Terpenes Explained: What Are They and How Do They Work? - Medical Terpenes
Terpenes Explained

Terpenes Explained: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Have you ever wondered why plants have their unique smell? Well, you can thank terpenes for that!

If this is your first time hearing about it, these aromatic compounds are naturally designed to help plants attract pollinators and repel predators. Harnessed in the form of oil, crafty manufacturers have been using them to create a myriad of products that we use everyday.

Apart from being a common ingredient in fragrances and other beauty essentials, terpenes are a key ingredient in hemp. While it’s not the main component responsible for producing a euphoric feeling, medical studies suggest that a strain’s terpene levels can greatly influence its flavor and effects often referred to as “entourage effect”.

With that said, you probably have a lot of questions in mind. How are they extracted? What are the different types? How exactly do they influence a strain? If you want to learn more about these compounds, we’ll be glad to discuss everything you need to know!

How are Terpenes Extracted?

Terpenes can be extracted in multiple ways and each process has its own set of ups and downs. Given that eliminating impurities can be a sensitive and tedious task, the method a manufacturer chooses will ultimately define their end-product. Even though there are several ways to harness these compounds, the results of these extraction methods generally fall into two main categories: solventless and solvent-based. 

Solventless extracts are produced through the use of high heat. 

  • Steam distillation requires you to suspend a container of your chosen plant above a pot of boiling water. As steam whiffs through the plant, oils drip down and is cooled by a condenser afterward. Once the oil floats to the surface, it can be easily extracted and separated.
  • Hydrodistillation also makes use of the principles of heat. It has a similar setup to steam distillation but the main difference is that this method will require you to place the plant into the boiling water. 

The biggest upside of these two methods is that they don’t use solvents (butane/ethanol) that may compromise the extract. However, working with high temperatures can be counterproductive if not done carefully. Boiling or exposing the plant to steam may alter or destroy terpenes completely. 

Solvent-based extracts are harnessed at lower boiling points.

  • Butane Extraction utilizes a special butane solvent. The plant is placed into a small glass container and is exposed to this mixture for some time. Once the liquid has settled, it goes into a comprehensive winterization process and can be extracted without any damages or impurities.
  • Supercritical CO2 is a gaseous substance that’s used as a solvent. Through heat and pressure, it’s converted into a “supercritical state” and is applied to the plant to extract and produce a certain compound. To extract the terpenes successfully, the CO2 can extract the terpenes directly while in a subcritical state.
  • Live resin Expression is a concentrate that’s made by exposing the plant to warm temperatures while pressing the plant to push out the oil and terpene contents inside. This method is popularly known for its ability to preserve a plant’s aroma and terpene content but its biggest downside is that this method takes relatively more time and has low efficiency.
  • Ethanol extraction is a fairly new method that’s still undergoing development. Ethanol is a proven solvent that has both polar and nonpolar properties and this makes it the perfect chemical for drawing out substances. But even though it can extract oils and terpenes with ease, the bad news is that it can also collect impurities just as effectively, proving difficult to completely remove all ethanol. 

Getting to Know Terpenes

As previously mentioned, terpenes are the compounds responsible for producing a plant’s aroma. The essential oil compounds plants contain determine the relaxing scent and effects of lavender, citrus and the other herbs you smell daily. This is the main reason why terpenes are an essential ingredient for different products such as cleaners, perfumes, and more. However, the influence of these compounds doesn’t stop there. 

When it comes to hemp, terpenes play a big role in defining your overall experience. They’re secreted in the same gland as CBD, they are  a completely different substance with their own unique role. Along with the other compounds found in your strain, they work hand-in-hand with them to achieve what’s called the entourage effect

To put things simply, this means that a strain’s terpene content can define its flavor, and influence the reactions brought by CBD. It doesn’t produce the euphoria users generally experience, but it can promote or reduce a strain’s uplifting or relaxing characteristics. By experimenting with different terpene types and concentration levels, manufacturers can create a wide selection of sativa and indica products. 

Nowadays, CBD users can test out different variations to find a strain of their preference.  As you build more knowledge, be careful not to confuse the terpenes with terpenoids. Many tend to interchange the two terms since they sound the same but they mean completely different things.

