Terpenes & CBD: The Best Team to Fight Anxiety

While CBD has gone mainstream at breakneck speed, terpenes are the new kids on the block, ready to dazzle and dance.

Since last December, when the 2018 Farm Bill passed by the Senate, CBD has made headlines in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Time magazine, while terpenes, the essential oils that give cannabis strains its characteristic aroma, have been working backstage.

But now, terpenes and their therapeutic benefits are emerging as the new stars in the cannabis scene, ready to hit the stage.

If you’re new to the hemp-cannabis world and have not heard of this compounds yet, worry not, in this article I will introduce you into their unique medicinal benefits and will show you how terpenes may take care of your mind worries if you are looking to calm anxiety and stress.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Table of Contents

Terpenes: The New Stars

If you are familiar with essential oils and perfumes, then you know terpenes! They are present in all the aromas and flavors we find in the different products we use every day.

Did you know aromas influence our lives in more than one way? Well, aromas are brought to you by the power of terpenes.

Aromas affect your mood and mental state by making you feel more relaxed, calm, or happy, which is why “aromatherapy” exists.

The sense of smell is one of the more powerful things retained by our minds. Aromas have the closest link to memory. You can come across a whiff of something that takes you back to an old memory in a heartbeat.

For example, the smell of cinnamon always brings me memories of my mom and my childhood. She’s a baker—a messy baker at that. There was always a bit of flour and cinnamon on her face, as I remember. She also bakes the best cinnamon rolls.

An enchanting aroma can sink into your brain and unleash an emotion that affects the way you relate to places, things, people, or even brands.

These aromatic compounds not only determine how plants and fruits smell but also how they taste, and even the color they have. Terpenes give fruits like oranges and limes their distinguishable citrus smell and flavor.

They’re responsible for the unique flavor, fragrance, and color you can find in the wide variety of cannabis strains. Each cannabis strain offers a unique terpene composition and type.

Some are sweet and fruity, others strong and musky, and others are earthy and piney. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are a cannalover, you will find these smells pleasant, while other people just can’t stand them.

I think pot should be legal. I don’t smoke it, but I like the smell of it.

Andy Warhol

There are reasons plants smell the way they do; the purpose of the aromas that terpenes produce is to help plants thrive in the environment. Cannabis terpenes are an efficient defense system that help to repel natural enemies like bacteria, fungi, pests, and other environmental stresses.

However, they also protect the buds from the harmful UV rays, attract pollinators, and enhance the plant’s entire development.

Terpenes are synthesized in the trichomes, the same cannabis glands that produce cannabinoids like CBD and THC. Researchers have identified over 200 different ones in the cannabis plant, but only a few of them appear in amounts significantly enough to be “nose”-worthy, as to speak.

There are a handful of factors that influence the terpene development of the plant, including:

  • Age
  • Maturation
  • Weather
  • Climate
  • Soil type
  • Fertilizers

Can Terpenes Help You Thrive?

Terpenes not only help plants like cannabis to thrive, but it turns out that they also help people too. Their unique profile provides one-of-a-kind therapeutic benefits.

A 2011 report by renowned cannabis expert Dr. Ethan Russo, in the British Journal of Pharmacology, discusses the wide range of health properties of terpenes, including evidenced sedative, anti-anxiety, and stress-relief effects of this aromatic substance.

Some terpenes balance the psychoactive and physiological effects of cannabis.

Terpenes have other unusual properties like speeding up the way cannabinoids get into the bloodstream, facilitating their absorption.

Terpenes are believed to interact with other systems within the body like the endocrine and neuroendocrine systems. They can also enhance the anxiolytic effects of CBD by acting on these neurotransmitters:

  • Terpenes can Inhibit the serotonin uptake (as the antidepressant Prozac does).
  • Enhance norepinephrine (like the antidepressant Elavil).
  • Increase dopamine activity.
  • Boost GABA

So far terpenes look like the best crew to roll with our favorite cannabinoid, alright?

How Do Terpenes & CBD Get Along?

Nonetheless, what makes these compounds really fascinating—and the real reason they’re now in the spotlight of the cannabizz—is that they make an amazing team with the cannabinoids, magnifying their therapeutic effects and also inhibiting the adverse ones.

In the words of Dr. Ethan, terpenes and cannabinoids are “half-siblings that come from the same parent chemical—geranyl pyrophosphate—and get along beautifully.”

Each terpene has specific health attributes that may enhance the diverse potential benefits of CBD, which are typically not found in “CBD-only” products.

They are in part responsible for the so-called entourage effect because of their ability to interact in synergy with other cannabis compounds. They impact the endocannabinoid system as much as CBD and THC do, acting on both the cannabinoid receptors and the neurotransmitters.

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Terpenes & The Endocannabinoid System

Just like cannabinoids, terpenes interact with the endocannabinoid system, a powerful signaling system that regulates all other systems in the human body. We share this system with other creatures from the animal kingdom.

The main role of the endocannabinoid system is to promote balance within the body; it achieves this through homeostasis.

Let me break this down.

