical, mental, and emotional health. This is why they’re used in essential oils and aromatherapy to impact mood, stress levels, and other health indicators.

To understand how wide-ranging terpenes’ benefits are, it helps to take a deeper look at 3 common terpenes found in CBD:


Aside from CBD, limonene is often found in the rinds of fruit. This terpene gives them their citrusy smell. But it does a lot more than offer a pleasant scent. Limonene has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antidiabetic, and anticancer properties. It has also shown some effectiveness in aiding weight loss and healing peptic ulcers. Plus, it helps with stress relief and combatting depression symptoms.



Alpha-pinene is one of the most common terpenes in the world, and it’s found in pine needles, rosemary, and basil in addition to CBD. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties, and it works as a bronchodilator, which means it opens up the airway passages quickly in emergency situations like an asthma attack. Alpha-pinene also helps with pain relief, aids memory, and boosts energy levels.


Myrcene has more of a musky scent and is most common in modern commercial cannabis. It’s a truly versatile terpene, with antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties. It’s also an analgesic, which means it helps reduce pain and inflammation. Additionally, myrcene has sedative effects and blocks cancer-causing properties of fungi that end up in our food. Furthermore, it guards against DNA damage and works as a cough suppressant.

These compounds have tremendous therapeutic effects, as these three terpenes demonstrate. On top of all that terpenes can accomplish, a growing body of research suggests they play a major part in one other benefit – the Entourage Effect.


The entourage effect and why it’s so important

The Entourage Effect is usually discussed in relation to cannabis but still applies to CBD. The Entourage Effect occurs when all of the chemicals in cannabis – THC, terpenes, flavonoids, cannabinoids, and hundreds of others – work synergistically to create psychoactive effects. Chemist Chris Emerson described this as “the magic or power of cannabis” in a 2017 Scientific American report about the Entourage Effect.

Two professors – Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat – first discovered the Entourage Effect in 1998. They found that certain terpenes either prohibited or encouraged binding to cannabinoid receptors in the body. Their findings were later backed by several other studies, most notably 2007 and 2018 studies from Dr. Ethan Russo, MD.

So, essentially, a product with only one pronounced chemical won’t have as much of an impact as a product with several chemicals. The combination of chemicals impacts how we metabolize them and how we feel or react to them.

The Entourage Effect & CBD

What does this mean for CBD products? CBD products also benefit from the Entourage Effect. For example, terpenes present in CBD oil help the body in three important ways. They improve our ability to absorb beneficial chemicals through the blood-brain barrier, overcome bacterial defense mechanisms, and increase the absorption and effectiveness of cannabinoids.

A 2011 study by Russo proved that, even without the presence of THC, terpenes still worked synergistically to produce the Entourage Effect. This resulted in a more complete therapeutic experience for the user. This means that a CBD product with CBD and terpenes is far more effective than a product that only contains CBD.


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