Best Terpenes for Anxiety
If you’re a cannabis consumer, chances are high that you’ve heard the word “terpene” constantly tossed around but may not be completely clear on what they are or how they may benefit you.
Terpenes are naturally produced compounds found in not only cannabis, but other plants as well. Even if you aren’t a cannabis consumer, you’ve most likely experienced and even used products that contain terpenes. Terpenes, terpenoids, or terps, as they’re sometimes referred to, are largely responsible for producing the scent that we often associate with specific plants. The hint of lavender in a perfume, the piney aroma of a Christmas tree, or an invigorating citrus scent from an essential oil diffuser are all a result of terpenes.
Some terpenes bear a name that makes it a little more obvious for users to know what to expect, others, not so much. For example, pinene, as you may suspect, has a piney aroma and limonene maintains a citrusy scent, but guessing what a terp like linalool smells like may be a little more difficult — for the record, it has a floral profile and is used in 60-90% of cosmetics.
It is easy to assume that a terpene like pinene may only be found in pine or coniferous trees or limonene only in citrusy plants, but this isn’t the case. Most plants — cannabis included — maintain what is referred to as a terpene profile, a unique makeup of various terpene compositions and ratios. In terms of cannabis, the terpene profile may play a role in much more than the scent or taste of the product.
Terpenes have long been suspected of maintaining potential therapeutic effects and evidence reported by researchers tends to agree that there’s more to these compounds than aromatic pleasantries.
Terpenes and Humans
A popular theory behind why the plant kingdom produces terpenes is that they may aid in deterring pests, provide assistance in battling certain bacteria, and even help protect the plant from the elements. That said, humans have been attempting to harness the potential found in terpenes in a multitude of ways. From ingestion to inhalation, terpenes have been used for generations for countless reasons. As modern science continues to unravel the mystery behind these naturally occurring compounds, evidence continues to point to the fact that the potential benefits are well-worth the research efforts being attributed to this field of study.
Terpenes and Anxiety
Considering that data from the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that nearly 20% of U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder, it is understandable why researchers are exploring the potential ability of terpenes to alleviate several symptoms related to anxiety disorders. In fact, numerous studies have published data identifying specific terpenes that may have anxiolytic [anti-anxiety] properties.
Alpha-Pinene – This terpene, which shouldn’t be confused with beta-pinene, has been shown to have “significant anxiolytic-like activity”  on mice who were exposed to the compound for 90 minutes per day over the course of five days. That being said, there is also evidence that alpha-pinene may maintain a sweet spot. As the concentration of a-pinene was increased four-fold in a separate study, the brains of mice began to show evidence of “an excitatory-like effect” 
Beta-Caryophyllene – Beta-Caryophyllene has been found to be one of the most abundant terpenes produced by the cannabis plant. Once again, not to be confused with the similarly named alpha-caryophyllene (also known as Humulene), B-caryophyllene or BCP has produced evidence in mice suggesting a potential minimization of “oxidative stress involved in anxiety” , among several other potentially beneficial attributes. Additionally, scientists concluded in a 2020 study of B-caryophyllene’s therapeutic potential — in terms of anxiety — that “BCP is a promising compound for anxiety therapy, but additional studies are needed” 
Alpha-Bisabolol – You will likely recognize this terpene by its floral fragrance that is frequently associated with chamomile, though it can be found in a variety of other plants, including cannabis. Believed to be an extremely potent anxiolytic terpene, a study published in the Schmiedebergs Archives of Pharmacology reports that a-bisabolol may produce its anxiolytic-like effects through GABAergic transmission, instead of serotonergic transmission . The significance of this information is that, with additional research, scientists may be able to not only develop different methods to mitigate symptoms associated with anxiety, but this information could very well lead to a better understanding of anxiety on a biological level.
D-Limonene – Reported as the second-most abundant terpene found in nature, limonene, as you might expect, maintains a citrusy and sweet scent profile. Most commonly found in citrus fruits, there is surprisingly little research that has been published on this terpene. That said, the data that we do have available shows promising potential for limonene’s benefits. In a study published by the Journal of Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, limonene was reported to produce anti-anxiety-like effects when mice were exposed and placed into a maze.
Linalool – A terpene that is often associated with lavender aromas, linalool has been anecdotally reported as a stress-relieving scent. Once again, published research around this familiar terpene is limited. A 2018 study published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience examined the potential anxiolytic effects of linalool. Scientists exposed male mice to linalool in an “odor-chamber” for 30 minutes and reported that “classical anxiety-related behavioral tests showed that exposure to linalool odor induced significant anxiolytic effects.”  Interestingly, researchers found that mice who were anosmic [unable to smell], did not produce the same anxiolytic effects. Ultimately, as with other terpenes, the potential benefits of linalool will hopefully be fully understood with additional research.
So How do I Find a Product with the Ideal Terpene Blend for my Needs?
Although everyone is unique in what their ideal cannabinoid and terpene, there are a few tips to help narrow down the search for your ideal cannabis product based on terpenes.
- Check Your Product’s Label – In a world of varying regulation, it isn’t surprising to find many cannabis products do not list their terpene composition on the label. However, even some regulatory bodies are beginning to recognize that terpene profiles are an important factor when purchasing cannabis products. For example, Nevada now requires cannabis products to list the top three terpenes of any product in the certificate of analysis (COA). Don’t be afraid to spend some time searching for a product that provides a clear picture of the contents, terpenes included.
- Discuss a Product’s Terpenes With Your Budtender – If you needed another reason to always purchase your cannabis products at a legal and licensed dispensary, being able to discuss the terpene profile of a product with a trained budtender should be high on the list. With unregulated “pop-up” shops constantly opening, it is vital that you are purchasing from a licensed and regulated cannabis dispensary. Not only will this grant you the ability to discuss your product selection with a trained professional, but it will help protect you from a lot of the shady players and products in the marketplace.
- Find a Product That is Consistently and Precisely Dosed – In a perfect world, every cannabis product would be properly labeled, third-party tested, and consistently dosed. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in the retail cannabis industry. Finding a product that is precisely dosed from batch to batch is imperative to identifying what works best for your needs. Be sure to research the manufacturer of your cannabis product and discuss them with your budtender. Ideally, finding a producer whose cannabis products utilize precision blending practices, like Koan’s Resonate System, will help take a lot of the guesswork out of finding which product you respond best.
- Tracking/Journaling Your Experiences – If you are using cannabis medicinally, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “oh, I’ll be able to tell if this makes a difference over time. No need to make any notes”. Realistically though, being able to recall how you felt several months ago compared to today is unlikely. Do yourself a favor and track your target symptoms over time. This can be as simple as making a daily note on your phone or even taking the old-school approach and handwriting them. They don’t have to be overly complex or detailed notes, something as simple as “Monday – Felt a sense of calm for the first time in months after drinking a Big Chill with dinner”, is enough information to determine if your cannabis product is providing the changes you’re seeking.
Terpenes are a Tool, not a Complete Solution
It is important to understand that, although researchers are providing compelling evidence that terpenes possess potentially powerful therapeutic properties, they [terpenes] should not be viewed as a standalone solution. Instead, consider terps an additional tool to add to your arsenal. In terms of cannabis, it is commonly accepted that the terpenes which naturally occur in the plant work synergistically with the other natural compounds like cannabinoids.
When it comes to using terpene-rich cannabis products to battle anxiety related symptoms, incorporating other research-backed techniques like meditation, yoga, therapy, a healthy diet, or exercise can also increase the probability that your symptoms remain a thing of the past.
This article is for informational purposes only and not to be used as medical advice. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your diet, medications, or daily routine. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.