The Five Best Terpenes for Anxiety & The Entourage Effect

Can Terpenes Help Reduce Anxiety?

Millions of people struggle every day with anxiety severe enough that it significantly reduces their quality of life. Many individuals with symptoms of anxiety disorders rely on prescription medications for relief. Although these medications effectively help people manage anxiety, they can cause some individuals to experience unwanted side effects. Consequently, the search for viable alternatives to pharmaceutical anxiolytics has led to extensive research into plant substances’ benefits.

But First, What Are Terpenes? 

Research results published over the past decade indicate plant compounds (phytochemicals) offer incredible physical and mental health benefits. Terpenes (see a-bisabolol, d-limonene and beta ocimene) are one group of these compounds. Found in flowering, vegetative, and fruiting plants, terpenes can possess analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, and anti-microbial qualities among other therapeutic effects that may help treat chronic diseases resistant to traditional methods.

What Does it Mean for a Terpene to Be Analgesic, Anti-inflammatory, Anxiolytic, or Anti-microbial? 

If these terms make you feel like you’re browsing through a medical dictionary, you’re not alone.

Analgesic – This is any compound or activity that provides pain relief. For example, many medical cannabis users report analgesic or pain relieving effects from cannabis.

Anti-Inflammatory – Inflammation of muscles, joints, tendons, or frankly, any body part can lead to multiple issues. Anti-inflammatory treatments can range from over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like Ibuprofen to essential oils and massage therapies.

Anti-microbial – Nobody wants harmful microorganisms on their skin or in their body. While common household items like soaps and hand sanitizers provide anti-microbial properties, so too can certain plant essential oils and some terpenes found in cannabis.

Anxiolytic – This term is another way to describe anything that reduces anxiety, commonly referred to as “anti-anxiety”.

An alternative to anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) drugs that continues to provide positive research results, botanical terpenes have the potential to reduce anxiety. Some scientists suggest that when terpenes and cannabinoids likeTHC or CBD interact with each other at endocannabinoid receptor sites (CB1 and CB2), they create an “entourage effect” that produces a synergistic relationship between terpenes and cannabinoids. In other words, when THC, CBD, and certain terpenes are combined in one product, the potential anxiolytic effects of THC and CBD are significantly enhanced by the presence of terpenes (always consult your medical provider for the necessary dosage, and consider microdosing ).

Entourage Effect: The Science Behind Terpenes for Anxiety

Entourage Effect Infographic

Some research results have shown anxiety reducing effects of cannabinoids and associated secondary metabolites (terpenoids, sterols, and flavonoids). As scientists have delved further into the ability of cannabis compounds to reduce anxiety, they discovered that certain terpenes may enhance the anxiety-relieving properties of cannabinoids.

Although doctors routinely prescribe medicinal cannabis to treat mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks, studies suggest that combining cannabinoids with extracted concentrations of terpenes, as brands like Koan has done with their precisely blended cordials, may also work to alleviate mild to moderate anxiety. This entourage effect that occurs when terpenes and cannabinoids are combined is what makes terpenes a potentially effective treatment for anxiety.

Cannabis targets two specific receptors in the endocannabinoid system: the CB1 receptor and the CB2 receptor. However, it is the CB1 receptor that is most involved in regulating mood, depression, and anxiety disorders. The CB2 receptor is primarily associated with the immune system’s overall functioning and provides curative support for traumatic brain injuries.

Low serotonin is found in many individuals experiencing anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric issues. When impacted by the entourage effect, the CB1 and CB2 receptors have shown to increase serotonin levels in the brain by preventing reuptake (thereby increasing retention) of serotonin. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) prescribed for depression perform this same action, but SSRIs can sometimes cause unwelcome side effects and, in some people, may worsen their anxiety and depression.

Asking For Cannabis Strains? What are the Best Terpenes for Anxiety?

Some terpenes may improve anxiety symptoms better than others. The best terpenes for anxiety when combined in specific ratios with anxiolytic cannabinoids like CBD to create the entourage effect include:

1. Linalool

Commonly used as a scent enhancer in shampoos, soaps, and candles, linalool is also known for its powerful anti-anxiety effects and other therapeutic properties. Cannabis contains only trace amounts of linalool, so additional amounts of linalool are combined with cannabis products to provide a naturally effective anxiolytic.

2. Limonene

Like linalool, limonene is an aromatic terpene found in cannabis flower resin glands that possesses anti-stress properties. Limonene is frequently used in household cleaning products given its mood boosting and uplifting nature. Levels of limonene vary among different cannabis strains and depend on curing and growing techniques applied by cultivators. Quality cannabis products will provide information regarding how much limonene is present which you can find by asking your budtender for this document.

3. Myrcene

Myrcene plays a vital role in the entourage effect of cannabis by directly enhancing the effectiveness of cannabinoids and other terpenes. This terpene is commonly used by perfume and fragrance industries. Studies suggest that myrcene analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. While this terpene does not quell anxiety symptoms like some of the others on this list, it can help you achieve a good night’s sleep.

4. Beta-Caryophyllene

Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) is one of the most common terpenes in cannabis. With its black pepper like aromatic profile, b-caryophyllene is routinely used as a food additive. This terpene has been shown to possess both anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic effects. Beta-caryophyllene effectively activates the endocannabinoid system‘s CB2 receptors allowing the body to better experience the therapeutic effects beta-caryophyllene has to offer.

5. Pinene

A terpene found in coniferous trees, like pines, pinene is one of over 150 cannabis terpenes identified as having anti-anxiety and cognitive-enhancing properties due to the synergistic effects of plant derivatives found in full-spectrum cannabis products. Much like myrcene, pinene is frequently used in the perfumery industry.

Why Should You Consider Using Terpenes?

For centuries, numerous cultures have been using cannabis and plant derived terpenes for their physical and mental benefits, with minimal adverse effects being reported. As evidence mounts regarding the entourage effect’s efficacy, more and more manufacturers of cannabis products are adding terpenes for the treatment of symptoms related to anxiety into their products. With little to no clinical reports (as of writing) of individuals experiencing adverse side effects after using terpenes, to alleviate the frustrations of anxiety, these natural compounds are worth giving a try.

Alternative medicine practitioners suggest combining cannabinoid and terpene products with wellness methods such as meditating, exercising, yoga, and other stress management techniques to complement the anti-anxiety effects of terpenes found in cannabis products.

Koan’s Calm Cordial

Koan’s Calm Cordial contains cannabinoids and the anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) terpenes linalool, beta-caryophyllene, and a touch of limonene. Calm also combines a low dose of THC with a higher dose of CBD (a highly anxiolytic cannabinoid), amplifying its calming effect through plant synergy. If you suffer from occasional to moderate anxiety and want to alleviate your symptoms holistically, the selective compounds of our Calm Cordial may be able to help you feel at peace as you go about your day. Learn more about the science of Calm here.

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.