Terpenes have become a hot topic in the world of cannabis and beyond.
These valuable compounds unite the cannabis, health, wellness, and flavor industries with a wide range of benefits and applications. As of 2020, there have been over 100 cannabis-derived terpenes identified in published journals. Cannabis is one of the most abundant sources of terpenes in the entire world, with many compounds yet to be discovered. We know after studying hundreds of marijuana samples that there are over 400 terpenes and aroma compounds in a variety of strains.
And then there’s a race against time for leading and emerging brands to identify inventive combinations of terpenes that can lead them to greater levels of success.
Let’s dive in to better understand what a terpene is and why we’ve dedicated our research to share them with the world.
What is a terpene?
Terpenes can be defined as a large and diverse class of volatile aroma compounds that are found in botanical essential oils and produced by a large variety of plants, trees, and flowers including conifers, citrus, berry, mint, and cannabis.
These compounds are isolated and extracted to be used in essential oils, fragrances, flavors, and medicines. Terpenes are among the most functional ingredients used in flavor and aromas.
In the world of cannabis, terpenes play a vital role in differentiating the flavor, aroma, and effects of specific cannabis strains. If THC was the gas pedal, then terpenes would be the steering wheel, because they help modulate the effects of the cannabinoids and impact the entourage effect. Some of these terpenes may actually be considered a cannabinoid and enhance the efficacy of product formulations. When speaking of “effects,” we’re referring to some terpenes doing wonders for relaxation, others for stress relief, and others for energy and focus.
Some of the most prevalent terpenes found in cannabis include:
- D-Limonene – One of the most common terpenes found in nature. This citrus-oriented terpene may be helpful in boosting your alertness, metabolism, reducing inflammation, and increasing antioxidant levels. According to Thorne Research, studies have shown its ability to be a solvent of cholesterol in your digestive tract which can reduce heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux.
- Pinene – The smell of Christmas pine needles and is a known bronchodilator, expectorant, and antiseptic. Alpha-pinene occurs in the essential oils derived from plants like rosemary, eucalyptus, orange peel, and pine trees. Research suggests alpha-pinene has antibacterial activity against the dangerous antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strain MRSA and against the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni (5) (6).
- Myrcene – One of the most common terpenes shared with hops, this earthy and musky aromatic compound – well known as a flavor ingredient in the food industry and fragrance in soaps – can also be found in bay leaves, ylang-ylang, wild thyme, parsley, and mango. It’s famous for its sedative effects and is excellent at reducing pain and inflammation. According to the American Journal of Chinese medicine, the research study data indicates that myrcene has a potential protective effect on UVB-induced human skin photoaging making this terpene of particular interest to the cosmetics industry.
- Beta-Caryophyllene – According to research published by PNAS, Beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid that selectively binds to the CB2 receptor and is a functional agonist. This major terpene has a low aromatic value which makes it a great addition to topicals and beverages and can be naturally found in essential oils of many different spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, and oregano.
When combined, a mix of terpenes can help produce a tailored set of effects and benefits on the mind and body for those who consume them while smoking, applying topically, and/or ingesting.
What terpenes mean for the cannabis industry and beyond
A growing number of companies realize that adding terpenes to their products can be a game-changer. This is why a growing number of vape and CBD brands have begun adding either cannabis terpenes or botanically-derived terpenes to their vaping oils, topicals, chocolates, beverages, and more. By doing this, they are able to improve flavor, aroma, and the physical effects of their products.
Where CBD is concerned, it’s quite expensive to extract full-spectrum oil that contains a consistent full mix of naturally occurring cannabis terpenes that also have a nice aroma. So the most cost-effective way to go about the extraction process is to strip the terpenes and then add them back in later. And this is where things get quite interesting — instead of using cannabis or hemp-derived terpenes alone, it’s possible to use identical non-cannabis derived terpenes instead or supplement to create safe, consistent, and effective products.
The same is true for vape blends, topicals, edibles, beverages, and skincare products. Botanically-derived terpenes can be used instead. It’s now possible with technology to capture the essence of each flower and recreate popular cannabis strains using botanically-derived terpenes.
ABSTRAX accomplishes this by analyzing cannabis strains in its state-of-the-art laboratory. It’s the very first specialized Type 7 research and manufacturing lab located in California that can legally study and extract cannabis aroma compounds and develop product formulations via a three-dimensional analysis of strain profiles.
Put simply, the company can pinpoint the exact mix of terpenes and other compounds that make up the aromas and flavors of the most popular cannabis strains. It can then recreate them without cannabis and without THC. This makes them shippable almost anywhere in the world.
It also means that terpene blends found within cannabis-derived strains may be fused together with consumer packaged goods and used in creams, balms, salves, drinks, beers, alcohol, chocolates, and candies.
What this means for the cannabis industry
The cannabis and aroma industries are expected to grow exponentially between 2020 and 2024, with the terpene category alone projected to grow to over $1 billion.
Cannabis-derived and botanically-derived terpenes alike will allow for leading strains to be reproduced with unwavering consistency. Not only will this lead to loyal consumers, but it will also result in higher levels of product quality, predictability, efficacy, and safety.