Everything You Need to Know About Terpenes 


What’s that smell? Chances are, it’s terpenes! One of the many misconceptions about CBD, is that if it smells like cannabis, it’ll get you high. We’re here to debunk this myth and more misconceptions around terpenes, to show you how and why they can play a key part in your CBD experience. 

In this guide, we’ll answer these questions and more: 

  • Can terpenes make you high?

  • Are terpenes good for you? 

  • What do terpenes actually do?

  • What does the latest scientific research say about terpenes? 

  • How do you know if there are terpenes in your CBD oil? 

But first, what are terpenes? 

A terpene is a phytochemical, this just means it is a chemical produced naturally by some plants. Terpenes are aromatic oils that come from the same part of the hemp plant where CBD, CBG and other cannabinoids are found. Researchers believe there may be more than 200 terpenes in any one cannabis plant. 

Terpenes add colour, flavour and scent to CBD products. Some might give off notes of pine or citrus fruits while others can be sweeter. You won’t just find terpenes in cannabis plants. These small but mighty compounds are present in many leafy green plants such as herbs, and trees. A prime example is the Christmas Tree – that festive smell of pine is actually a terpene called pinene.

Can terpenes make you feel high? Are terpenes psychoactive? 

Terpenes are ultimately responsible for the infamous cannabis aroma known around the world, but contrary to popular opinion, they play no part in creating a sense of high. Terpenes are similar to essential oils and some are even incorporated into the aromatherapy oils we will all have encountered at some point. While the scent might promote relaxation, terpenes are not psychoactive. They have no mind altering effect and cannot cause you to feel high. 

Are terpenes bad? 

Quite the opposite. Terpenes have a bad reputation purely for causing the smell associated with cannabis. However, they have been shown to be beneficial in many ways. Just like cannabinoids and flavonoids, terpenes are said to play a role in the Entourage Effect. This is the concept that says the active components from the hemp plant - CBD and other cannabinoids - are better absorbed and more effective when consumed as a whole plant extract, with a combination of other compounds from the plant. 

It is widely believed that there is a synergy between cannabinoids and terpenes, that they work better together for a greater effect compared to being isolated. This is why many CBD brands are putting more of an emphasis on blending terpenes into their formulations. 

What do terpenes actually do?

Aside from playing an active role in the entourage effect, terpenes have their own benefits too. Some make us more alert and focused, making it easier to concentrate throughout the day. Others can have effects that are similar to melatonin – a hormone produced by the body to help regulate our internal body clock. This tells us when it’s time to wind down for bed. 

While there are many terpenes found in hemp, we handpicked these three to look at more closely. 

  • Limonene  research suggests that prominent terpene limonene may have anti-inflammatory and anxiety reducing effects. Research into the effects of limonene on some forms of cancer has also been underway in recent years, however this was in animal studies and there is not enough evidence to say any more on this for the time being.
  • Mycrene  one of the most common terpenes, mycrene is found in cannabis plants, lemongrass and hops. Ever catch a scent of hemp from a freshly poured pint? That’s probably the presence of mycrene. This terpene is currently being explored as a pain relief aid.
  • Linalool  this terpene has been used in aromatherapy practises for many years. Aside from cannabis plants, linalool can be found in lavender, coriander, mint and cinnamon. There is some research to suggest that this terpene may have pain relief effects. It is said to increase levels of adenosine, and has proven anti-inflammatory effects in animal studies. 

The latest research on terpenes 

There is a lot of interest in terpenes at present from the science community. Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Arizona Department for Health Sciences published exciting findings. A research team exploring the use of terpenes in combination with opioids and for specific types of cancer-related pain found that terpenes mimic cannabinoids and produce similar pain-relieving effects. These effects are said to be  amplified when the two are used together, in other words, by way of the Entourage Effect. 

Lead researcher John Streicher, PhD, is a member of the UArizona Health Sciences Comprehensive Pain and Addiction Center and associate professor of pharmacology at the College of Medicine, Tucson. 

Dr Streicher said the results were exciting and unexpected: “We're interested in the concept of the entourage effect … It was unexpected, in a way. It was our initial hypothesis, but we didn't necessarily expect terpenes, these simple compounds that are found in multiple plants, to produce cannabinoid-like effects.” 

How do you know if there are terpenes in your CBD oil? 

Any good manufacturer should make the contents of their products obvious for the consumer. Unfortunately, when it comes to CBD, this isn’t always the case. If you’re unsure, there are two ways to check if the CBD oil you’re using contains terpenes.

First, if the kind of CBD oil that you’re currently using says whole plant or full spectrum on the label, it’s more than likely that there are terpenes in the mix. 

If you’re still unsure, take a look at the colour of the oil. Terpenes are responsible for adding a gold or brown tint to CBD products. If the colour is leaning towards golden brown, and if there is a strong cannabis-like smell from the bottle, it's highly likely that the product contains a terpene profile.