Terpene-rich CBD products – what a consumer needs to know

by in Terpenes May 16, 2021

Cannabis consumers are increasingly becoming more sophisticated and knowledgeable about hemp-based cannabis.  They learn about plant’s components and potential effects of phytochemicals known as phytocannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes.  This article addresses the importance of terpene profiles in hemp cannabis products and what a consumer should look for when considering the purchase of such products.

Terpenes were first analyzed in the early 1800’s and found to be present in all plants.  Botanists found that terpenes were a major constituent of the plant’s essential oils responsible for its unique aroma.  The early research also found that some terpenes were responsible for the plant’s protective mechanisms involving defense against predators, bacteria, and viruses, while other terpenes attracted bees for pollination.

People don’t realize how frequently we are exposed to terpenes.  When you walk through a pine forest and take a deep breath, that smell and the feeling it elicits comes from terpenes.  When you are chopping basil, the aroma is from the terpenes that are being released.  These scents initiate a cascade of responses such as increased saliva, appetite stimulation, a sense of relaxation, and a feeling of well-being.

The cannabis industry and medical community continue to study the impact that terpenes have on human physiology, pathology, and its potential for therapeutics.  Currently, we know that each cannabis strain has different combinations and ratios of terpenes and cannabinoids.  These combinations and ratios of terpenes and cannabinoids can create a cascade of beneficial desired effects on how one feels.

In botanical medicine, specific herbs with distinct combinations of terpenes are known to correlate with certain healing benefits.  Data and information from thousands of studies on individually isolated terpenes and essential oils with terpene constituents have been cataloged since 1923.  While more scientific research is needed, the information and studies thus far have demonstrated many promising benefits.

Clinical studies are needed to complement the early research that has been conducted on how the interaction between cannabinoids and terpenes promote health by helping to remedy deficiencies of endocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced by our bodies).  An area of particular interest is how terpenes can play a role in pain management.  Early research has indicated a potential for anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving responses from terpenes.  Clearly, there is a need for more in-depth clinical studies on how terpenes influence phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced by plants or vegetation) that bind to various receptors in the endocannabinoid system affecting the central nervous system, the peripheral nervous system, the gut, and the immune system.  In addition to pain relief and anti-inflammatory responses, early research has demonstrated how specific terpenes and their interaction with cannabinoids show promise with antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties among other health benefits.

What should a consumer look for when buying a hemp cannabis product that contains terpenes?  Knowing what is in your product is key to having a successful hemp cannabis product experience.  Things to look out for are whether companies are transparent about providing independent laboratory results regarding cannabinoid and terpene levels in the product.  Does the company provide information on the testing of their product for contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, microbes, or other toxins?  A responsible hemp cannabis company should furnish such information by either having a QR code that can be scanned on their box, or by posting test results on their website.

Terpenes are very volatile chemicals and depending on whether their extraction uses techniques involving heat and pressure, they may not survive the production process in their stable form. While some companies have begun adding terpenes to their products, most only use a few terpenes, and at volumes that are generally too low to provide a full beneficial experience.  More advanced companies have learned to create specific and repeatable profiles in their products.  Such products are more likely to give consumers the same desired effect with each product purchase.  Make sure the terpenes in your product are derived from natural sources, as synthetic terpenes have been shown to lack efficacy.  If you are looking to enhance your experience with hemp derived CBD products by using products enhanced with natural terpenes, following the above easy guidelines will result in a higher likelihood of achieving beneficial effects without unpleasant surprises.

About Dr. Howard Rubin
Chief Science Officer, Co-Founder​, Founder HOPE MMJ, Medical Psychologist, Psychopharmacologist, Pain Management Specialist, Medical staff, 1984 US Olympic team, Medical staff, Los Angeles Clippers

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