How Do Terpenes Affect CBD?

In recent years, CBD has been at the forefront as an alternative to traditional medicinal therapies. There have been reports by users that CBD has been effective in alleviating many of their chronic conditions including insomnia, depression and bodily aches and pains. What you may not know is that CBD contains several potent compounds that may affect the ways in which it interacts with the body.

One of these groups of compounds is terpenes. Terpenes feature prominently in cannabis. It is estimated that they may account for as much as 5% of the total dry weight of the cannabis plant. The number of terpenes found in a cannabis strain may be correlated to the effects users report. How terpenes impact how CBD functions will be discussed and analyzed in this article.

What are Terpenes?

In order to understand the role terpenes may play in CBD therapy, it is best to understand exactly what terpenes are. Terpenes are unsaturated hydrocarbons typically found in the essential oils of plants. Many of these plants include conifers, pines and those of the Cannabaceae family, from which cannabis is derived.

As the name implies, hydrocarbons are organic compounds that contain hydrogen and carbon. They are mainly produced by the resin that coats trichomes in female plants. There are several main types of terpenes found in cannabis, including:

  • Myrcene
  • Humulene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Linalool
  • Limonene
  • α-pinene (and also β-pinene)

Terpenes are largely responsible for the aroma and flavor of cannabis as well as most other plants used for food. They are also recognized as safe for consumption by most regulatory agencies in the United States.


Myrcene is one of the main terpenes found in plants, such as basil and mangoes. It is also the main terpene found in cannabis. It has traditionally been used for a variety of afflictions, including dysentery, hypertension, and diabetes. Often, the designation of a strain as indica or sativa rests upon its myrcene profile. Strains that contain more than .5 percent myrcene are defined as indica. Myrcene has been cited as having anti-inflammatory properties and may be responsible for increasing the permeability of cell membranes, thus allowing substances across the blood-brain barrier.


Limonene, while not as abundant as myrcene, is also a major terpene. It is derived from citrus plants such as lemons and oranges and is also used in the perfume industry as an aromatic agent. It is also used in household cleaners, food, and medicines. It has been identified as having anticancer and anti-oxidant properties and other studies suggest it may have some antidepressant and anti-inflammatory capabilities.


Pinene gives pine its distinctive aroma. Pinene is also present in two forms; alpha and beta. The alpha version features prominently in cannabis. Pinene is also indicated in some studies as a bronchodilator, opening up pathways in the lungs. It also may help to modulate the effects of cognition that may be caused by substances in whole cannabis, such as THC.


Linalool is a terpene widely known for its aromatic effects. It can be found in plants like lavender and has been indicated to have some anti-convulsant effects. It has also been cited in studies as having anti-inflammatory properties. Linalool can be found in some strains like Amnesia Haze and Special Kush.


Caryophyllene is found in spices such as black pepper and cinnamon and is partly responsible for their aroma. It is also a terpene that is found to activate the CB2 receptor, an important action of CBD. CBD is thought to achieve its non-psychoactive effect by activating this particular receptor. Due to this function, caryophyllene may be indicated in helping to alleviate depression and anxiety.


Humulene is a terpene that may be valuable for weight management. While many other terpenes may impact appetite by causing an increase, humulene may actually decrease appetite and help to mitigate nausea. It is commonly found in spices such as basil and clove.

The Entourage Effect

Terpenes provide not only flavor or aroma, but they also work synergistically to support everyday biological functions. This is known as the entourage effect. They also work to support other cannabinoids and phytochemicals.

The entourage effect describes how different compounds present in cannabis can actually enhance some effects. When taken alone, there may not be the same level of benefits as when combined with other compounds. CBD, for example, can act this way when taken with THC and can mitigate the cognitive effects of THC.

The phrase ‘The Entourage Effect’ was first coined in 1998 by researchers S. Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam. Their work included a description of how the endocannabinoid system or ECS worked alongside molecules to amplify certain therapeutic effects.

How CBD Works with Terpenes

Researcher Ethan Russo studied the ways in which terpenes work synergistically with cannabinoids. He writes that particular terpenes had an amplified effect on how CBD influenced receptors and worked in the body, resulting in many health benefits. In fact, terpenes may do this in several ways.

First, terpenes help to improve the absorption of CBD and other materials into the bloodstream and across the blood-brain barrier. The terpene caryophyllene works as a CB2 agonist. As an agonist, the terpene binds to the CB2 receptors and activates it in order to produce a particular response.

When introduced in conjunction with CBD, this terpene influences serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a major chemical that can intensify feelings of well-being and happiness. As CBD also activates CB2 receptors in the brain and binds to them, this allows for the serotonin levels in the brain to increase and cause a shift in overall mood. Caryophyllene also operates as an antifungal and also mitigates many of the processes that are involved in in-vitro procedures.

CBD may also aid in decreasing acne symptoms. CBD reportedly influences apoptosis, a process by which cells are programmed to “die” or self-destruct. This is an important and crucial part of eliminating the overgrowth of cells in tissues, as well as promoting the maturation of many cells within the body.

CBD in conjunction with terpenes such as linalool may influence the apoptotic eradication of sebocyte cells. These cells are usually found in the skin and hair follicles and are responsible for the creation of sebum. Sebum is a fluid that primarily operates as a substance that keeps hair and the skin soft and pliable. However, too much of this fluid can cause a build-up in the pores and cause inflammation and infection, hallmarks of acne.

CBD, along with limonene, gave researchers a glimpse into the inner-workings of depression and anxiety. Patients in a clinical trial were studied while under the effects of CBD which included the terpene limonene, and it was found that patients had significant results of decreased depression and anxiety in comparison to placebo alone.

Final Thoughts on Terpenes in CBD Oil

Cannabis contains more than just CBD. It contains a litany of other chemical compounds, including phytochemicals and terpenes. Terpenes are unsaturated hydrocarbons that are responsible for the smell and flavor of most foods, plants, and strains of cannabis.

Terpenes are found in the essential oils of plants and are created in the resin of the trichomes of cannabis. Terpenes may have a profound impact on the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), the body’s homeostatic network responsible for memory, movement, and pain and are located in the nervous system and immune cells.

Terpenes achieve this by working in conjunction with CBD. There are several kinds that have noted possible benefits and attributes. These include myrcene, humulene, caryophyllene, linalool, limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene.

The way terpenes work together to promote support for bodily functions and to mitigate conditions is called the “entourage effect.” This effect can also be seen in combination with CBD. Terpenes often work alongside CBD in alleviating symptoms of depression, aches and pains, and acne.

However, there should be a word of caution. Not all strains of cannabis contain the same amount of terpenes. Different amounts of terpenes may have different effects in combination with CBD levels. As each person has unique dietary and physical needs, as well as the difference in their bodily systems, how terpenes affect each individual will vary.

In spite of this, terpenes are an important part of CBD and there are signs that point to these chemical compounds as being beneficial to the body and the mind. Further studies are needed to examine the full capabilities and impacts terpenes may have. Initial studies on this matter are promising and there may be many great health benefits that can be derived from CBD and terpenes in the future.

Many producers and growers of cannabis are beginning to recognize that terpenes may have many health and medical benefits. As demand for CBD grows, there may be a continued push for fact-based information and studies as well as advances in terpene-based products.

Cannabis is quickly becoming an accepted and legal commodity and, as this expands, there will be more demand for products and for companies to cater to an alternative perspective of health and wellness. By becoming more informed about how CBD and other compounds such as terpenes react, consumers can become more educated and more aware of the products they use. They can also become knowledgeable about how CBD and terpenes may or may not work for their unique needs.