What Are Terpenes?

What Are Terpenes?

For first-time users of a full- or broad-spectrum CBD oil, the first whiff can be a bit surprising, even overwhelming. What you smell is a combination of various aromatic plant compounds called terpenes. Terpenes are also what gives other plants, flowers and fruits their unique aromas and flavors such as citrus, berry, mint, lavender and pine.

Plants produce terpenes as a way of attracting beneficial insects and animals that help them with things such as pollination and propagation, while at the same time repelling unwanted animals and pests. And just like terpenes have an effect on other animals, so too do they have an effect on us; they are what makes lavender calming and peppermint invigorating.

Terpenes also have powerful therapeutic properties, which is the reason why they are an important part of cannabinoid-based therapies and why whole-plant CBD extracts are thought to be more effective.

Entourage Effect

For quite some time, CBD isolate was thought to be better because of its high level of purity (up to 99-plus percent). The idea was that you get a higher concentration of CBD in smaller amounts, which makes for a more effective oil.

Then in 1998, Israeli researchers discovered something called the entourage effect, a concept referring to the way in which different plant compounds such as cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids work together in such a way that their combined effect is larger than that of each individual compound.

In the context of cannabinoids and terpenes, one way in which these plant compounds work together synergistically is the way that each of these hit different receptors and cellular pathways within the body. Say, for instance, that you are suffering from inflammation, the cannabinoids will interact with the endocannabinoid system as well as various CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the body; the terpenes will have a different set of targets.

Scientists also found that terpenes may help increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, which makes it easier for cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) to interact with and bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Similarly, terpenes also enhance the ability of our bodies to absorb and process cannabinoids, and make for a much higher level of bioavailability, thereby increasing the potential therapeutic effects.

The Major Terpenes in Hemp

There are more than 200 different terpenes identified to date, with about 100 of them found in the hemp and cannabis plant. We will look at the characteristics and therapeutic benefits of only eight of the most abundant and common terpenes present in full- and broad-spectrum CBD oils.


With an aroma that has been compared to that of cloves, Myrcene is the most commonly found terpene in hemp and cannabis.

Myrcene is known to have powerful anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties. In addition, it is also an antibiotic, analgesic, and antimutagenic, especially when used in combination with CBD. It is also thought to have a calming and relaxing sedative effect. 


Limonene is the second most common terpene found in hemp and cannabis plants. As the name suggests, limonene has a strong citrus aroma that acts as a natural insect repellant and defense mechanism.

Because limonene has the ability to easily enter the blood-brain barrier, it can help increase mental focus and attention as well as treat anxiety and depression, enhancing general well-being. Research also suggests that limonene has anti-cancer properties, potentially helping to prevent cancer and tumor growth.


Being what gives lavender its distinctive floral and spicy aroma, linalool is another terpene found in abundance in the hemp and cannabis plant.

The therapeutic properties of linalool include sedative and calming effects, which makes it great for helping to treat nervousness and anxiety. Linalool also has pain relieving, anti-epileptic and anti-cancer properties, which makes it a great all-rounder to have in your full- or broad-spectrum CBD oil.


With its spicy aroma and flavor, caryophyllene is often found in herbs and spices such as black pepper and cloves as well as in hemp and cannabis plants.

Caryophyllene is known for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Plants that contain this terpene are often used as a home remedy for toothaches. It is also said to be help reduce stress as well as reduce the craving for alcohol in people struggling with alcohol dependence and addiction.


Looking at its name, not surprisingly pinene is what gives pine, fir and conifer trees their distinctive smell. Pinene is also found in hemp and cannabis plants as well as in rosemary and sage.

Pinene is thought to have highly effective anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. At the same time, pinene is known to be an effective treatment for conditions such as asthma due to its expectorant effect and ability to widen the bronchi in the lungs. Pinene is also thought to improve memory and mood.


Smelling of lime blossoms and lilac, terpineol is often used in cosmetics and perfumes and is what gives full- and broad-spectrum CBD oils a floral scent.

Terpineol is thought to have a sedative and relaxing effect, which makes it a great addition for people who are taking CBD oil to help ease the symptoms of anxiety, stress and insomnia.


Other than hemp and cannabis plants, nerolidol is also found in plants such as ginger, citronella and orange blossoms. It has a fresh, woody and earthy smell that is reminiscent of oranges and bark and is often used in perfumes or as a flavoring agent in some foods.

Therapeutically, nerolidol has been shown to be a potentially effective treatment for malaria in addition to having antifungal, sedative and relaxing properties.


With its familiar fresh, cooling and minty smell, eucalyptol is what characterizes eucalyptus and eucalyptus oil, and what provides relief from congestion.

Eucalyptol is also thought to have analgesic properties, which makes it a beneficial inclusion for people using CBD oil for pain relief. Moreover, because it is thought to help improve concentration and focus, it is commonly found in plants that are used during meditation and other spiritual practices.

The reason why the inclusion of terpenes in your CBD oil is so important is that, when combined with other plant compounds such as cannabinoids and flavonoids in a full- or broad-spectrum extract, they work together synergistically. This entourage effect is what magnifies the interactions with the body, which may create the best cluster of positive effects.

Lieze Boshoff

Lieze Boshoff (B.Psych, M.Sc (HCN)), is the founder of LBC3 Marketing, a leading content marketing and copywriting consultancy. Lieze has been working exclusively in the cannabis industry for three years, helping her clients get strategic about their content, marketing and copywriting goals. Lieze’s interest in medical cannabis and CBD got sparked when her mother sought a wholistic approach to treating her cancer. Seeing how effective this strategy was, but also the stigma surrounding it, Lieze set out to educate people about medical cannabis and CBD through her marketing and consulting work.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu