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Same Same But (Very) Different – Terpenes & Essential Oils Explained

Posted by True Blue Terpenes on

By Paul Lewin

Let's play a little game: What am I describing?

These substances are sold in bottles in liquid form. They smell good. They come from natural sources. They’re used to give flavor and aroma to other things. They’ve gained massive popularity in recent years due to research reporting their health benefits.

If you said essential oils, you’re correct. If you said terpenes then – knock me down with a feather – also correct!

With this in mind, it’s pretty easy to see why some people might be confused.

So, what about the essential oils and terpenes for sale online today? Are terpenes essential oils or are essential oils terpenes? Or are they something completely different altogether?

Let’s find out.

Essential Oils – What’s in a Name?

Essentially, essential oils are the essential essence of their namesake.

Take ‘lavender essential oil’, for example, which is considered to be a concentrated representation of the lavender plant in liquid form.  It’s the same concept for other essential oils too.

These aromatic oils are obtained by the distillation of plants. The resulting oil is highly valued as it’s believed to be the liquid representation of its source. Each essential oils’ chemical makeup defines the smell and any associated interactions with the body.

Without getting too complicated, essential oils are mostly made up of compounds like alcohols; ketones; phenols; and oxides, and hydrocarbons like – yep, you guessed it – terpenes.


Terpenes are organic compounds that give smells to trees, plants, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Terpenes evolved as a way for plants to protect themselves or make themselves more attractive to certain animals.

Lemongrass, for example, contains the terpene citronellal (not to be confused with citronella) which is commonly used as a mosquito repellent.

Compared to essential oils, the extraction and distillation process is a little more complicated. While an essential oil aims to distil down the main components of a plant, a terpene must be completely isolated from all other substances and impurities.

More recently, terpenes have entered the public consciousness due to increased interest in their medicinal properties, such as anti-inflammation, anxiety reduction, and stress relief.

While over 20,000 different terpenes are in existence, some of the most well-known are myrcene, limonene, pinene, linalool, and beta-caryophyllene.

So, what’s the difference?

In the simplest terms, terpenes are just one part of what makes up an essential oil. Terpenes in essential oils are responsible for the smells, flavors, and sought after medicinal effects.

To use a cooking analogy: just like tomatoes are a single ingredient in a Boeuf Bourguignon, the terpene myrcene is just a single component of juniper essential oil.

The terpenes for sale here at True Blue are expertly extracted and isolated from natural sources, and then mixed to help you recreate the taste, smell, and effects of your favourite strain.

And if you’re looking for a different experience, we’ve also recreated some classic tastes from the world of alcohol, desserts, and fine dining.

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