Ever wondered why Earth is the only planet known to have the perfect conditions to support life? Well, our lovely planet is a “just right” planet, a space with the right location in the solar system, the right amount of water, the right size, and the right atmosphere.

Likewise, our bodies have a mechanism that provides the right conditions for optimal health. That mechanism is known as “homeostasis.”

Terpenes and cannabinoids interact with the ECS to help us bring this ideal state of optimal health into our bodies and minds.

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Are Terpenes Safe?

The FDA has recognized terpenes as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) oily substances. All cannabis compounds—cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids—are susceptible to mixing with fats.

The terpenes you find on the market are pulled out from both cannabis plants and many other plants where these aromatic molecules can be found.

Processing CBD is expensive, so companies often use ethanol extraction to obtain the oil, which is a more cost-effective process.

Many terpenes are sensitive to ethanol extraction and undergo volatilization and chemical degradation. Thus, companies need to reintroduce them into their final products.

Thanks to technological breakthroughs in the development of hemp-derived CBD concentrates, this is now possible. Terpenes lost during rough extractions can now be added back to a finished product. But these terpenes add-ins are usually not from cannabis.

Some companies add synthetic terpenes to their CBD extracts. Others add terpenes sourced from other plants. Remember that natural, fresh terpenes are the safest and most powerful option.

Can You Vape Terpenes?

It’s unclear if terpenes are safe for vaping or not. The e-liquids used for vaping require a thinning agent, such as propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin, to make the vaping experience more pleasant, meaning more vapor and less gunk.

When these chemicals are heated, they emit formaldehyde as a byproduct, which is a nasty chemical you wouldn’t want in your lungs.

Terpenes are highly reactive molecules. Experts still don’t know how they interact with these thinning chemicals and their byproducts.

Furthermore, each terpene has a different boiling point, which adds more confusion to the vaping practice, a practice that is already in crisis.

In recent investigations to study what happens when additives from cannabis vapes are inhaled, researchers found that terpenes produces more toxins that THC during vaping.

Terpenes are naturally occurring in cannabis flowers at levels of 2 to 5%. But some vaping companies put too much concentrated terpenes—up to 30%—in their juices, and nobody knows how these high levels of terpenes can affect the human body when their natural state is altered.

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YOU MAY WONDER...

CAN TERPENES GET YOU HIGH?

No, terpenes are non-intoxicating molecules. They don’t interact with the psychoactive receptor CB1 in the same way THC—the mind-altering compound in marijuana—does. But they will have an effect on your high.

If you’re a marijuana-user, terpenes will have a major impact on your experience depending on the type of terpene present in each marijuana strain, possibly making you feel more euphoric and energized or more sedated and relaxed.

By now, you may be thinking it would be a good idea to pair CBD with a terpene that also encourages the benefits you are looking for.

So, Can You Add Terpenes to CBD Oil?

The short answer is yes, but terpenes are extremely concentrated molecules, and you should use them in moderation. Only small amounts are required for better effects from your CBD oil.

However, more research is needed to describe and predict exactly how cannabis terpenes may be used and what combinations can specifically bring out the therapeutic properties for whatever condition you need to treat.

Many CBD brands are now offering extracts with proprietary blends that include terpenes, because it’s believed that the addition of this aromatic molecule can make the CBD oil more effective in harnessing the entourage effect.

Knowing what’s in your terpene blend is key to ensure quality and safety.

Do your research to make sure the type of terpenes in these blends fit your needs.

Also check the Certificate of Analysis (COA) which is a third lab report of the product to verify the freshness, profile, and ratios of the terpenes in the content. The fresher, the better.

You can also find pure terpene blends that are carrier-free. However, terpenes are very powerful and should never be consumed in their concentrated forms.

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Best Terpenes to Ward off Anxiety

If you are curious about what terpenes have shown anxiolytic effects and you’re looking to potentiate CBD’s action, I’ve got you covered with the following list.

ALPHA-PINENE

Pinene is one of the most researched terpenes to date. But it’s not as abundant in modern cannabis strains. As its name implies, it gives pines their fresh, earthy smell. It also provides various cannabis strains with delightful flavors and sensations.

Ever heard of the Japanese practice of forest bathing? Well, it’s basically to be in presence of trees to feel well-being. You don’t need to walk, or hike, or accomplish anything—just take deep breaths and relax in the forest.

That’s pinene, the nostalgic and highly elevating scent of pines and trees that helps you clear your mind and unwind.

Inhaling the pinene in fresh forest air also has anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and bronchodilator properties, meaning it opens up your lungs, which makes this terpene a target for soothing respiratory ailments such as asthma.

Alpha-pinene can also lower the unwanted effects of THC, such as anxiety and short-term memory loss.

Pinene is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Acetylcholinesterase is the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine is your brain’s own natural magic ingredient for quick and clear thinking, learning and memory. So, if it’s broken down too quickly, you lose focus and forget. Pinene prevents this.

A marijuana strain that is rich in pinene will let you retain memories while also enjoying the desired effects of THC. Unfortunately, most modern strains badly lack this terpene.

MYRCENE

The presence of this anti-anxiety terpene in cannabis plants can go up to 60 percent of their entire terpene content found in individual strains, which makes it the most abundant terpene found in these plants.

