What separates the best CBD oil from the great CBD oil is the inclusion of natural hemp-derived terpenes. Many - if not most - CBD companies offer terpenes in their oils. But thanks to limitations in the extraction process, these vendors add terpenes from other plant sources. This small but critical detail means your CBD isn’t as “premium” as advertised.
The problem is we’re hyperfocused on avoiding poor-quality CBD, completely forgetting there are plenty of amazing CO2-extracted, organic, lab-tested oils available. We often see these points and immediately assume we’ve struck gold.
While signs of quality hemp oil are apparent, separating the best from the great requires deeper research. Fortunately, we did that for you.
Let’s look at terpenes, what they are, why they’re essential, and - most importantly - how they help you.
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are oily organic compounds found throughout the plant kingdom, although some animals produce them too.
While plants span thousands of species and classifications, terpenes serve the same two purposes:
- Defense against predators
- Resin production
The location, concentration, and terpene profiles vary between plant species. They then secrete the compounds into concentrated crystalline structures. These resinous growths are called “trichomes,” and appear overtly as a frosty layer on cannabis flower.
What are the Benefits of Terpenes?
The benefits of terpenes are substantial, potentially spanning everything from pain relief to disinfection.
Like cannabis, terpenes are anything but new. They have roots in herbal medicine - even if the creators had no idea terpenes existed. Terpene-rich essential oils extracted from plants appeared throughout the ancient world, and they’re just as popular today.
But it’s safe to say cannabis - especially the momentum of CBD oil - helped make “terpene” a household term.
Whether you hope to use CBD for arthritis symptoms, sleep, energy, or general wellness, terpenes are necessary to create the best CBD oil. Let’s illustrate this with some common examples.
Myrcene deserves mention for several reasons - and not just because it’s the most common terpene in cannabis. According to Richter et al. (2021), myrcene is common in plants like hops, lemongrass, mangoes, and basil.
Among its benefits are:
- Anxiety relief
- Glucose control
- Anti-catabolic (protects muscle mass)
The authors also note that myrcene may help transport cannabinoids to the brain. However, they admit data is scarce for that theory.
Caryophyllene is a spicy terpene found in black pepper, oregano, cinnamon, and basil.
Caryophyllene’s benefits include:
- Gastrointestinal support
- Tumor suppression
Although not as prominent as myrcene, caryophyllene has the unique title of being the first “dietary cannabinoid.”
But hold on, caryophyllene is a terpene, not a cannabinoid. So how does it get that label? That’s a good question with a unique answer.
Hartsel et al. (2016) reveal that, although caryophyllene isn’t a cannabinoid, it still binds effectively to the CB2 endocannabinoid receptor. This is why, according to the publication, caryophyllene is also labeled an “atypical cannabinoid.”
As the name implies, pinene is best known as the terpene responsible for giving pine trees their familiar aroma. You may also find it infused into air fresheners and household cleaners.
A 2019 academic literature review in Biomolecules examined the existing information about pinene’s possible applications, including:
- Tumor suppression
However, the review explains that pinene is a volatile terpene. Consequently, the effects don’t last long, as the body expels it quickly.
Although pinene received a lot of examination, it lacks the factual data of complete clinical trials.
How Terpenes Enhance the Effects of CBD
While covering every terpene would require an encyclopedia (or book, at the least). However, there’s a lot of overlap in their benefits. Now imagine all those terpenes mixed with cannabinoids. This is essentially the core of what separates the best CBD oil from the great - and there’s a mechanism behind it.
The Entourage Effect
There’s a lot of chatter about the entourage effect, first proposed by famed cannabis researcher Raphael Mechoulam. Although he first coined the term, his research in this area didn’t look at terpenes.
Ethan Russo proposed the role of terpenes in his 2011 article from The British Journal of Pharmacology.
We now know that both Mechoulam and Russo were correct. The synergistic relationship between cannabinoids and terpenes allows these substances to combine forces effectively. In turn, you get a broader, more potent variety of potential medicinal benefits from CBD oil.
The Problem With Terpenes
Terpenes may have some fantastic therapeutic potential, especially when combined with cannabinoids. However, there’s a severe problem that - if solved - truly makes the best CBD oil you can get.
Broad-spectrum and full-spectrum oils both can contain robust terpene and cannabinoid profiles, but don’t be fooled by the label.
Terpenes are heat-sensitive. Most extraction methods rely on high heat to remove unwanted ingredients like fats, chlorophyll, and wax. Unfortunately, this creates collateral damage where most terpenes are destroyed.
Vendors solve the terpene issue by adding plant-based terpenes back into their CBD oils. However, this isn’t the same as natural terpene retention. It’s like the difference between getting Vitamin C from orange juice instead of being artificially infused in sports drinks.
How to Spot Infused Terpenes
The terpenes issue may seem new, but thankfully CBD oil vendors can’t pull the wool over your eyes. If you’re unsure whether the terpenes are added or natural, there are three ways to find out.
Closely Read the Label
The ingredients list is a dead giveaway. If “terpenes” is one of the items listed, that means it’s a separate component. Natural terpenes wouldn’t be explicitly mentioned, as they’re part of the hemp oil extract.
Contact the Company
If the label isn’t clear or you’re still concerned, you can always send a message or call the vendor. Many of them have chat options, so they’ll instantly answer your questions.
Read the Lab Reports
We’ll cover this one in detail shortly shortly. Lab reports are more technical than labels, but the best CBD companies can make those analyses easy to read and understand.
Always Check Third-Party Lab Reports
Most CBD vendors offer third-party lab reports. Once you understand what is (or isn’t) in those reports, you’ll easily separate the best CBD oil from the great.
Naturally-occurring terpenes will show up on third-party analyses. If your CBD is broad-spectrum or full-spectrum, there should be terpenes present. But if the reports show few to no terpenes - or fail to mention them at all - there’s a chance your product contains artificially-infused terpenes.
Where to Buy Lab-Tested CBD With Terpenes
You can buy lab-tested CBD with terpenes from a select few vendors who don’t use heat in their extraction processes.
Mentioned in articles, we came across during our research was Colorado Botanicals. With their proprietary process of using a “pharmaceutical approach of separation,” they can use low heat, separate the unwanted compounds, and naturally retain hemp-derived terpenes.
As a bonus, CO2 extraction won’t leave behind residual solvents the way methods like alcohol and butane often do.
Poor quality CBD oil is still a problem, but the latest headache seems to be finding the best CBD among a vast pool of great CBD.
But we can’t stress enough how important it is to find the best CBD. It’s a big investment, both financially and in terms of health (not to mention safety).
Like in many similar cases, education is key. Shopping smart is easy if you know where to look and what to look for.