The cannabis industry is no longer in its infancy. One third of Americans now live in a legal state, and brands are consistently raising the bar for quality and effective consumer products.
As the market expands, demand is growing for unique, targeted and functional cannabinoid products, from sleep enhancement to pain management to focus and energy. This differentiation and functionality is where terpenes come into play.
Long the unsung hero of cannabis, terpenes are now a critical factor in bringing a successful product to market. So what are terpenes, why do they matter, and how do you choose the right ones for your product?
Terpenes are the organic compounds that give all plants their smell and flavor. Over 50,000 unique terpenes have been identified to date, many of which we experience on a daily basis.
Scientific research has shown that terpenes impact more than just smell and taste. These senses are closely linked to memory and experience, and as a result different terpenes can produce different emotional and even physical responses. Consider the smell of your grandmother’s cookies, compared to the smell of your least favorite childhood classroom.
On their own, terpenes deliver proven and potent therapeutic properties. In combination with other natural compounds, terpenes play a vital role in delivering the medicinal impact of cannabis as well as its quality of life enhancements. Around 140 unique terpenes are at work in the cannabis plant, differentiating between flavors and experiences.
Terpenes are an important ingredient for cannabis product makers because the extraction of CBD and THC distillate eliminates a plant’s original terpenes. What’s left is a product that may produce a strong high – but a generic one. The majority of cannabis consumers are now seeking targeted functional solutions from their cannabis products, which requires rebuilding the ‘Entourage Effect’ and reintroducing specific targeted terpenes.
Choosing the right terpenes: Two essential steps
- Know your product
Terpenes are a cornerstone ingredient for just about any non-flower hemp or cannabis product. Because they play such a significant role in differentiating products, the specific terpenes that you choose will depend entirely on the form and goals of the product itself.
Before approaching a terpene partner, make sure you are clear on what form your product will take – whether it’s a vape, tincture, capsule, oral spray, topical, drink, edible, tablet, sublingual strip or otherwise.
Just as important, clarify exactly the intended effect of the product. What goals do you have for the Entourage Effect? This will help you decide whether you are choosing terpenes primarily for flavor, for functionality, or for a mix of both.
For example, if you are looking to create an uplifting infused beverage, you will be in the market for terpenes that not only support the flavor profile of the drink, but that complement the entourage effect of your chosen cannabinoid as well. Terpenes such as Terpinoline, Ocimene, Beta-Caryophyllene and Limonene are known for their uplifting and euphoric effects, and are commonly found in popular ‘Sativa’ strains such as Super Lemon Haze, Jack Herer and Trainwreck.
- Choose the right partner
When it comes to selecting the exact terpenes for your product, you’ll rely on the expertise and offerings of a terpene manufacturer. When choosing a partner, consider the following questions:
How far can the manufacturer go to meet your needs? At minimum, a terpene partner should be able to provide individualized guidance on specific terpenes and their potential role in your product. A great partner will not only guide you to the best profiles for your needs, but they will also have options for fully custom and tailor-made solutions.
How many terpenes does the manufacturer offer? The uniqueness and complexity of your formulation will depend on the specific blend of terpenes – and the more you have to work with, the greater the options. Some partners will use as few as 30 different compounds, whereas others work with over 100, with active research and development centers aimed at consistently expanding offerings. If a priority for your product is creating a unique or targeted flavor or experience, seek out a partner who can accomplish that with terpenes.
What are the manufacturer’s safety and compliance standards? The quality and safety of your terpenes matters just as much as for any other ingredient. Some vendors will sell cheap essential oils labeled as terpenes, while others will sell synthetic or artificial terpenes. When building a new product line, it’s important to find high quality suppliers who can answer your questions and provide documentation to support their products.
The partner should be transparent, forthright, and able to show their work: certificates of authentication, certificates of origin, safety data sheets and technical data sheets should all be easily available on demand. At a minimum, the terpenes you choose should be food grade, all-natural and solvent-free. Some manufacturers can also provide Non-GMO, Kosher, ISO 9001 and other certifications.
Given consumers’ eagerness for functional and targeted cannabinoid products, the importance of quality, tailored terpene ingredients will only continue to grow. There is still promising research to be done on the full scope of terpenes’ functional and medicinal properties, and the entire industry will benefit from this continued work and investment.