By Emily Ledger
We’re often asked whether CBD products smell and the answer is complex. Many of the CBD-related items you can buy are marketed as ‘fragrance-free’ – but when it comes to CBD, that’s not necessarily what you want. Here’s our take on why, in this instance, a little aroma is exactly what you need.
The purest CBD products do, in fact, have a distinctive (perhaps familiar!) scent; the fruity, earthy and woody smell we associate with cannabis. That’s because when creating full-spectrum CBD, the entire cannabis plant is used, as the various components work together in harmony. This is known as the ‘entourage effect’; each chemical found in the cannabis plant interacts symbiotically with the other. It’s the inclusion of the plant’s buds or flowers that creates the recognisable fragrance, which is why it’s actually a great thing if your CBD oil smells fairly strongly.
These buds contain terpenes, naturally-occurring hydrocarbons that give all sorts of herbs and flowers their distinctive aromas (think lavender, rosemary or magnolia; all of those amazing smells come from terpenes). The other composite parts of CBD products – THC and CBD itself, for example – are actually odourless, so when you catch that distinctive scent, you know that terpenes are present.
So why not buy a CBD isolate, and reduce the smell? Well, on top of being responsible for scent, terpenes are believed to have therapeutic benefits, so they play a big part in how successful your CBD products are, particularly if you’re using them for their reputed relaxing or pain-relieving properties.
Terpenes are also a key element of full-spectrum CBD’s entourage effect, as they help the body to absorb some of CBD’s most powerful actors. They work by enhancing the chemicals’ ability to cross the blood-brain barrier which increases the product’s efficacy. This is why some CBD manufacturers boost their products’ terpene profile, adding beneficial terpenes such as Beta-caryophyllene, Myrcene, Limonene and Pinene after the CBD has been extracted; this makes their products work even harder for you.
These terpenes are all present in foods we eat and plants we use daily. Beta-caryophyllene features in cloves, rosemary and hops, while myrcene is found in bay leaves. Limonene is what gives citrus fruits their zesty fragrance, and Pinene is in pretty much any herb you can think of, from basil to parsley. Each one works in a slightly different way, so look out for which terpenes are used when you’re establishing which product is right for you. They can alter the flavour, too, making it fruitier or more earthy.
So it turns out that, given the myriad plus points of a high terpene content in CBD, it makes sense to seek products on the smellier side – it’s likely to mean they’ll benefit you better!