Myrcene is known for its ability to enhance the effects of THC, and it often determines whether a specific strain can be considered an indica or sativa. It gives marijuana its distinctive aroma. Its taste and smell have notes of citrus, cloves, musk, and earth.

This terpene binds to receptors in the endocannabinoid system, helping to encourage analgesic responses, as well as relaxing and sedative qualities, which makes myrcene responsible for the “couch lock” effect—that state when you’re too stoned to get off the couch and function properly.

Myrcene is the subject of a broad array of current research thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. It also has the attribute to enhance cannabis compound absorption by making it easier to compounds to travel through the blood–brain barrier.

Myrcene can be found also in lemongrass, Myrcia, Verbena, West Indian bay tree, cardamom, and mangoes. It looks like folks’ belief that eating mangoes about forty-five minutes before consuming cannabis can increase THC with a faster onset of mind-altering effects was actually true.

LINALOOL

Linalool is not specific to cannabis. In fact, it can be found in over 200 other plants. Linalool contributes to lavender’s relaxing scent.

Research demonstrates its calming properties. Mice exposed to linalool vapors showed reduced levels of anxiety and lower depression-like behaviors, indicating its potential to reduce anxiety in humans.

Linalool has also shown an ability to activate the body’s parasympathetic response, which is activated when the body is resting and digesting food, evidencing linalool’s anxiolytic effect.

It also helps marijuana relieve psychosis, depression, and seizures.

CARYOPHYLLENE

This terpene is known as the “dietary cannabinoid,” a common component of food. You can find caryophyllene in many herbs and spices, including black pepper—contributing to its spicy scent and taste—cloves, hops, rosemary, copaiba, and, of course, cannabis. Caryophyllene is approved by the FDA, meaning it has GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status.

Caryophyllene shows a special interaction with the endocannabinoid system, making it a one-of-a-kind terpene with abilities attributed to only cannabinoids. It directly binds the CB2 receptor, preventing that receptor from causing any of the euphoric feelings of cannabis.

The activation of CB2 receptors is associated with therapeutic benefits, like reducing inflammation, pain-relief, and multiple behavioral changes relevant to anxiety and depression. Studies show its ability to lower anxiety levels in mice undergoing stress. Another study from 2014 on mice unveiled the involvement of caryophyllene as a lifespan mediator because of its ability to reduce stress-related genes

LIMONENE

Limonene gives plants like cannabis a citrusy taste and smell. It’s found in the rind of citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes, and oranges. It’s especially concentrated in orange peels. It’s one of the most widespread terpenes found in nature. Used in a range of products.

A number of beneficial properties, such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-stress, and possibly disease-preventing, have been attributed to limonene. The truth is, though, it’s still unclear how limonene achieves its therapeutic effects. Scientists are still figuring out how it works in the brain and body. Studies with limonene are conducted at high doses, much higher than those you commonly find in any citrus fruit or in cannabis.

Ongoing studies show promising data of the potential anxiolytic benefits of limonene. It’s believed that limonene helps your brain transmit dopamine and regulate anxiety by activating the adenosine receptors.

ALPHA-BISABOLOL

Found in chamomile, candeia trees and also a terpene in cannabis. Bisabolol has a sweet, floral aroma. In addition to calming you down, it relieves pain, soothes inflammation and helps antibiotics fight bacteria.

Research supports the idea that bisabolol targets GABAA receptors instead of serotonin receptors to mediate anxiolytic and sedative mechanisms. When bisabolol activates GABAA receptors in the central nervous system, it produces anxiolytic effects similar to those of diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) but without side effects.

NOW, I CAN ALMOST READ YOUR MIND…

WHAT IS THE BEST TERPENE FOR ANXIETY?

With over 200 terpenes found in cannabis, it’s impossible for anyone to say with absolute certainty the single best one for anxiety just yet. Terpenes research has barely been scratched by science.

However, a new wave of health research is shedding light on the symbiotic relationship between us humans and the compounds found in cannabis.

Many brands already produce and sell CBD oils and vape juices containing different terpenes ratios. You can often choose the specific strain and terpenes in the product you buy.

It’s not crazy to think that the future of CBD lies in tailor-made combinations where these terpenes and other compounds are crafted in the right ratios to achieve health outcomes for different bodies’ chemistry and lifestyle needs.

So, if you’re considering harnessing the power of CBD and terpenes together, then full- and broad-spectrum formulas are your go-to. Thanks to the entourage effect, they can create a well-rounded experience to support your psychological health.

Quick Wrap-Up

  • Cannabis plants contain many compounds the most prominent are cannabinoids like CBD and THC, but they also contain other active compounds called terpenes.
  • Several of these terpenes have shown promise for treating anxiety in animal studies and anecdotal reports, although this remains to be confirmed in human trials.
  • Some of the Anti-anxiety terpenes found in cannabis are beta-caryophyllene, alpha-pinene, linalool, limonene, nerolidol or alpha-bisabolol.

Are you eager to try a CBD formula that include terpenes? The space below is for your thoughts, share some!