Terpenes are naturally present in many plants, including cannabis. Thus, they might be naturally present in some CBD products. However, they might also be added to CBD products to enhance their aroma, flavour, and, more importantly, their health benefits.
Terpenes are nowadays the focus of CBD products manufacturers. It is because they provide an opportunity to produce value-added CBD products, a product that may be especially good for some individuals. Although this is still an emerging topic, as lots of research is going into it. Nevertheless, researchers already know a lot about the health benefits of terpenes.
Role of terpenes in nature
Researchers have identified numerous roles of terpenes in plants. For example, they help repel certain insects and thus protect the plant. They also have a role in protecting plants from infections. In addition, some terpenes help attract pollinators.
However, researchers are now more interested in the health benefits of terpenes for humans. Due to the complexity of these natural compounds and the mild and complex nature of their action, it is very challenging to study their health benefits. Researchers think that even many of the health benefits of the so-called forest bathing might be due to inhaling terpenes.
Classification of terpenes
Isoprene, a kind of hydrocarbon gaseous compound with formula C5H8, forms the basis of all terpenes. Terpenes are frequently classified based on their molecular size. Their roles in nature are also highly dependent on their molecular weight and complexity.
- Monoterpenes (C10 carbon atoms) – these terpenes are appreciated for their fragrances, and they might also serve as insect repellents.
- Sesquiterpenes (C15 carbon atoms) – researchers are studying their role in fighting infections, malaria, migraines, and other conditions.
- Diterpenes (C20 carbon atoms) – these terpenes appear to be good for fighting stress.
- Triterpenes (C30 carbon atoms) –appear to be especially good for boosting specific regenerative processes.
- Tetraterpenes – they are the largest of terpenes with C40H56 molecular formula and are also known as carotenoids. It means that even vitamin A might be called a type of terpenes.
Although it is too early to define the exact role of terpenes in various health conditions, science has started demystifying these long-held secrets of nature. As a result, it is quite probable that we might see widespread use of terpenes in complementary medicine.
Sources of terpenes and their health impacts
Terpenes are widespread in nature. Some of its most common sources are tea tree, cannabis, thyme, Spanish sage, citrus fruits, citral, lemongrass, to name a few.
The cannabis plant is one of the rich sources of various terpenes. It is especially abundant in monoterpenes. Researchers already know about the health impacts of many terpenes in the cannabis plant.
An example of some of the terpenes used in folk medicine is Limonene (mainly derived from citrus fruits) for oral and digestive health. Phyllaembicilins (from Indian gooseberry) is used in Ayurveda for immunity, diarrhoea, improving circulation, etc. Humulene (from Ginseng) is regarded as suitable for brain health. Zingiberene (from ginger) is considered suitable for digestive issues and respiratory health.
These are just a few examples. However, the possibilities of using terpenes for health benefits are endless, and it is just the tip of the iceberg. Yet, regretfully, we still do not see wider use of terpenes in modern medicine due to insufficient evidence from well-designed clinical trials.
Role of terpenes in CBD products
One might question that how does all this concern the CBD users. Well, as already mentioned, that cannabis plant is rich in various terpenes. So, it means that terpenes rich CBD extract would have more significant health benefits due to the “entourage effect”.
Additionally, researchers are not limiting themselves to the terpenes found in cannabis. Instead, they are experimenting by adding terpenes sourced from other natural sources to CBD products. And this may help them produce CBD products that might be especially good for certain population groups living with specific health conditions.