Terpenes are the compounds that give cannabis its wide variety of aromas and flavours. Isolating terpenes for greater cannabis customisation allows medicinal and recreational users more options than ever before.
Cannabis is primarily famed for the effects of the cannabinoids that it produces. There are over 100 known cannabinoids so far, many of which sustain beneficial outcomes on the human organism. Cannabis also contains an impressive profile of terpenes that varies from strain to strain. These compounds are produced by the same resin glands (trichomes) that produce THC and CBD. Terpenes also have a number of beneficial effects on humans, both in and of themselves, and as modifiers of cannabinoids.
Cannabis contains such a broad range of terpenes that it could easily become a primary source of these interesting compounds. Cannabis is undergoing a global renaissance right now. Terpene isolation is set to be part of the functional future of cannabis as legalization ramps up globally.
WHAT ARE TERPENES?
Terpenes are volatile compounds that give plants and animals their aromas and flavours. If something has a fragrance or taste, it is because of terpenes. They give flowers and fruits their sweet bouquets, body odour its musk, and in particular, cannabis its widely varied perfumes. Each strain of cannabis carries its own smell. This is due to the different terpene combinations in each species. Sour Diesel is sour because of terpenes, and the Cheese strain is cheesy thanks to terpenes.
OLD-SCHOOL TERPENE ISOLATION
Terpene isolation is nothing new. Perfumers have used terpenes for hundreds of years. Before modern extraction techniques like CO₂ or vacuum vapour isolation were invented, perfumers would, for example, put lavender buds or rose petals on layers of animal fat squeezed between glass. As each application of petals gave up its bounty of terpenes to the animal fat, it was removed and another layer added until the fat was saturated with terpenes. This concentrated putty then went on to become perfumes after being dissolved in alcohol.
Terpenes are also known by the more common name of essential oils. If you have ever used eucalyptus oil in hot water to relieve a stuffy nose or tea tree oil as a disinfectant on a scrape or bug bite, then you have enjoyed the beneficial effects of terpenes.
CANNABIS, TERPENE ISOLATION, AND THE FUTURE
Today, terpene isolation is an exacting science. A number of clean, solventless extraction methods have been mastered to distil terpenes from cannabis. These methods are included as part of the concentrate extraction process. Many extracts are purged of their aromatics when being made. Isolating terpenes will allow for customised flavour profiles of extracts and edibles. This means being able to recreate the aroma and taste of your favourite strain.
The therapeutic value of extracts can also be enhanced by the addition of terpenes. For example, limonene is a known anxiolytic while humulene benefits the gastrointestinal tract. An exciting future awaits the terpenes from cannabis—not only in the cannabis industry itself, but the food industry for natural flavouring and preservation, the perfume and personal care industries for aromatics, and a number of other industrial applications.
Cannabis is famous for getting people high recreationally and as a therapeutic agent for a number of conditions. As the effects of terpenes become more understood, the cannabis industry is promising to become an endless source of terpenes to be used across industries.