Terpenes vs Cannabinoids: Know the Difference - Medical Terpenes
Terpenes vs Cannabinoids

Terpenes vs Cannabinoids: Know the Difference

The industry for terpenes and cannabinoids has exploded over the last decade.

Market reach has gone as far as neighborhood grocery stores, street corner cafes, and local pharmacies, with many major consumer products expected to carry terpenes and cannabinoids. These categories include food, candy, beverages, and beauty and skin products. Wellness spas also have roots in the use of terpenes from a therapeutic perspective.

Soon, we’ll be seeing a further surge in the terpenes and cannabinoids industry. In fact, Cowen & Co, an investment bank hailing from New York, conservatively estimated that the market could be worth $15 billion in 2025. By contrast, Arcview Market Research has aggressively forecasted that the numbers could reach $20 billion by 2024.

At the rate things are moving, it can be hard to keep track of all the newly discovered relatives of terpene and cannabinoid derivatives from plant extracts, so this post will simplify what needs to be known down to the essentials.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are the compounds responsible for the distinctive fragrance emanating from the plant in its reproductive stage or when it encounters undue stress. Stress happens when insects and parasitic microscopic fungi attempt to invade the plant through the flowers and leaves, activating the plant’s “immune system” and prompting the release of protective compounds – one of which is terpenes

Terpenes have practical uses, including uses as a treatment. Terpenes are steadily gaining ground in medicine as legitimate therapeutic compounds, as research supports that terpenes have unique characteristics.

Take the case of beta-caryophyllene (BCP), a compound present in plants, vegetables, and herbs. Besides possessing gastro-protective and anti-inflammatory properties, the BCP terpene has potential uses for treating anxiety and depression, too.

Essential Facts about Terpenes

Distillation—either steam distillation or hydro-distillation— is the traditional means of taking out the terpenes from a plant sample.

Steam distillation involves placing a sample above a pot with boiling water to allow oils from the plant flowers/leaves to drip down into a condenser. After cooling, it will be easier to get the oil extract that floats on the surface.

Hydrodistillation uses the same principle of applying high heat to extract the plant’s oil, although the plant and the water go together inside the pot.

A word of caution—too much heat may degrade the compounds. As such, others prefer solvent-assisted terpene extraction, which uses special chemicals like butane and ethanol to extract terpenes, as this method can turn out near-pure finished products.

Here are some examples of terpenes:

  • Myrcene is the most common terpene found in many products sold commercially.
  • Bisabolol is isolated from chamomile flowers. This terpene has anti-allergy and antimicrobial properties.
  • Guialol has a pinewood scent and antibacterial effects.
  • Humulene has properties common to terpenes, such as a light herbal aroma.
  • Limonene and ocimene have citrusy scents, while linalool from lavender has soothing effects similar to limonene.
  • Nerolidol is suitable as a cleaner because of its natural woody aroma.

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are compounds that are readily found in our bodies. These are called endocannabinoids. On the other hand, cannabinoids found in plants are called phytocannabinoids. Together, endocannabinoids and cannabinoids can activate the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors, helping to regulate vital bodily functions or processes like sleep, appetite, and more.  

Extracting cannabinoids is possible through any of these methods:

  • Solvent-free extraction. Plant buds are ground and sieved to produce a powder form of cannabinoid. Another technique uses heat presses to squeeze the extract from the plant.
  • Solvent extraction. At least five solvents allow for the separation of cannabinoids from the plant, including butane honey oil, supercritical CO2, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, and water.

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is a commonly used cannabinoid. THCA gets converted into tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the chemical conversion process of decarboxylation, which involves the removal of a CO2 group.

Another example of cannabinoid is cannabichromenic acid (CBCA), which has a unique ability to cause damaged or old leaves to fall off the plant. With CBC or cannabichromene—a derivative of CBCA—the THC effects are counteracted, leading to a counterbalance of effects.

The Relationship Between Terpenes and Cannabinoids

While terpenes are not specifically responsible for either the blissful or peaceful feeling commonly associated with cannabinoids, they can enhance those effects depending on the plant strain.

It goes without saying that knowing the right terpene and cannabinoid mix can produce the best or most desirable outcome for you—this is known as the entourage effect. Simply put, it is a matter of finding the right combination for an entourage effect that fits your needs perfectly.  Be sure to always consult a doctor before ingesting any supplements intended for supplemental purposes.

Terpenes and Cannabinoids: A Perfect Fit

If you don’t have a preference for specific terpenes and cannabinoids, that’s fine. With the wide range of terpenes and cannabinoids out there, you can mix things up now and enrich your discerning palate.

Find your favorite blend at Medical Terpenes, where we have a collection of products that hits the spot just right for you.