CBD 101: Terpenes

Plant-Based Aromatherapy

    1. Aromatherapy Methods
    2. Why CBD Topicals are Best for Aromatherapy

Hemp is full of beneficial plant parts!

Each cannabis or hemp strain has a unique combination of phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. All of these plant parts have incredible perks and stand on their own for various therapeutic uses (some more researched and backed by science than others). 

When you combine these plant parts with phytocannabinoids like CBD, you get some powerful herbal wellness!

  • This is evident in products that have CBD derived from full spectrum hemp extracts. In such products, various hemp parts (like terpenes, flavonoids, and phytocannabinoids other than CBD) work together to help CBD do its job better.
  • In the CBD and cannabis communities, the boost that full spectrum CBD gets from other plant parts is called the entourage effect

Terpenes in Cannabis: Plant-Based Aromatherapy

Scientists have so far identified 200 terpenes present in the cannabis plant. But what are terpenes and why do we want them in our CBD products?

Terpenes are “aroma chemicals” and they’re pretty much omnipresent throughout nature. The reason why your all-natural, plant-derived shampoo or lotion smells really good? It's probably the terpenes.

Have you ever wondered why some strains of cannabis smell like lemons? Or pine needles? Or lavender? Terpenes! When it comes to things that not only smell good but also do something good, "terpenes" is always your answer.

Terpenes are responsible for the way something smells. And, because of the human brain, terpenes are crucial to the ongoing study of aromatherapy, or how certain aromas can be used therapeutically to elevate mood, relieve inflammation, reduce stress, inspire sleep, and much more. 

The terpenes found in cannabis aren’t unique to cannabis. That’s why your instinct may be to say “this strain of cannabis smells like oranges!” 

  • In reality, however, it’s not the particular cannabis strain that smells like oranges or oranges themselves that smell like oranges. 
  • It’s the terpene that both oranges and orange-smelling cannabis strains have in common—in this case, a terpene called limonene.

Cannabis Terpenes: Methods for Aromatherapy

First things first: what is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of plant-derived essential oils to improve the wellness and general state of your mind, body, and spirit.

How is aromatherapy usually administered? Traditionally, there are three methods of using essential oils for maximum aromatherapy benefits:

  • Indirect inhalation: A diffuser is placed in the room and spreads the essential oil (and its various aromatherapy benefits) through the air.
  • Direct inhalation: An individual inhaler made by floating essential oil drops on top of hot water.
  • Massage: A massage oil that consists of a “carrier oil” with an infusion of one or more essential oils.

All three methods of using essential oils are defined by their need to activate our sense of smell. The thought process behind this need is the understanding that when we inhale an aroma, the act of smelling that aroma sets off a number of reactions in our brains. 

We wouldn’t want to use the first method of indirect inhalation for maximizing the benefits of terpenes in our full spectrum CBD products for several reasons. 

  • The vast majority of CBD products are not intended for diffusion. 
  • While most CBD oils could be added to a diffuser in the same way you'd add an essential oil to a diffuser, we’d personally recommend against it. That's because:
    • Most of CBD’s benefits (especially in oil or tincture form) are felt once the CBD enters the bloodstream. 
    • When you use your CBD oil in the same way as an essential oil, what you're really doing is wasting good CBD by choosing one of the least ineffective ways of delivering the full range of CBD's benefits.

CBD Topicals: The Key to Terpene Aromatherapy

CBD topicals are optimal for getting all the benefits of aromatherapy from full spectrum CBD extracts. If you think about it, CBD-infused massage oils, creams, lotions, and salves are often strongly aromatic. There's good reason for that! 

By choosing to apply your favorite topical on veinous parts (like wrists), you are already boosting the topical’s rate of absorption through the skin (which tends to be thinner and easier to penetrate on veinous parts of our bodies). 

  • Veinous parts like wrists are also ideal for aromatherapy because they are easily accessible to our noses.
  • To fully take advantage of your full spectrum CBD’s terpenes, make sure to really breathe in the smell of your topical. 

You may already do this without realizing it! It’s only natural for our noses to want to appreciate heavenly scents, of course. Scent determines a lot more than we think.

If you have enjoyed smelling topicals (CBD or otherwise), ask yourself if their aroma brought you a sense of relief or a change in mood. If it didn’t, try to inhale for a longer period of time or switch things up by inhaling not once but several times, continuing to periodically stimulate your sense of smell after applying the topical and until the topical is fully absorbed (or you can't smell the aroma left behind anymore). 

