The popularity of CBD products is increasing, but clear-cut information about the subtle differences between all these different types of CBD products is severely lacking.
Over the past decades, science has shown that CBD can be a highly beneficial compound for your health and well-being.
What most people interested in CBD don’t know, however, is that the Cannabis Sativa plant species contains countless other beneficial compounds other than CBD.
One other type of beneficial compound found in the Cannabis Sativa plant species are terpenes.
And the role terpenes play in making highly potent CBD products might be more important than was initially thought.
Today you’ll learn the connection between CBD and terpenes, and you’ll learn why it’s highly beneficial to have high concentrations of terpenes inside your CBD product.
CBD and Terpenes: Differences and Similarities
Are terpenes the same as CBD?
No, terpenes and CBD are two different types of compounds. Both can be found in the Cannabis Sativa plant species, but biochemically they're different compounds. Sometimes they have similar effects but work through acting on different biochemical receptor systems.
Let's take a closer look.
What Are CBD and other Cannabinoids and What do They Do
The cannabis plant (both Hemp and Marijuana), although in many ways similar to any other plant, has one specific characteristic that makes it different than any other plant.
That characteristic is the following:
Cannabis plants contain cannabinoids (like CBD). Cannabinoids are one of the few types of compounds that effectively interact with the human endocannabinoid system.
The human endocannabinoid system is a term that specifies the biological system that consists of ‘cannabinoid' receptors, their ligands called ‘endocannabinoids' and enzymes. It's associated with vital biochemical functions like:
- The functioning of the central nervous system;
- The functioning of neuronal activity;
- The functioning of the cardiovascular system.
As you can see, you don’t need to be a scientist to reason that any compound that can interact with the human endocannabinoid system could have at least some therapeutic potential for conditions that are related to any of these biochemical systems.
In fact, science has found countless benefits associated with cannabinoids.
The most common cannabinoids found in cannabis and CBD oils with their beneficial properties are:
Only one of these cannabinoids is psychoactive: THC. THC is responsible for the buzz you feel when you smoke marijuana.
That said, the focus on cannabinoids when talking about cannabis-based products, has completely overshadowed another type of compound that is associated with health benefits as well: terpenes.
What Are Terpenes and What do They Do
Cannabis contains up to 200 different terpenes. Terpenes are fragrant essential oils secreted by all types of plants and herbs. They are the source of different aromas, flavors, and other characteristics that help differentiate between cannabis strains.
Terpenes aren't psychoactive and can't get you ‘high'.
Many health benefits associated with the terpenes found in Hemp overlap with those of cannabinoids.
The most common primary terpenes found in cannabis and CBD oils with their potential beneficial properties are:
As you can see a lot of terpenes and cannabinoids have the same beneficial properties. But their beneficial properties are often expressed through different biochemical mechanisms.
Some researchers have noted that there’s a strong theoretical basis for the hypothesis that terpenes enhance the beneficial effects of cannabinoids like CBD.
In one recent study done on epilepsy patients, researchers found that full-plant extract CBD oil containing terpenes was 4-times more effective in reducing epilepsy, compared to purified CBD products without any terpenes or other cannabinoids than CBD. This is one of the reasons why at Herbonaut we always recommend getting a true full-spectrum CBD product.
Whether these differences in effect between full-plant extract CBD oil vs CBD isolate can be attributed to terpenes isn’t clear yet, but as explained before there’s a strong theoretical basis to think it might.
What we do know for sure is the following:
Terpenes work both individually and synergistically with cannabinoids for a variety of therapeutic effects.
The Potential Beneficial Effects of CBD in Synergy with Terpenes
Let’s take a look at some specific studies that found the same beneficial effects for CBD and terpenes but through different biochemical mechanisms.
CBD and Terpenes Can Help with Pain
Current research shows that CBD has a strong affinity for interacting with 4 particular receptors that are associated with experiencing feelings of pain:
- Delta-opioid receptors;
- 5-HT1A (hydroxytryptamine) serotonin receptors;
- Adenosine receptors, and;
- TRPV1 receptors (vanilloid receptors)
That said, all the studies that looked at the exact biochemical mechanisms at play for explaining CBD’s painkilling effects were done on animals.
There are however studies that looked at CBD’s effects on pain in human subjects.
One recent study done on humans found that CBD can have painkilling effects. This study was done on 7 kidney transplant patients. Using CBD oil, 6 out of 7 patients significantly reduced pain.
The same study showed that CBD's painkilling effects are highly dose-dependent and the effective dose can differ widely per individual.
Although many terpenes have been associated with anti-inflammatory and painkilling effects…
One study found that beta-caryophyllene was especially effective in the treatment of long-lasting, debilitating pain states that are related to neuropathic pain.
The researchers found that beta-caryophyllene targets and activates the cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2), which has been associated with a reduction in neuropathic pain in previous studies.
The caveat here is that the study was done on mice. Further research should point out whether beta-caryophyllene is also effective in treating neuropathic pain in humans.
But as you can see CBD and terpenes seem to have painkilling effects through different biochemical mechanisms:
CBD targets delta-opioid, 5-HT1A (hydroxytryptamine) serotonin, Adenosine, and TRPV1 (vanilloid) receptors.
Beta-caryophyllene targets cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2).
Looking at the facts, you don’t have to be a scientist to reason that both these compounds could enhance each other’s painkilling effects.
