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What are Terpenes, and Where do They Come From?

Posted by Jim Higdon on Jul 29th 2020

What are Terpenes, and Where do They Come From?

Terpenes obviously smell good, but did you know they can make you feel good too?

Now that the cannabis industry has become a mainstream market, you have probably already heard of cannabinoids like CBD and THC. However, there’s another set of compounds found in the cannabis plant that you should know about, too. They’re called "terpenes." And the effects of cannabis terpenes could be just as important as those of cannabinoids. What are terpenes? In this article, we’ll explore these interesting compounds as well as their potential benefits when paired with CBD (cannabidiol).

The Truth About Terpenes

When you catch a whiff of hemp, you’ll likely notice that it has a strong smell. Whether it’s skunk, pine needles, or citrus fruits, that distinct scent is thanks to the organic plant compounds known as terpenes.

Terpenes are aromatic compounds found all throughout the plant kingdom, not just found in hemp and marijuana. From citrus fruits to the needles of pine trees, there are many different terpenes all around us, and they determine how things taste and smell.

However, there’s much more to terpenes than meets the nose—in the hemp and cannabis plant, terpene profiles play a significant role in how certain cannabis strains make us feel.

Where Do Terpenes Come From?

As we mentioned before, terpenes are found in all types of life, and they have lots of different biological functions. In the cannabis plant, terpenes are produced in the cannabis flower—specifically in the little orange hairs, known as trichomes, that grow on each bud.

Many plants use terpenes as a primitive form of communication. You can think of it as sort of a “chemical sign language.” Some plants use them to transmit signals to other members of their species. These are known as pheromones. Other plants use them to communicate with organisms from completely different kingdoms. For example, sweet-smelling flowers use terpenes to attract birds and insects as pollinators.

For cannabis, and hemp strains in particular, it seems that terpenes serve several purposes at the same time. Some cannabis terpenes are used to keep insects and herbivores away, while some are used as a “sunscreen” to shield the plant from harmful UV rays.

Fun fact: Many terpenes found in cannabis plants are also found in other plant species. This is why some cannabis strains might smell like berries or lemons, while others smell like cloves or pine.

Why Do Terpenes Matter?

As pleasant as they are, hemp and cannabis terpenes don’t just provide aroma and flavor. They also play an important role in how cannabinoids affect your mind and body.

Current cannabis research supports the argument that, while the terpenes in cannabis and hemp might have therapeutic benefits on their own, their full potential is unlocked when they’re in the presence of cannabinoids (like CBD). Especially when taken orally through sublingual or CBD capsule consumption, which means that your dosage level of CBD could be impacted as well!

According to a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, researchers found that cannabis terpenes appear to complement the effects of cannabinoids, and vice versa. This phenomenon is known as the "entourage effect", and it might explain why terpenes are so important.

Though we still have a lot to uncover, this study supports the theory that CBD hemp products are more effective when they include the full spectrum cannabinoids and terpenes that are naturally found in cannabis.

Don’t just take our word for it—we encourage you to do your own research, and try a full-spectrum CBD product yourself! We’re confident you’ll come to the same conclusion.

How Do Terpenes Affect the Body?

Among cannabis consumers and hemp enthusiasts, there’s a lot of talk about terpenes and their purported health benefits. Terpenes play an important role in aromatherapy, they are what make essential oils smell so good. Some people say that they actually feel better after smelling them.

Many people say that certain terpenes work as anti inflammatory agents; others claim they can help with stress and relaxation. (For example, lavender essential oil is commonly associated with stress relief and sleep.) Although these people might not be wrong, we recommend that you take these statements with a grain of salt when shopping for natural products for health and wellness.

Terpenes are the subject of many ongoing studies. Until these studies conclude, we just don’t know much about them. In addition, the hemp and cannabis plants have hundreds of terpenes that all seem to work together. This makes the puzzle all the more complex.

We feel the same way about essential oils: right now, there just isn’t enough evidence to make solid claims about anti-inflammatory properties or stress relief guarantees. Instead, all you need to know is that terpenes seem to make the other compounds in hemp work faster.

Can Terpenes Get You High?

No—terpene content alone will not get you stoned. And CBD won’t get you high either. As far as we know, the only intoxicant in hemp and medical cannabis is THC, and that’s only when you consume enough.

Like we’ve already mentioned, it appears that a wide terpene profile has the largest impact in making your CBD product more effective—and even those effects still won’t be enough to get you high.

Are Terpenes Bad for You?

According to the FDA, the common terpenes in cannabis and hemp are generally recognized as safe for consumption. Small to normal doses of CBD are not known to cause serious side effects. However, this only applies to food and oral cannabis products. We don’t know whether smoking or vaping these compounds is harmful or not.

Your best bet is a CBD oil that’s meant for oral or sublingual consumption. According to current evidence, CBD oil is perfectly safe when you take the right precautions, and there are no reports of overdosing on CBD.

As always, though, we recommend that any cannabis consumer perform their own research before consuming anything that could put their health at risk. Because the CBD market is largely unregulated, some products may also contain harmful pesticides or fertilizers which could cause bad side effects. This is why we recommend a USDA-certified organic CBD product.

How to choose CBD oil


Choose the Best CBD Oil

Cornbread Hemp is a family owned business that strives to offer the best quality legal hemp products possible. We source our organic hemp cannabis flowers from Kentucky farmers that we know personally. Yep, just the flowers. Our plant material for our cannabis extract never includes leaves and stems, which aren't as potent as the cannabis flowers and makes the end product taste grassy instead of hempy.

Our gentle small-batch cannabis extraction method uses organic sugarcane ethanol to pull all of the terpenes and cannabinoids from the organic cannabis flowers. Then we combine the full spectrum extract with MCT coconut oil, the perfect carrier oil for optimum bioavailability. This allows Cornbread Hemp's USDA certified organic CBD oils to taste great naturally without the need for added flavors or sweeteners.

Cornbread Hemp has all products tested by a third party lab to ensure safety, potency, and provide a full terpene profile. We believe that encouraging the entourage effect is the best way to get the full benefits from the cannabis plant. And you can only achieve the entourage effect with all of the cannabinoids and terpenes naturally found in cannabis. This is why we only produce full spectrum cannabis products that contain the federally legal amount of 0.3% THC.

A World of Possibilities

By learning more about terpenes, people can get closer to understanding hemp as a supplement. But the truth is, we’ve only scratched the surface of these compounds. These aroma molecules contained within hemp fall on a wide spectrum of aromas, effects, and uses. Each strain of hemp contains 10 to 30 different terpenes, and they all interact with each other in unique ways.

As the cannabis industry grows and we get closer to understanding the complexity of hemp, plant geneticists will have more opportunities to develop new cannabis strains that produce desired effects. Though we have a lot to learn, we’re probably not too far off from fully unlocking the power of terpenes—and the rest of hemp’s natural compounds, too.

But until then, we can enjoy hemp just as nature intended: in its whole, natural state. Ready to give hemp a shot? Check out our full spectrum USDA organic CBD oil here.

All rights reserved. The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product.

Cornbread Hemp works with suppliers who guarantee a less than or equal to 0.3% THC content. With these trace amounts of THC, it is possible that users may fail a drug test. Cornbread Hemp does not take any responsibility in the instance a customer fails a drug test while using these products.