Ultimately, of course, the best way to benefit from the terpenes found in the cannabis plant is with a CBD-infused essential oil roll-on

Blissful Medicinals
Life Flower
Peppermint, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Geranium
+ 250 mg of CBD
Lavender, Ylang-Ylang, Kava Kava, Elderberry, Sage
+ 100 mg of CBD


Cannabis Terpenes and Aromatherapy: What Science Says

Little research has been done on the aromatherapy benefits of cannabis terpenes and their ingestion in the form of cannabis specifically. However, there are plenty of studies that have been done on aromatherapy benefits gained from the diffusion and inhalation of essential oils.

Since the same terpenes can be found in essential oils and hemp-derived full spectrum CBD products, we can refer to these studies until more applicable research is made available to us!

  • One study found that lavender, roman chamomile, and neroli was effective in alleviating sleeplessness and reducing anxiety in ICU patients.
  • Another study carefully reviewed 12 trials and found aromatherapy to be beneficial for those with depressive symptoms. This study is very vocal about the third method of traditional administration, that of massage, which is great news for CBD topicals!
  • This study discovered that aromatherapy helped nurses fall asleep, stay asleep, and improve their quality of sleep.
  • Another study supported the use of aromatherapy in conjunction with other treatments to help alleviate pain.

The Cannabis-Derived Terpenes You Need to Know

Of the 200+ terpenes so far identified in cannabis, some show up with greater frequency than others. The following terpenes are common in full spectrum CBD extracts. 

  • LIMONENE: Smells like citrus? Then it’s limonene! Limonene can be found in fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, and peppermint.
    • Mood-elevating limonene may be useful for alleviating anxiety, depression, inflammation, pain, and even cancer!
  • LINALOOL: Smells like lavender? Then it’s definitely linalool. Linalool can (obviously) be found in lavender.
    • Linalool may be useful for those struggling with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, insomnia, or neurogenerative diseases.
  • PINENE: Smells like a forest car freshener? It’s definitely pinene. Pinine can be found in pine needles (obviously), rosemary, basil, and dill.
    • A terpene that inspires clarity and focus, pinene may have great potential for treating asthma, pain, inflammation, ulcers, anxiety, and even cancer.
  • MYRCENE: Distinctly herbal aroma? Then it’s most likely myrcene! Myrcene can be found in hops, mango, and lemongrass.
    • Known for its antioxidant properties, scientists are exploring treatment options using myrcene for insomnia, pain, and inflammation.
  • CARYOPHYLLENE: Makes you want to sneeze? It’s probably caryophyllene! Caryophyllene can be found in black pepper, cloves, and cinnamon.
    • Research using caryophyllene for pain, anxiety, depression, and ulcers is exciting and ongoing!
  • TERPINOLENE: Fruity but not citrus-y? It's most likely terpinolene. Terpinolene can be found in nutmeg, tea tree, cumin, and lilacs.
    • Terpene may be useful in uplifting the mood and has antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-cancer properties.
  • HUMULENE: Smells earthy? It might be humulene. Humulene can be found in hops, coriander, cloves, and basil.
    • Humulene may be of great benefit thanks to its anti-inflammatory benefits!
  • OCIMENE: Notes of sweet citrus and woodsy earth? Sounds like ocimene! Ocimene can be found in mint, parsley, and orchids.
    • Ocimene's antiviral, anti-fungal, antiseptic, decongestant and antibacterial properties show a lot of promise for many treatments!

Aromatherapy and Cannabis: Match Made in Heaven

The final word: CBD is a potent plant part found in cannabis. CBD can and is effective on its own. STILL- the more help CBD gets from other plant parts, the greater the benefits for you!

Not all CBD extracts are created equal, but! For those of you who are unable to reap the full benefits of full spectrum CBD due to the risk associated with a full spectrum extract’s trace levels of THC showing up on a drug test, don’t despair!

Broad spectrum CBD has all the benefits of terpenes without any of the THC. It should also be noted that many great brands that make CBD isolate products are, one, fully aware of the benefits of terpenes and two, unafraid to let their type of CBD extract stop them from reaping the benefits of CBD-terpene synergy!

  • Case-in-point: even though brands like Life Flower and Blissful Medicinals use CBD isolate, both brands infuse their products with essential oils taken directly from plants to ensure that you get all the benefits of terpenes no matter the CBD extract!

Disclaimer: This blog post and any recommendations made within this blog post have not been approved by the FDA. This blog post should not be regarded as making any medical claims, offering any medical advice, or as offering criteria for diagnosis. CBD research is ongoing and any strong statements made within this blog post should be regarded as the opinion of the writer.

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