The Nose Knows: Why Terpenes are Critical Aspect of Any Wellness Regimen
Ever wonder what gives fruits or flowers their natural aroma and flavor? Why is a lemon bitter and tart, while a mango is as sweet as candy? Why do we feel relaxed when sniffing a bundle of fresh-picked lavender? The answer lies in a collection of naturally occurring chemical compounds abundantly found across the plant world: terpenes. Beyond giving plants their identifying tastes and smells, they deliver a wide-range of therapeutic attributes and can assist in the absorption of CBD. The Science Behind the Smell Dr. Ethan Russo’s landmark study, “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects,” sheds light on the many biological benefits of terpenes and other cannabinoids, such as CBD. While much of the research around cannabis medicine had previously focused on THC alone, Russo’s work expanded our understanding of the plant as a whole. It was the first to consider the abundance of other chemical compounds that play a role in how our bodies absorb and respond to cannabis. For example, Russo found that beta-caryophyllene, a sesquiterpene found in black pepper, oregano, many leafy green vegetables and cannabis, binds directly to the CB2 receptor in our brains, thereby offering great potential for inflammatory conditions and autoimmune disorders. That’s why we recommend supplementing your CBD intake with a big, green salad. In addition, the study found interactions between cannabinoids (like CBD) and terpenes “could produce synergy with respect to treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addition, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections.” Broad-Spectrum CBD and the Entourage Effect Pure CBD certainly has its benefits, but a 2015 study found a bell-shaped dose response (meaning effects tapered off with greater dosages) in mice, therefore limiting its clinical use. However, when the same mice were given a broad-spectrum dose – which included a range of terpenes and cannabinoids, but without THC – they experienced improved and amplified anti-inflammatory effects with increasing dosages. Researchers believe that pure CBD results in the less-effective dose response because CBD activates different receptors at different dosages. Though, other cannabinoids and terpenes may activate other receptors, resulting in more rounded effects. Some may slow the metabolism of CBD, too, meaning anti-inflammatory benefits will last longer. These results may be summed up by Dr. Ethan Russo’s proposed “entourage effect,” which hypothesizes that cannabinoids work synergistically alongside terpenes and other compounds – as he describes, “a neglected pharmacological treasure trove.” Common Terpenes and Their Benefits After understanding just how important whole-plant medicine can be for our health, you may be interested in learning how individual terpenes contribute to our overall wellness. We broke it down here:
- Limonene: Found in citrus fruits and several other plants. Immunostimulant, anti-anxiety, antibacterial, antiemetic (can treat vomiting or gastro-esophageal reflux).
- α-Pinene: Found in pine trees (the name gives it away!). Anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator (can help with breathing).
- β-Myrcene: Found in mango and hops. Anti-inflammatory, pain relief, sedative, muscle relaxant.
- Linalool: Found in lavender and many floral plants. Anti-anxiety, sedative, pain relief, anticonvulsant.
- β-Caryophyllene: Found in black pepper, oregano and leafy greens. Immunostimulant, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety.