Terpenes: A Deep Dive into the Aromatic Molecules

Terpenes: A Deep Dive into the Aromatic Molecules

Although many people have not heard of ‘terpenes’ before, most of us encounter their effects on a daily basis. Terpenes are the fancy names given to describe the aromatic compounds responsible for a plant’s fragrance. They’re found mostly in the places you’d expect them to be: in flowers, fruits, vegetables, and herbs. So, when you smell a rose for example, or fresh basil on a salad, those scents are caused by terpenes.


Any aroma is generally due to a combination of terpenes, combining to create the characteristic scents we recognise so well. Most of us would instantly be able to identify the smell of lavender, pine, cannabis, and fresh orange peel. People have managed to train their sense of smell so that with a single whiff, they are able to recognise individual scents and pick out multiple terpenes from a single source. Wine masters are a great example of those who have honed this skill.


It was once thought that terpenes did nothing more than simply deliver an enticing aroma to thousands of plants. As much as we enjoy different smells, from an evolutionary perspective, terpenes are there to protect plants from pests and predators. They do this with their intense fragrance, which acts as a reserve siren song to lure in insects and aid in pollination. During the past couple of decades, researchers have discovered that terpenes offer medical benefits too. Some of these benefits could even rival those of their chemical cousins, the cannabinoids.


The human sense of smell is an immensely powerful thing, and can play an essential part in our overall health. There is research conducted on how closely smell is connected to memory, for example. For those people with a sensitive nose, even the smallest whiff of a familiar scent can spiral them back to a recollection or intense emotion. Have you ever had someone walk past wearing the same perfume as a close friend, and you instantly think of them? It is incredible how closely terpenes work with our brain, and just how powerful smell can be. It has also been discovered that scents can affect mood and state of mind. 


But what do terpenes have to do with NaturalWorks CBD? Let’s find out.


Is The History Of Terpenes A New One?

While terpenes is a relatively new buzz word in the cannabis and CBD space, you may well be surprised to know that humans have been studying and using terpenes for centuries. It dates as far back as the Ancient Egyptians, Roman Empire, and Ancient China. Historians have discovered that all these civilisations used essential oils and terpenoid elements. 


In the past, terpenes were found (for the most part) only in essential oils. The ancient Egyptians are widely regarded as pioneers of the use of aromatic plants. They applied them in a wide array of ways and for many purposes, including: massage, skincare, cosmetics, and even embalming the dead. Chemists in Ancient Egypt during this time would mix a blend of terpenes for use by women in the form of fragrance for the purposes of bolstering feminine hygiene.  


It has been documented that ancient Native Americans used the calamus root to smoke, along with a pinch of cannabis. Some suggested that it could lend itself to clearer thinking and improved memory.


The Medieval period saw a dramatic increase in the appreciation of plants and herbs. Within the walls of monastery gardens, herbs and plants were grown to be used for healing purposes. People in the local communities would seek help from the monks, wanting to use the plants found in the monastery gardens.


In the 1880s, Terpene chemistry was revolutionised by a German chemist called Otto Wallach. He began his research in 1884, making considerable contributions to derivatisation and structural elucidation. It was during his time with Friedrich Kekulé, a fellow German chemist, that he completed his major work. Otto Wallach started a systematic analysis of the terpenes found in essential oils. 


Up until Otto Wallach began his investigation, only a few terpenes had been isolated in pure form, and few details were known about their structure. 


Thanks to Wallach’s research into how terpenes (specifically cyclic, unsaturated terpenes) react and rearrange themselves, it was now possible to obtain the structure of an unknown terpene by following the rearrangement of a known terpene’s structure. Otto Wallach created the methods which opened the path into systematic research on terpenes. Unsurprisingly, in 1910 he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. 


As we have learnt, no matter when or where in the world you are, terpenes are abundant in nature. They play a principal role in fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and other botanicals. 


The popularity of terpenes is beginning to pick up again in modern times, as it is becoming apparent consumers are learning more about their holistic benefits. People are also taking a deeper look into where the ingredients of their CBD products originate. For example, Swiss CBD is known for being organic and 100% pure plant.


Which Terpenes Are Found In CBD?

Cannabis plants are particularly abundant in terpenes. They come up as a sort of bundle with cannabinoids; however, terpenes in CBD products don’t always show up after initial extraction. Only a few terpenes are concentrated enough to be considered significant. Some brands add extra terpenes in differing ratios, as they believe it enhances the benefits of the CBD oil.