So you don’t get confused, always remember that terpenes are hydrocarbons and that terpenoids are derivatives of hydrocarbons.

Types of CBD Terpenes

With the effects of terpenes in mind, it’s evident that these compounds can give you a better picture of a strain’s overall value. Knowing the different types and their different characteristics will make it a lot easier for you to select the right CBD products. Here’s a quick overview of the most common ones:

  • Bisabolol

Usually found in the chamomile flower, this terpene boasts a light and sweet aroma. It’s mainly popular among tea enthusiasts but is also known as a popular ingredient in makeup and beauty products. Bisabolol found in hemp can have a ton of medicinal value since it has anti-inflammatory, irritant, and microbial abilities. 

  • Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene secretes a spicy aroma and comes with relaxing effects. Unlike other variations, this terpene interacts with your body similarly to CBD. In turn, this compound can significantly increase the potency of a strain. It’s been said to have relaxing effects make it an excellent choice for pain relief while the antioxidants it contains are believed to treat inflammation and bowel problems. Caryophyllene has also been shown to act as a CB2 receptor-selective agonist.

  • Guialol

Derived from cypress and pine trees, Guialol has been thoroughly examined for its ability to fend off cancer and bacteria. Aside from combatting illnesses, it emits a pleasant aroma that greatly resembles wood and flowers. It’s a common ingredient in many CBD strains and its invigorating effects can help as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and much more.

  • Humulene

Known to be another strong anti-inflammatory agent, humulene may work as a pain reliever. It has a light herbal aroma and its properties may curb the possibility of cancer. While more research is needed, some experts suggest that this terpene can help manage obesity

  • Limonene

This terpene is popular for giving off the smell of citrus. As the name suggests, it’s commonly found in fruits such as oranges and lemons and is used in different cleaning products and fragrances. When it comes to hemp, its calming effects and antioxidant properties may be used to alleviate various symptoms. Just to name a few, its stress-relieving effects are believed to combat inflammation, depression, and cancer.

  • Linalool

Linalool’s floral aroma and calming effects give it a strong reputation in the market. Usually found in lavender, this terpene is a common ingredient in soaps and fragrances. In terms of hemp, strains with this terpene are believed to treat a variety of medical conditions such as anxiety and insomnia.  

  • Nerolidol

Thanks to its woody aroma, Nerolidol is highly used in cosmetics and cleaners. It’s highly known for its antifungal and antioxidant agents and is known to help skin products penetrate the skin more effectively. For hemp, nerolidol’s potential sedative effects are perfect for those who are looking to decompress. 

  • Myrcene

As the most prevalent terpene, myrcene can be found in most commercial hemp strains. It’s primarily known for its calming effects, which may help its users get into a composed mood. It secretes an herbal kind of aroma and may be a potential treatment option for people experiencing insomnia and other bodily aches. 

  • Ocimene

Commonly found in mango, lavender, and mint, Ocimene has a perfect balance of fragrance and possible health benefits. Along with its sweet and herbal scent, it’s filled with agents that many believe to fight off inflammation, viruses, and bacteria from your system. With these benefits, many experts claim that this terpene is perfect for treating seizures and reducing the occurrence of cancer. 

  • Terpinolene

Terpinolene has a wonderful fragrance that resembles both citrus and herbs. In hemp products, it’s usually applied in low concentrations since they’re known to stimulate the body. Apart from having uplifting effects, many believe it can be used for treating conditions such as cancer and hypertension.

Understand Terpene Applications

As you look through different hemp products, having a general understanding of terpenes will help you in several ways. Whether it’s for recreational or therapeutic use, having the necessary knowledge will allow you to make better choices as a consumer.

While more research is needed to fully understand their uses and characteristics, you’ll be glad to know that terpenes are rapidly gaining legitimacy in the medical field.   

With this guide in your arsenal, it will be easier for you to find the right products and get the most out of your terpene usage experience. If you’re currently on the search for the best terpenes in the market, we’ve got you covered.

Visit Medical Terpenes today to get started!