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What are terpenes?

Terpenes: The Powerhouses Behind Full-Spectrum CBD Extracts

Terpenes may not be a familiar term, but in reality they’re more common than you might think. But, what makes terpenes so important, and why does terpene content matter when it comes to full-spectrum CBD extracts? Keep reading to find out.

What are terpenes and where do they come from?

First, let’s start with what, exactly, a terpene is. Terpenes are a large class of aromatic chemicals found in a wide variety of plants, foods, and essentials oils. Their primary purpose is to protect plants by repelling bacteria, fungi, and pests. But, as you’ll discover, it’s when we humans consume terpenes that they exhibit some really fascinating traits—traits you’ll have likely experienced already.

Why? Because terpenes are everywhere. Black pepper, lavender, mint, mangoes, and lemongrass all contain terpenes! You’ll even find terpenes in cleaning products, perfumes, and essential oils. Of course, we are mostly interested in the terpenes inside hemp, as the plant is an essential source of full-spectrum CBD extracts. It’s believed over 200 different terpenes exist inside the plant, each with a slightly different chemical structure and, as a result, an exclusive aroma and a unique effect on the human body. In hemp, you’ll find terpenes in the trichomes; tiny, mushroom-shaped crystals that cover the leaves and flowers.

How many terpenes are there?

Although there are many different terpenes, some are more common than others. Well-known terpenes include Myrcene, Limonene, Beta-Caryophyllene, and Linalool.

How terpenes are isolated from the hemp plant

Terpenes are extracted from hemp plant material in the same way as cannabinoids, via techniques such as supercritical CO₂ or alcohol extraction. But, terpenes are more sensitive to changes in temperature and pressure, so it’s easy to damage them unless you have the equipment and expertise. To understand how terpenes and cannabinoids exist together, imagine the hemp plant as a large glass jar. First, we fill that jar with rocks; these are cannabinoids, the largest group of compounds. Next, we use smaller pebbles to fill in some of the gaps; these are our terpenes. Finally, to fill the jar, we pour in sand—flavonoids and other essential molecules. You need all the elements outlined above to create a full-spectrum CBD extract, which is why sophisticated extraction is essential.

How terpenes work

Researchers have identified dozens of ways that terpenes impact the human body, including influencing cell membranes, ion channels, receptors, and enzymes. But, when you consider how many terpenes there are, and how complex the human body is, it’s no surprise they’re still trying to figure out how each compound works.

Can terpenes make you high?

Given how cannabinoids and terpenes synergise so well, and how terpenes can interact with various aspects of human physiology, it’s common to wonder whether they will make you high. As far as researchers are aware, the terpenes found in hemp, and popular foods and essential oils, will not get you high.

Are terpenes legal?

Terpenes are considered legal all over the world, so you don’t need to worry about the black pepper in your cupboards becoming an illicit substance. Even isolated terpenes are legal in the UK and US, but it’s when you start to get your terpenes from the Cannabis sativa species that the situation becomes more complicated.

Why terpenes matter

From their synergy with cannabinoids to their dynamic influence on the body, terpenes are small aromatic compounds with a lot of potential. That being said, there’s still a lot to learn about how and why terpenes interact with specific biological processes or receptors. With terpenes legal and safe to consume, it’s never been easier to experience their boundless influence alongside the power of CBD.


[1] Russo, E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163(7), 1344–1364. [Source]

[2] Russo, E. B. (2018). The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain. NCBI. Published. [Source]