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Terpenes and Tinctures – What’s the Connection?

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Plenty of people already know about terpenes as the “flavor compounds” of hemp plants. These organic compounds, which are found in plants throughout the world, give hemp plants (and by extension, CBD extracts) their distinctive flavors, aromas, and tastes.

Flavor and aroma are especially important aspects of oral CBD products like tinctures.

However, terpenes can also change the effects that a CBD tincture has on a user. Studies suggest that the terpenes found in cannabis plants can affect the same brain pathways that cannabinoids like CBD use. This phenomenon, known as the “entourage effect,” isn’t exclusive to cannabis plants and CBD tinctures.

In fact, scientists have compared the effectiveness of whole plant extracts to single compounds in previous medical studies. That research suggests that a tincture’s effects aren’t just determined by the amount of CBD it contains.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are a type of organic compound found in plants around the world. They take their name from “turpentine” which was one early widely-used terpene used for industrial purposes.

Terpenes are strongly aromatic. As a result, numerous products from food to perfume use terpenes to impart flavor and taste. For example, anise and licorice get their distinct taste from a terpene called anethole.

star anise - terpenes and tinctures

How are Terpenes Used in CBD Extracts?

A number of terpenes occur naturally in cannabis plants. The presence of these organic compounds can affect the flavor profile of a tincture in a variety of ways.

Some of these terpenes include:

  • Limonene – gives citrus fruits their distinct flavor.
  • Myrcene – also found in hops and lemongrass.
  • Linalool – a colorless oil with a floral fragrance.
  • Caryophyllene – also present in cloves.
  • Phytol – a component of jasmine oil.
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Because users consume tinctures orally, taste matters. These compounds can lend some spice to the strong, earthy tones that CBD invokes.

However, there’s a difference between natural terpenes that are found in a cannabis plant and many other terpenes that some CBD companies use in their products.

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How do Terpenes Affect Tinctures?

Often, when a CBD company makes an extract, it will extract the CBD from a hemp plant into an isolate. An isolate is pure CBD without any extra cannabinoids or terpenes in the mix.

Then, a company will add new terpenes extracted from another source to the CBD isolate to make its tincture.

Hemp terpenes can be expensive. As a result, some companies use flavor compounds from cheaper alternatives. These aren’t found naturally in hemp plants and can make a CBD tincture have effects not usually found in nature.

However, thanks to the entourage effect, this can cause the new tincture to have wildly different effects than just a CBD isolate. The effects of this new “Frankenstein tincture” can even differ from the effects of a tincture made using a hemp plant’s natural terpenes.

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