Good morning, afternoon and evening dear readers, today we kick off our terpenes series.
In this article, we will be covering what terpenes are, why they are important, and how we enhance our hemp-extracted product through terpenes.
Terpenes are a large and diverse class of aromatic hydrocarbons found in a variety of plants.
These aromatic compounds define the smell of various plants which include the Cannabis Sativa family, lavender, rosemary, pine, and even orange peels. Terpenes play a crucial and varied role in these plants- deterring pests and herbivores, attracting beneficial pollinators, recovery from wind stress during storms, and strengthening the plant’s immunity against pathogens (Pamplona et al., 2018).
Humans have long been harvesting the power of these terpenes and isolating them to recreate the scents and flavours in a variety of products including perfumes, cosmetics, and food products. Terpenes are responsible for the aroma of essential oils integral to many alternative therapies, such as aromatherapy. Besides the aroma, some terpenes have other beneficial properties that are useful to our bodies.
Pinene, a terpene abundant in pine needle and rosemary, has anti-inflammatory properties and also acts as a bronchodilator-allowing you to breathe more easily. When you walk in a forest full of pine trees, breathing feels easier and more refreshing due to the pinene released by the tree.
Linalool, found in lavender flowers, has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, neuroprotective, and antidepressant properties (Peana et al., 2002). This is the reason why one feels relaxed and sleeps easily after rubbing lavender extracts on their pillow.
Limonene, which gives lemon and oranges its citrus smell, has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-diabetic properties. Limonene also helps in boosting our body’s immunity. No wonder Vitamin C derived from citrus fruits is considered essential to boost immunity during COVID-19 times.
How effective are Terpenes?
Most terpenes are bioactive and in the right concentration, they unlock a myriad of benefits for the human body. The right blend of terpenes can relieve stress, alleviate pain, improve our mood, boost immunity, and protect cells from damage (Pamplona et al., 2018).
Terpenes also work in tandem with cannabinoids and increase their efficiency when working on the endocannabinoid system. Specific terpenes can alter the way cannabinoids work and this helps in negating some of the undesired effects of other compounds present in the cannabis sativa plants.
One of the most famous eg of this is the terpene pinene which helps preserve a molecule called acetylcholine- a compound that plays a key role in memory formation. Products concentrated with pure THC can impair short-term memory but products with pinene counteract this effect. This working together of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemical compounds (flavonoids, acids) in the cannabis plant is known as the entourage effect (Erickson, 2019).
The entourage effect simply means that cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, along with the terpenes, are meant to work together. It’s the whole plant that does the best job, not just a single compound (Russo, 2019).
Which cannabis products give the most beneficial effect from the plant?
The cannabinoids and terpenes interact within the endocannabinoid system (metabolic system for cannabinoids in our body) and have a synergistic effect that we miss out on when we extract and isolate just a single compound. This synergistic feature of the entourage effect is a solid reason to prefer a full spectrum and broad-spectrum oil over extracts (Russo, 2019).
For a balanced diet, you don’t eat just a lot of one super food, you mix and match to combine different super foods and make a buffet that provides your body with all the nutrients you need. Similarly, all the components of the plant are nature’s pre-arranged buffet for your wellbeing.
Isolation and extraction give you a less beneficial effect.
Extraction methods also affect the efficiency of cannabis products. Solvent-based extraction methods destroy the natural aromatic and flavour profile of the plant as the solvents strip the terpenes and other compounds off the plant. Supercritical Co2 extraction on the other hand does very well to preserve the natural profile of the plant. Therefore Co2 extracted products have a richer taste, more natural aroma and preserve many of the beneficial compound present in the plant.
We at Cannarie believe that nature developed the cannabis plant as a whole buffet of compounds that don’t work in isolation but as a team. Like a Hans Zimmer concert, each instrument plays a calculated part. Therefore we prioritize co2 extraction that preserves most of the plant matter. Due to limitations in the local supply chain regarding hemp, sometimes our hands are forced to use ethanol extracted hemp which destroys the terpene profile. In these cases, we add back the essential isolated terpenes, to recapture the plant’s natural profile. We aim to source only co2 supercritical extracted hemp extract by April 2021.
What about smoking or vaping terpenes?
Terpenes are bioactive and better preserved in low temperatures. Carbonization destroys many of the terpenes and the cannabinoids. Technically one can use a well-built vaporizer with temperature control, to get the most out of smoking/vaping. But there are more than 200 terpenes in the cannabis plant, each working best at different temperature ranges, which makes doing this practically difficult-near impossible.
The best ways to get the benefits of terpenes and cannabinoids is either through a topical application (check if the product has ingredients that facilitate the absorption of terpenes via skin) and through oral delivery (tinctures, oral delivery strips, capsules etc).
Erickson, B. E. (2019). Cannabis industry gets crafty with terpenes. Chemical & Engineering News. Link