There have been over 50,000 unique terpenoids discovered in plants globally, and cannabis has been identified as having over 250 non-cannabinoid terpenoids and 145-150 cannabinoid terpenoids naturally occurring in the plant. The phrase ‘CBD terpenes’ refers to the terpenes most commonly found in hemp. Here is a list of a few of the most frequently found compounds in the hemp plant:




Myrcene terpenes are some of the terpenes most commonly linked with hemp. They have a delightfully rich, earthy, herbal scent, just like you’d expect from a freshly-cultivated cannabis flower. 


Despite myrcene being the smallest terpene in a structural sense, it appears to possess a range of unique benefits. Some find it can produce powerful sense of relaxation.





There are no prizes for guessing where we find this terpene. The name alone instantly gives it away. That’s right; the limonene terpene is commonly found in the zest of citrus fruits; especially lemons, limes, and oranges. 


Limonene terpene is also a crucial terpene in many hemp extract products, and can add a brilliant boost in CBD oil’s flavour and aroma profile. This terpene has more going for it than just the refreshing scent of lime, orange, and lemon. The scent of limonene is known to have an uplifting effect and invigorate the senses. Some cannabinoid experts postulate that adding limonene to CBD oil may also increase the absorption rate of other terpenes.




This terpene has one of the most fragrant, distinctive aromas out of all of them. Caryophyllene is found in cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and in the hemp plant. It offers a brilliantly spicy, woody scent which is known to enhance the feeling wellbeing.




A vast array of plant species produces Terpinolene. This includes not only hemp and cannabis, but also apple, conifer, cumin, lilac, mint, nutmeg, parsnip, and tea tree. The scent of this terpene is very pleasant and believed to have a calming effect. At the moment, there are few high-volume terpinolene CBD products on the market, but with increased research and accessibility, this will most probably change in the years to come.




This terpene is one of the most researched and well-documented of all the terpenes found in cannabis. It is available in two varieties: Alpha-pinene and Beta-pinene. The alpha type, which is significantly more common in the hemp plant, has a beautiful, woody scent much like that of pine needle and rosemary. 


Beta-pinene conveys an aroma of basil, dill, parsley, and hops. Unsurprisingly, we find pinene in pine needles. However, it is also produced in significant quantities by basil, cedar, dill, eucalyptus, rosemary, and hundreds of other plants which are considered to have energising scent. .




Another common compound found in hemp is the humulene terpene. It is the primary characteristic terpene of hops and is also present in sage, ginseng, and cannabis. The best way to define the smell of humulene would be ‘hoppy.’ Unsurprisingly, this terpene is found in abundance in many beverages around the world, and is what gives beer its rich, distinctive hoppy taste.




This terpene is one of the compounds you will find most familiar, as it boasts a delicate floral aroma. It is present in over 200 plant species, including hemp, mints, citrus, and birch trees. It is, however, most notably identifiable in lavender and chamomile. 


Linalool is categorised as one of the 10 ‘minor’ terpenes of the cannabis plant, as it is produced in minimal quantities.  Some CBD producers infuse the linalool terpene with their range of topical products, as it creates a lovely scent. It is also commonly used in aromatherapy where its scent is believed to support relaxation.




This terpene is responsible for many of the sweet and herbaceous flavours found in specific cannabis strains. Ocimene can also create citrusy and wood-like undertones. It is found in a diverse array of plants, some of which include hops, mangoes, basil, orchids, and pepper. The scientific community continues to research its potential medicinal properties as it is thought to provide generally uplifting effects. 


Are There Any Potential Benefits to Terpenes When using CBD Oil?

Unfortunately, little research has been conducted to date into the effect of terpenes when used in connection with CBD oil. However, on a promising note, some suggest there may be a synergistic relationship between naturally occurring hemp terpenes and cannabinoids. This could indicate a probability that hemp cannabinoids, such as CBD, could perform more effectively when in the company of terpenes, rather than in isolation by themselves.


One area where CBD and terpenes (when used together) could offer increased benefits is in skin conditioning. Terpenes such as linalool and limonene have spot-fighting antiseptic properties, while CBD oil has been discovered to have a soothing effect on skin and is suitable to use if you have eczema or psoriasis. When these two terpenes are combined with CBD, they show promise as a possible skin care supplement.


