Tailoring Terpenes for Flavor and Effect

Aromatherapy was defined and coined in 1936 as the use of essential oils, applied topically, orally, or by inhalation to promote health, hygiene and psychological wellbeing.  Aromatic-PlantsAll kinds of aromatic plants such as lavender, frankincense and rosemary have been used since antiquity for these purposes!

Terpenes and terpenoids are the primary components in essential oils, with about 300 of these traded on the world markets, estimated in 2013 to be worth over $1 billion. They are used in the flavor industry, in cosmetics, the pharmaceutical industry (a German company synthesizes THC from limonene), cleaning products, hair and skin care and for aromatherapy.   They have their own pharmacological activity, penetrate the skin, and also can be toxic to the skin, neurons, and reproduction.

Terpenes are what the compounds that we smell in Cannabis, and the upcoming event: Terpestival™ Terpene Tournament and Festival on July 23rd in Hopland, CA will provide a platform for the industry to further discover and define what :terps” mean for the bottom line, and for specific medical conditions.

The Terpestival™ Terpene Tournament and Festival will host three expert panels discussing these topics in detail:

1) Terpenes in extraction/product making. How does this translate to the market?

2) Terpenes in Growing: How does this translate to the market?

3) Terpenes in Health and Ritual

There is a growing trend in the Cannabis industry to make efforts toward preserving the terpenes during extraction, as well as during curing of the cannabis flower. These compounds are also concentrated with supercritical CO2 extraction. Whenever the plant is heated in extraction, the terpene ratio dramatically shifts away from the lightest weight compounds, the monoterpenes to the heavier and more complex terpenoids or sesquiterpenes.

Plants of the same genus that are almost identical in appearance can produce profoundly different chemotypes, as evidenced by Cannabis species.  This unique “fingerprint” of each species or varietal is why a particular one may be your favorite.

For example, a top-selling variety on the West Coast (where it was bred) and in Colorado is Blue Dream.   This strain came from a cross of a Blueberry, reported to be heavily “indica” with Super Silver Haze, a “sativa”. One of the reasons that this may be a popular strain is due to the unique balance of the terpenes: pinene and myrcene.  Here is the terpene profile from 11 Blue Dreams grown in Washington State:Blue Dream

When the afghanica strains (came with the “purples”) were introduced and bred into the genetics, beginning around the mid 1990’s, the terpenoids were resurrected and also began to dominate the industry. When the purples were introduced, there was an explosion of smell (floral and fruity), and these were the first truly branded varietals. This was because the quality has always been defined to the growers by the terps! Does the smell attract you? Then go for that variety!

Terpenes are affected by growing conditions, plant genetics, nutrient availability and plant “stress” such as heat, drought and water. Plant stress is actually what may increase the production of these chemicals. In addition, when harvest occurs and how the plant is handled and cured after harvest are important factors for preserving the individual terpene profile of each plant.

When the terpenes from essential oils are inhaled, we have specific receptors in our nose (olfactory bulb) for recognizing scent. When these receptors are bound by a terpene, electrical signals are sent to the brain. Linda Buck with Richard Axel won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2004 for this discovery. These “chemoreceptors” are also found in the lining of the gut on what are called enteroendocrine cells, that may signal hormonal or neuronal pathways.

The take-away message is:   “don’t let your cannabis selection be defined just by the cannabinoid profile”.   The terps need to be used along with the cannabinoid profile for the end-user to be satisfied. One way to tell whether your bud is fresh and pleasing, is to smell it!  This is also one indicator for medical use and how a patient may know if a product is going to work for them! This scent is what is going to drive the market!   Start requesting the terpenoid profile from your dispensary or supplier and compare the varietals.  Pinene and terpinolene are two that are more rare, and you should be on the look-out for. Why?  Come to the Terpestival and find out!!

The growing demographic of sophisticated Cannabis connoisseur cares about much more than the THC or CBD content. 

To enter the Terpene Tournament

To buy tickets to the Terpestival