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What Are Terpenes and Why Does Your Body Need Them?

People are taking cannabidiol (CBD) products for their restorative and revitalizing capacities. But cannabidiol is not the only valuable ingredient in CBD oil. Mixed in with the CBD and its partner cannabinoids are aromatic compounds known as terpenes. These chemicals are not unique to hemp, but are produced by all plants and are responsible for the memorable and attractive scents that flowers, trees and shrubbery emit.

While terpene molecules are identified primarily by their ability to produce distinctive odors, there is much more to them than meets the eye—or more to them than meets the nose, in this case. Terpenes have a range of special qualities that are only beginning to be explored and understood.

When you consume products derived from hemp, such as CBD oil, you’ll want to find brands or varieties that include a complete menu of all the terpenes the hemp plant is able to produce. With CBD products, the more terpenes they contain, the more delightful benefits you’ll enjoy when you take them.

How Terpenes Function

Terpenes are natural compounds found in the flowers and buds of the hemp (Cannabis Sativa) plant, from which all hemp products (including CBD oil) are derived. Since CBD oil is extracted from the plant as a whole, it contains ample quantities of terpenes, including a diverse spectrum of all the different terpenes a particular strain of hemp plant will produce.

From any perspective, terpenes are a true marvel of nature. These molecules are an expression of a plant’s natural defense system, emitting odors that nauseate or repel insect predators but attract the interest and attention of bees, butterflies, mosquitos, moths, beetles, hummingbirds and other pollinators that help plant life blossom and thrive.

From the perspective of human beings, terpene odors are strong yet pleasant. But if consumed they have a bitter taste, which helps repulse herbivores that might otherwise consume the leaves and flowers of hemp plants in their entirety.

Along with everything else, terpene molecules help strengthen and support the functioning of a plant’s natural immune system. A plant that produces a healthy supply of pungent terpenes will enjoy greater resistance to disease, and its vibrant appearance will be a sign that its terpene manufacturing system is functioning at full efficiency.

The Science of Terpenes and Health

Research into the therapeutic and medical effects of terpenes is ongoing. But the evidence collected so far strongly suggests that terpenes can improve people’s health, often profoundly and always meaningfully.

One of the most commonly found terpenes in CBD and hemp products is beta-caryophyllene, or BCP. This substance is a potent anti-oxidant that can reduce pain and inflammation. The latter effect was confirmed in a study performed at Chongqing Medical University in China, which revealed that BCP could suppress the type of inflammation in the brain that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. As an outgrowth of its inflammation-inhibiting properties, BCP will also increase the speed and efficiency of wound healing, as was demonstrated in a 2019 research project carried out by a team of scientists from the University of Indiana.

The pain-relieving effects of beta-caryophyllene come from its ability to bind with CB2 receptors (such activity is unusual among terpenes), which are a part of the human endocannabinoid system. It has been known for quite some time that activation of the CB2 receptors will reduce pain, regardless of the source of the activation.

Another terpene that has been shown to have multiple potential health benefits is limonene, which is one of the most abundant terpenes embedded in CBD products. Limonene has been researched more closely than most terpenes, and many possible health benefits have been discovered in controlled conditions.

For example, a 2013 study published in the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior described the anti-anxiety effects of limonene, which were detected in the laboratory in mice. Meanwhile, a 2018 study discussed in OncoTargets and Therapy showed how limonene could stimulate the body’s natural processes for killing and eliminating cancer cells, specifically those created by deadly lung cancer tumors.

Multiple studies have revealed that limonene is a powerful anti-bacterial agent. Research shows it is a prodigious destroyer of harmful food-borne bacteria like E.coli and Listeria, and it can also be effective as a partial antidote to a staph infection. When ingested, it can also help to relieve heartburn, acid indigestion and the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease.

In the cells of the central and peripheral nervous systems, there exists a special type of receptor known as TRPV1. The activation of this receptor is known to reduce the experience of pain, and while it is not part of the human endocannabinoid system, a 2020 study found that CBD oil could in fact activate TRPV1 receptors, and possibly produce a significant pain-relieving response as a result.

In fact, earlier research had established that a terpene called myrcene plays a dominant role in the interactions between CBD oil and the TRPV1 receptor. Hemp plants contain a higher concentration of myrcene than any other terpene, and the presence of terpenes in such abundance undoubtedly helps explain why CBD has become so renowned for its painkilling effects.

It should be noted that other research not directly involving CBD oil or myrcene have found that TRPV1 activation will reduce inflammation and can apparently spark a certain degree of immunity from the ravages of cancer cells. Additional published studies have measured notable decreases in inflammation associated with myrcene use, including a 2010 report in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology that revealed how myrcene cream could reduce inflammation of the skin.

Among its many exciting characteristics, myrcene also shows promise as a remedy for insomnia. In a study from the early 2000s, researchers found that myrcene could bring about dramatic improvements in sleep duration and quality, which adds to the anecdotal evidence collected from individuals who’ve used this multipurpose terpene in an attempt to ameliorate their sleeplessness.

This is just a brief survey of what terpenes can do to boost physical and mental functioning. More than 150 different terpenes have been identified in the Cannabis Sativa plant in all its varieties, and a healthy proportion of these are present in CBD products and contribute significantly to their overall effectiveness.

The Value of Broad-Spectrum CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) is available in three formulas: full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate. While isolate contains CBD exclusively, full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD contain a complete menu of all the chemical compounds that occur naturally in a hemp plant, including a long list of cannabinoids and terpenes.

The difference between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum products is that the former contains THC, the psychoactive ingredient in hemp and cannabis, while broad-spectrum does not. For this reason, broad-spectrum products are most sought after by those who want to enjoy the full benefits of CBD while avoiding the potential mind-altering influence of the THC.

The good news is that broad-spectrum products lose nothing besides the THC when they’re processed. They possess prodigious quantities of all the remaining active ingredients that are responsible for the beneficial effects of CBD oils—including the terpenes.

One of the unique qualities of broad-spectrum CBD is found in its cumulative impact. Like a choir working in perfect harmony, the blended ingredients in the CBD oil work together to enhance the individual impact of each chemical, bringing out the best that each compound has to offer. This maximizing dynamic is known as the entourage effect, and its delightful impact boosts the effectiveness of broad-spectrum products to a level that pure CBD isolate could never match.

Research into the entourage effect continues, as scientists seek to understand exactly how it works and how much potency it adds to CBD oil-based products. With respect to terpenes, the entourage effect helps unleash their latent and impressive potential, adding extra vitality to an already beneficial product.

Enjoy the Broadest Spectrum of Benefits with Zen Garden Organics

All Zen Garden Organic products, including our tinctures, softgels, salves and creams, are made from broad-spectrum CBD oil, which has been extracted using state-of-the-art methodologies that do a superb job of conserving a plant’s entire terpene profile. When you purchase your CBD products from us, you’ll be able to take full advantage of the entourage effect, which creates a virtuous partnership between CBD and its terpenes that those who are pursuing a healthy lifestyle will come to deeply appreciate.

By: Nathan Falde