Combining terpenes and CBD oil could prove to be of some use in your daily life. There is a possibility for terpenes with relaxing properties (like myrcene, caryophyllene, and limonene) to play an important role in maintaining healthy lifestyle and supporting general health and wellbeing.


Interest continues to grow concerning the potential benefits of terpene and CBD oil combinations. There is the possibility that one day products will be created which are tailor-made to suit an individual patient or customer’s needs, but for now, further research is a must.


What Is The Link Between CBD Oil, Terpenes, and the Entourage Effect?

Research has found that terpenes’ interaction with cannabinoids plays a large part in being able to identify a cannabis strain’s distinctive effect. There is a theory called the ‘Entourage Effect’, which suggests that all compounds in cannabis work together, and that when taken together, they produce a better effect than when taken alone. 


The entourage effect was first brought to light in 1998, by an Israeli scientist called Raphael Mechoulam. He is considered by many in the CBD industry as the father of cannabis research. The concept of the ‘entourage effect’ was further popularised by another prominent cannabis expert called Ethan Russo. In 2011, Dr Russo published a detailed report in the British Journal of Pharmacology describing the entourage effect in detail.


For those who are not overly scientifically-minded, the entourage effect in simple terms refers to the synergistic impacts achieved by cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids found in cannabis. For example, limonene helps the body to absorb other terpenes more efficiently, and caryophyllene is thought to increase the general benefits of cannabinoids.


This is part of the reason why different cannabis strains deliver different outcomes. This is caused not only by their cannabinoid ratios (although that plays an important role) but also due to terpenes and their unique qualities, and other components that can be found in the cannabis plant, such as heavy metals or pesticides that can be harmful. It is also the reason why many consumers consider high-quality CBD oil to be of utmost importance. To get the most benefits out of cannabidiol, It is worth investing in a CBD oil which is 100% organic, GMO-free, pesticide-free, and free of any heavy metals. 


Are Terpenes and Terpenoids The Same Thing?

While reading up about terpenes, the phrase ‘terpenoids’ will almost certainly pop up from time to time. The two terms read similarly, and this can cause the misconception that they are the same thing. Without getting too technical, terpenes and terpenoids do differ in terms of their molecular structure. Here is a brief explanation:  


Terpenes – These are what you smell when you take a whiff of something, (near a living cannabis plant, for example). The terpene bouquet is secreted in the resinous glands of its flowers.


Terpenoids – These are formed when you dry and cure the cannabis flower. Terpenoids are commonly used outside of cannabis for their scents. People often infuse terpenoids into different ingredients to create spices, perfumes, and essential oils.


Ultimately, the above two processes change the way in which these molecules transform. There is an expanding body of research dedicated to revealing that terpenoids just might play an essential part in modulating the effects of cannabinoids such as CBD.


Recent studies have shown that terpenes can change, increase, or lower the duration and intensity of the effects coming from a specific strain of cannabis, on top of influencing the smell and flavour of buds. This means that, without terpenes, the impact of different CBD strains could be bland, and lack some additional health benefits.


What Does The Future Hold For Terpenes?

Over the past decade, research into terpene and chemistry has accelerated at a remarkable pace. Scientists have now come to understand the biochemical and metabolic processes of many plants. The diversity and abundance of terpene compounds in nature can have an ecosystem-wide influence.


Even though it is understood that human civilisations have used terpenes since ancient Egypt times, it is only now that we are really gaining the knowledge of terpene synthesis pathways, and the potential ways terpenes can be used to the fullest. The utilisation of bioinformatics and molecular databases has massively contributed to analysing exactly how and when terpenes are synthesised.


As research continues into terpene synthesis, it is beginning to be understood in more detail. Over the next several years, the ongoing investigation will hopefully shed more light on whole-plant supplements. This research will give us increased insight into plants like cannabis, and the ways in which they can benefit us. 


Every day, the potential benefits of CBD are being recorded. In conjunction with our knowledge of terpenes, CBD is fast becoming recognised across the world as a significant player when it comes to supporting a healthy lifestyle. 


As more of us are setting wellness goals and aiming to include natural products in our everyday lives, CBD products are becoming an increasingly popular choice.


It is incredible to find out that terpenes play such a massive part in our everyday lives. The knowledge that these scents could have an impact on how we feel, brings us back to just how incredible nature really is. Those moments when we smell pine during a walk in the woods, or the spritz of zest from a fresh orange, are sure to make us stop, and take note of the wonderful world of terpenes we are exposed to every day, without even knowing it.


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