Terpenes (general)

The Benefits of Botanical Terpenes

Let’s Get Definitional

Terpenes often are associated with cannabis because cannabis plant trichomes contain high concentrations of these fragrant molecules. What’s more, cannabis consumers frequently select their preferred cannabis flower based on terpenoid profiles characteristic of a given cultivar such as Trainwreck, Grape Ape, and AC/DC, suggesting various kinds of psychotropic states.

There is an entirely different category of terpenes called botanical terpenes that are derived from non-cannabis sources. Botanical terpenes are extracted from plants that present far fewer regulatory constraints plus they offer many meaningful health and wellness benefits.

To borrow (and tweak) a phrase from the American writer Gertrude Stein, a terpene is a terpene is a terpene. That’s because the composition and effects of terpenes from just about any plant delivers important wellness benefits to the user. Terpenes have been well researched and one of the most comprehensive studies on terpenes was written by Dr. Ethan Russo for The British Journal of Pharmacology. [1]

There is a connection to cannabis here. Interestingly, Russo was one of the lead scientists in the development of the drug Epidiolex from GW Pharma. This was the first Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medication that uses cannabinoids as active ingredients. It is prescribed to help treat childhood epilepsy or specifically for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, forms of epilepsy that are severe and rare.

Russo’s important terpene research can be summarized as follows. Terpenes deliver health and wellness benefits when used independently. When combined with cannabinoids and other terpenes, they provide an entourage effect, where one molecule potentiates the effectiveness of the other. This is one argument against cannabinoid isolates, and some studies have determined that a whole plant hemp extract has been more efficacious than CBD isolate. [2] For practical commercial uses, a combination of CBD isolate and terpenes would make a seemingly commodity cannabinoid far more valuable.


Delivering Health and Wellness

We know that botanical terpenes frequently are used to deliver health and wellness benefits in supplements. [3] Since terpenes represent the dominant aromatic compounds found in plants, there are similarities to the benefits found from aromatherapy. Terpenes produce moods that range from energetic to calming. There is a corresponding feeling one gets from walking through a pine forest with the feeling one gets from ingesting the monoterpene pinene.

It should be noted that the botanical terpenes we have been using are terpene blends. For example, our energy terpene blend contains alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, limonene, and terpinolene. On the other end of the mood spectrum, our calming terpene blend contains pinene, caryophyllene, geraniol, nerol, and camphene. These terpenes deliver distinct taste profiles, too. The energy terpene blend has mild citrus taste while the calming terpenes blend has a mild grape flavor. In both instances, the taste and the smell of these botanical terpenes are subtle. This differs markedly from cannabis or hemp-derived terpenes where the smell and taste are pronounced and unpleasant.

We have discussed the wellness benefits of botanical terpenes and their ability to effect moods such an increased feeling of energy or calm. For cannabinoid users, terpenes also can provide an added benefit known as the entourage effect. There are specific applications as to how this may work with disease states, such helping to treat mood and anxiety disorders. [4] The entourage effect also may apply more broadly when terpenes are combined with other plants such as medicinal mushrooms. [5] Terpenes associated with plant-derived protein can be an important part of human nutrition too. [6]


Some Practical Commercial Advantages

Botanical terpenes have several other practical commercial advantages. One applies within the backdrop of imprecise plant regulations and overall government regulatory control. In the United States, FDA regulations prohibit the use of CBD as a food because the FDA claims it was not consumed regularly by people as a dietary ingredient prior to 1994. In Europe, their regulatory body, Novel Foods, has made a similar argument but this time with a human consumption “grandfather” date of 1997. In both instances, it’s hard to argue that the plants that make up botanical terpenes, such as oranges and grapes, have not been consumed regularly by people prior to 1994 and 1997. Cannabinoid attorneys worldwide are thrilled with this argument.

Cannabis regulations are even stricter than those that govern CBD. There are well-enforced regulations that prohibit the sale of cannabinoids in the US via interstate commerce. To paraphrase a famous advertising campaign, when it comes to cannabis, what happens in Nevada must stay in Nevada. Cannabis sold in Nevada must be grown, processed, distributed, and marketed within that state alone. This also means cannabis terpenes from Nevada cannot be sold in Oregon or California, neighboring states where recreational cannabis is both legal and thriving.

In addition, cannabis grown and processed in the US cannot be exported legally to any other country. We cannot export to traditional trade partners like Canada or Mexico, or to anywhere else in the world. This holds true for cannabis terpenes as well. Like cannabis, cannabis terpenes derived from the cannabis plant cannot be exported.

It’s important to remember that botanical terpenes are not derived from the cannabis plant, but they do have similar wellness effects. They can be exported from one US state to another. In addition, botanical terpenes can be sent to other countries that allow US agricultural exports. This portability as well as the ability to produce botanical terpenes centrally represents a significant economic benefit to producers. Botanical terpenes represent a large and mostly untapped commercial opportunity.


Advancing a Potentially Significant Market

Botanical terpenes are potentially a $US billion+ market that suffers from a decided lack of awareness. Clearly, botanical terpenes do fit within the emerging plant-based wellness space. They can be sold independently to consumers either as a stand-alone offering or can be combined with other plants. They also can be marketed as an ingredient to be added to a diverse array of beverages or foods. For example, to date, we have combined botanical terpenes with products as varied as cannabinoids, plant-based protein, medicinal mushrooms, energy shots, energy drinks, energy bars, water, tea, coffee, and alcoholic beverages. There are many other possibilities on the horizon.

At TabBrands, we are pursuing multiple ways to advance the botanical terpenes space. Of course, we are working to raise awareness and lead the narrative of how botanical terpenes are defined as well as the benefits they can offer. As with all of our other products, we want to integrate botanical terpenes into people’s everyday lives. In our view, botanical terpenes must be convenient to use, must taste good, must be highly bioavailable, must be safe, and must be available in an assured dose. This is our enduring challenge in this exciting new category.



[1] Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344-1364. [journal impact factor = 8.739; times cited = 831]


[2] Pamplona FA, da Silva LR, Coan AC. Potential clinical benefits of CBD-rich cannabis extracts over purified CBD in treatment-resistant epilepsy: Observational data meta-analysis [published correction appears in Front Neurol. 2019 Jan 10;9:1050]. Front Neurol. 2018;9:759. [journal impact factor = 4.003; times cited = 66]


[3] Ponce-Rodríguez HD, Verdú-Andrés J, Campíns-Falcó P, Herráez-Hernández R. Capillary liquid chromatography for the determination of terpenes in botanical dietary supplements. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2021;14(6):580. [journal impact factor = 5.863; times cited = 0]


[4] Ferber SG, Namdar D, Hen-Shoval D, et al. The “entourage effect”: Terpenes coupled with cannabinoids for the treatment of mood disorders and anxiety disorders. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2020;18(2):87-96. [journal impact factor = 8.299; times cited = 25]


[5] Elkhateeb WA, Daba GM, Thomas PW, & Wen T. Medicinal mushrooms as a new source of natural therapeutic bioactive compounds. Egyptian Pharmaceutical Journal. 2019;18:88–101. [journal impact factor = N/A; times cited = 24]


[6] Rathore KS, Pandeya D, Campbell LM, Wedegaertner TC, Puckhaber LS, Stipanovic RD, Thenell JS, Hague SS, & Hake KD. (2020). Ultra-low gossypol cottonseed: Selective gene silencing opens up a vast resource of plant-based protein to improve human nutrition. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences. 2020;39:1-29. [journal impact factor = 5.188; times cited = 308]

About the author

Dean Harris, TabBrands

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