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Terpenes for Cannabis Bio Hazard Inc

An In-Depth Look at Terpenes

-        What are terpenes? How can we use them? What are the ramifications of terpene consumption?

Like the cannabis industry itself, cannabis vernacular seems to expand every day. Scientists continue to find new plant compounds, unique chemovars, and interesting cannabinoid properties that require new explanations—like ‘the entourage effect.’

The first question you might have: what is the entourage effect?

Individually, the compounds within cannabis—like cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes—have distinct pharmacological actions on the human body when taken in isolation. ‘The entourage effect’ describes the process in which those compounds work together to create unique and profound effects.

As mentioned, it’s more than just the cannabinoids that have an effect on humans. Terpenes play an important role, as well. So, you might be wondering: what are terpenes?

What are terpenes?

When Jiang et al. looked at the world of terpene of extraction in 2016, they described terpenes as having “incredible chemical diversity.” That translates into a huge number of terpenes found throughout nature. So, where do they come from?

According to their research that was published in Current Protocols in Plant Biology, plants are natural chemists. They have incredible abilities to cascade certain chemicals down complex chains of chemical subtractions and substituent additions. This means they can take sunlight, for example, and turn it into food.

However, it also means they can take different sized prenyl diphosphates and morph them into an array of terpenes. Some of them will be relatively large molecules while others will be small, nonpolar hydrocarbons.

In essence, terpenes represent one of the largest classes of phytochemicals on Earth.

What plants make terpenes?

According to a white paper produced by Steep Hill Laboratories, there are over 50,000 unique terpenoids recorded worldwide. That means no matter where you go, you’ll find plants making terpenes. Here are a few terpenes you might encounter in common plants.


This terpene is found in a variety of spices and flowers, including lavender. It’s the terpene responsible for the flower’s smell and is known for its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and insecticidal properties.


Myrcene is a primary terpene found in the essential oils of plants like bay, parsley, and thyme. A report in 2017 suggested that myrcene may play a role in skin anti-aging medicine.


This terpene has shown neuroprotective effects in some models of Parkinson’s Disease. It’s also hailed as a dietary compound. It’s a spicy terpene found in plants like black pepper and cloves.

These are just a few of some common terpenes you might not have known you were familiar with. The question now becomes: why do plants go through the trouble of creating terpenes?

Why do plants make terpenes?

With such a vast diversity of compounds made at such expense by such a large number of plants, it certainly can’t be a mistake. So, why do plants make terpenes?

Plants use terpenes for a variety of reasons. According to research that appears in 3 Biotech in 2015, terpenes can act as phytoalexins in some plants. This means that they will help fight fungus infections. They may also play a role in UV irradiation response as well as possess antimicrobial properties.

Their research also mentioned that some plants will enhance the effectiveness of the enemies of their enemies. In fact, they said that some plants produce terpenes that attract the carnivores of the herbivores that eat them.

In many ways, terpenes are used for plant defense—among other things—so, how do they impact humans? 

How do terpenes impact humans?

Terpenes can impact humans in a variety of ways. For example, smelling certain terpenes may produce a certain effect; absorbing others in the skin will produce different effects.

With that in mind, it’s easy to understand that the method of consumption impacts terpene deliverables. Here are a few ways that terpenes affect humans.

Topical Application

When looking for ways to consume terpenes through topical application, there are several methods to choose. For example:

  • Balms
  • Lotions
  • Salves
  • Creams
  • Oils
  • And more

A heavily-cited article in Planta Medica looked at few ways topical terpene applications articulate themselves. The researcher—who published their work in 2015—showed that “Cutaneous accumulation of terpenes is several times higher when they are applied in pure essential oils than in topical vehicles.”

That means that essential oils made of terpenes penetrate deeper into the skin than lotions and creams, for example. However, linalool—the terpene found in lavender—absorbs just as deeply in an emulsion mixture.

Eating Terpenes

Of course, we all eat terpenes. Terpenes are not only in our natural foods—like lemons and oranges—but they’re used as additives in other foods to add flavor and taste.

You might find terpenes in your lipstick, perfume, or even in your open bottle of water that you’re drinking underneath a tree. That’s because trees release terpenes into the air; and, they’re beneficial to human health, according to a 2017 report in Toxicological Research.

Smoke Inhalation  

Since you can safely inhale terpenes coming out of trees, is it possible to safely inhale the smoke of cooked terpenes?

Of course, if you have the option, the inhalation of combusted plant material is not like the safest way to consume any phytochemical. However, there may be some positive aspects to terpene inhalation.

For example, remember the ‘entourage effect’? That’s often a product of combining the inhalation of terpenes and cannabinoids by smoking or vaporizing cannabis.

Are terpenes legal?

There’s nothing illegal about terpenes themselves. The FDA recognizes them as ‘generally safe for consumption.’ They aren’t scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act. They’re found in a variety of popular products and naturally occur in our food. So, no, terpenes aren’t illegal.

However, terpenes derived from cannabis live in a grey zone. Since cannabis is federally illegal, its possible that use of its terpenes could fall under the jurisdiction of federal agents.

Do terpenes get you high?

Terpenes aren’t responsible for getting you high. That’s the THC that does that. However, depending on the bouquet of terpenes, they can impact how someone might experience their high.

If you take terpenes by themselves, you’re not getting high.

If you have any more questions about terpenes, feel free to contact us today!