2019 was a triumphant year for CBD with a number of huge developments contributing to enormous growth in the industry. The passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 rose the starting gate for companies to sell legal, hemp-extracted cannabis products across the US from the beginning of the year. 2020 looks even greener, with a recent forecast by cannabis researcher BDS Analytics forecasting the U.S. CBD market to reach $20 billion in sales by 2024.
One of the primary reasons for the explosive growth of the industry sector is CBD’s potential for therapeutic effects. In 2018 the drug Epidiolex was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of epilepsy in sufferers two years old and older. CBD is also commonly used to treat anxiety, and another study from the European Journal of Pain showed CBD applied topically could help lower arthritic pain in animals.
CBD might be top dog right now, but there’s a new kid on the block: cannabis terpenes.
In the rest of this article, we’ll examine some of the reasons why terpenes are more than just a passing fad and will be a mainstay in the budding cannabis industry over the coming years.
While THC gave us the munchies and CBD offered up its boundless healing potential, terpenes sat anonymously in the corner giving our weed those wonderful variations in flavor and smell.
Part of the huge appeal of terpenes is that they are not high inducing. Simply put, terpenes extracted from cannabis are just essential oils so they can be sold alongside existing products – perfect for an introduction to the mass market. While marijuana is busting down out-dated attitudes and making its breakthrough into the mainstream, it’s clear that terpenes will be coming along for the ride.
They can also enhance the sensory experience that each strain provides. These aromatic organic hydrocarbons – which can also be found in many other plants and even insects – are found in naturally high levels in marijuana and are reported to hold numerous medical benefits. A study by the National Institute of Health found that linalool – a terpene found in several strains including Zkittlez, Scooby Snacks, and Do-Si-Dos – produced an antidepressant-like effect. Terpenes have been wating in the wings all along – so there’s no reason they’re going away anytime soon.
As the industry continues to grow consumers are becoming more mature, more educated, and more willing to experiment. Big brands are already stepping in to satiate the market’s hunger for new products. The Speciality Food Association named cannabis edibles and beverages as one of it’s “Food Trends of the Year,” but do these novelty products have any real staying power?
Terpenes, however, are completely natural plant or cannabis extracts. While mass-produced fads like CBD-infused cola will come and go, naturally-sourced raw ingredients will never lose their appeal.
If you’ve ever felt uplifted after smelling a bunch of fresh roses or after running your hands through a lavender bush, then you’ve already experienced the therapeutic effects of terpenes first-hand. Some of the most abundant terpenes in cannabis are limonene, myrcene, and terpinolene. Limonene can be found in the rind of citrus fruits like limes, lemons, and oranges and has been linked with the treatment of anxiety and depression. Myrcene – found in herbs like parsley and bay leaf – has a strong-peppery herbal scent and has sedative effects. Terpinolene’s scent is well-recognized for its piney tones – it’s abundant in conifer trees – and is known for its antibacterial and antioxidant effects. With over 200 varieties of terpenes present in the cannabis plant alone, the medicinal potential of these aroma compounds knows no bounds.
A revolutionary 2011 report by neurologist Ethan Russon detailed how terpenes and cannabinoids changed their effects when used together. Previously, it was believed that THC was the only chemical of psychoactive or medicinal value in the cannabis plant. Russon and his team discovered that different terpenes can have different effects on THC, with some boosting the effects of THC while others can negate these effects. Some entourage effect chasers may turn to ‘whole plant medicine’ (sometimes known as ‘full-spectrum’), but equally, people have begun to experiment with a mix and match approach – choosing their desired terpenes to mix with their own CBD or THC mixtures in order to achieve a truly bespoke effect.