Medical Research

Which terpenes work best with CBD to maximize its therapeutic potential?

Written by Asia Mayfield

The scarcity of legitimate research into the effects of CBD has led to a massive amount of confusion. Consumers and scientists lack the information required to maximize the cannabinoid’s therapeutic benefits.

The “entourage effect” describes the way that cannabinoids and terpenes react with each other to create specific user experiences. Many people believe that a cannabis cultivar’s terpene profile is just as important as its’ THC or CBD content.

However, due to the lack of studies explicitly supporting such claims, science is divided.

“The lay public has really taken on the notion of the entourage effect, but there’s not a lot of data,” Margaret Haney, a neurobiologist at Columbia University, told Scientific American.

CBD is particularly interesting because it’s been eclipsed by THC for so long. Now that evidence is mounting that CBD has potentially huge health benefits, researchers are turning their attention to the long-neglected cannabinoid.

Are terpenes an important part of CBD-only products? Dispensary shelves are lined CDB-only isolates as well as terpene-rich CBD oils. Cannabis manufacturers are working hard to discover which is the best option for their customers.

“We have a huge set of cannabis genomic data that will, hopefully, allow us to ID genetic markers associated with chemical results and certain patient outcomes… We’re just getting started,” explained Mowgli Holmes, a geneticist and founder of Phylos Bioscience.

The research that has been done suggests that terpenes are a valuable part of the cannabis experience. The pungent oils do affect more than just your nose. A CBD-only isolate might be able to relieve your symptoms but you’ll be missing out on the whole plant experience.

Project CBD notes: “Beta-caryophyllene, for example, is a sesquiterpene found… in various cannabis strains and in many green, leafy vegetables. It is gastro-protective, good for treating certain ulcers, and offers great promise as a therapeutic compound for inflammatory conditions and auto-immune disorders…”

Certain terpenes likely increase CBD’s effectiveness as a medicine. A 2011 study found that: “Mice exposed to terpenoid odours inhaled from ambient air for 1 h demonstrated profound effects on activity levels, suggesting a direct pharmacological effect on the brain, even at extremely low serum concentrations.”1

The study’s author, Ethan Russo, discovered that Limonene, Linalool, Beta-caryophyllene, and Beta-myrcene had particularly strong effects. Linalool, for example, was shown to reduce anxiety. Multiple terpenes are thought to reduce inflammation.

Figuring out the right terpene profile to help you is largely a matter of trial and error. Science can point you in the right direction but until the U.S. government removes the barriers to research, you won’t be able to get a definitive answer.

If you’re taking CBD medicinally, you should try to focus on the terpenes that have been studied. Cannabis plants have over 200 terpenes although only a few appear in significant quantities.


  1. Russo, Ethan. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British Journal of Pharmacology 7 (2011).

About the author

Asia Mayfield

Asia Mayfield is a freelance writer who focuses on the cannabis industry. She can be reached at