CBD and Terpenes Can Help with Depression
Although human clinical studies that looked at the effects of CBD on depression aren’t public yet, animal studies have shown that CBD has anti-depressant effects.
For example, a 2014 review study that looked at the results of over 10 CBD-depression-related studies, found that CBD has antidepressant-like actions through a mechanism that activated 5-HT1A neuro-receptors.
The 5-HT1A-receptor is a subtype of the 5-HT receptor, also called the serotonin receptor AKA the ‘happiness receptor.'
By activating 5-HT1A neuro-receptors, the researchers hypothesize that CBD could increase the presence and activity of serotonin neurotransmitters in the brain. Serotonin neurotransmitter activity has been associated with strong anti-depressant effects.
Although further research is needed, this means there’s a strong theoretical basis for the potential anti-depressant effects of CBD.
One specific terpene particularly, D-Limonene, has also been associated with strong anti-depressant effects.
A study done in 1995 found that citrus fragrance, which is packed with the terpene D-Limonene had strong anti-depressant effects on 12 depressive subjects. D-limonene normalizes neuroendocrine hormone levels and immune function. Interestingly enough, the citrus fragrance was more effective than antidepressants in normalizing neuroendocrine hormone levels and immune function.
The best part?
Some strains of Hemp contain very high levels of Limonene. Extracting the compounds out of a high-limonene Hemp plant could theoretically result in a strong anti-depressant CBD oil.
CBD and Terpenes Can Help with Anxiety
The same mechanism that’s thought to be attributed to CBD's anti-depressant effects, could be responsible for its anti-anxiety effects as well.
Social anxiety disorder has been associated with reduced 5-HT1A-receptor binding. Researchers have noted that agents that target 5-HT1A-receptors could lead to anti-depressant effects. As you’ve read in the paragraph above, CBD is an agent that targets 5-HT1A-receptors.
In fact, multiple studies that looked at the effects of CBD on (social) anxiety have shown that CBD can indeed reduce anxiety.
For example, one study done in 2011 found that the administration of CBD to ‘social anxiety disorder’ patients, just before they underwent a public speaking test, significantly reduced anxiety levels and improved speech performance.
Terpenes as well, specifically limonene and linalool, have shown to have an anxiety-reducing effect. Anecdotal evidence for essential oils that contain limonene reducing anxiety is plenty, studies are a bit rarer. There are a few, however.
For example, one study done in 2013 showed that inhaled limonene reduced anxiety in mice that were subjected to an elevated plus-maze test.
Linalool as well has been shown to have anti-anxiety effects in multiple studies. For example, a 2011 study showed that inhaled linalool reduced anxiety in mice that were subjected to an elevated plus-maze test.
Both limonene and linalool can be found in high concentrations in some strains of Hemp.
If you’re using CBD for anxiety relief, then you have a strong theoretical basis to look for products that contain both CBD and relatively high levels of limonene and linalool. They could enhance each other’s anti-anxiety effects.
CBD and Terpenes Can Help with Acne
It is thought that one root cause of acne is an increased production of ‘sebum’.
Sebum is an oily substance produced by glands just underneath your skin. This sebum plays a critical role in maintaining the health of your skin for example by forming a protective layer against harmful microbials.
Now, when your ‘sebaceous glands’ produce too much sebum, the result can be acne.
Studies have shown that high doses of CBD can lead to sebocyte apoptosis (death of sebum cells), which in turn could lead to a decrease of acne.
The terpenes limonene and linalool as well have been shown to be effective in treating acne. Both of these terpenes have anti-inflammatory effects specifically related to inflammation that’s associated with Propionibacterium acnes.
By combining both CBD and these terpenes, theoretically, you could have an effective anti-acne combination of compounds because both of these compounds would target different mechanisms that are associated with the occurrence of acne.
Today you’ve learned that there’s a strong theoretical basis for combining CBD with terpenes.
Both CBD and terpenes have been shown to have beneficial effects for conditions like anxiety, acne, and depression through sometimes different mechanisms.
This suggests that combining CBD with terpenes could be more effective than using CBD alone.
Both CBD and terpenes are associated with countless health benefits. Some researchers suggest that CBD works best in combination with other naturally occurring compounds found in the Hemp plant, through a process they call ‘the entourage effect’.
Well, today you’ve learned terpenes might play an important role in this effect.
If you want to dive deeper into the science of CBD, we have several articles which explain in layman's terms, the potential medical benefits of CBD in treating conditions like:
- Pain, or
- Sleep disorders
You can find these benefits (backed by scientific research), here:
Just realize that CBD oil is not an officially approved medicine and it's not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with your doctor/physician before starting to use any of these products, ESPECIALLY if you're already on medication. CBD oil can potentially interact with many pharmaceuticals.
If you're looking for a CBD oil for your anxiety, it's CRUCIAL that you get a CBD oil that's 100% free of contaminants and contains therapeutic amounts of CBD. Check the article below to find the best CBD oils:
If you want our unofficial guideline on CBD oil dosages, check out the article below:
If you’re interested in vaping CBD, check out our list of:
If you're interested in a more convenient (but less potent) way to use CBD, check out our list of:
If you have pain issues and want to understand the biology and science behind using CBD oil for pain, the following article is for you:
If you have anxiety issues and want to understand the biology and science behind using CBD oil for anxiety, the following article is for you:
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