Terpenes Over THCWe all know that THC is the revered cannabinoid that produces the psychoactive feeling when consuming cannabis. For decades, and even today, there has been a race to see which cultivator can make the cultivar with the highest percentage of THC. For too long, consumers and the industry have believed that the more THC contained in a cultivar or product, the “higher” one will get. As we learn more about the cannabis plant, we have learned that this belief is both outdated and outright incorrect. Efforts continue to be undertaken to provide consumers with a list of terpenes contained within a specific cultivar or product, helping them fine-tune their cannabis experience. At the same time, consumers recognize that a high THC percentage doesn’t necessarily equate to a stronger psychoactive effect. A product made from THC isolate may make the user feel “high,” but it will be devoid of the pleasant effects that cannabis has been known for because of how terpenes influence effect. Through the Entourage Effect, cannabinoids and terpenes work together in harmony to increase one another’s efficacy while also balancing out the way each compound is experienced. With this logic, something with a low THC percentage but a high concentration of terpenes may produce a more significant “high” than a cultivar or product that is all about THC, with little to no terpene content.
Terpenes for Product ClassificationThe overall industry needs to have a stronger push towards educating consumers about cannabis beyond just cannabinoids. Because terpenes and terpene blends have allowed the industry to create functionality out of THC and CBD products, the industry is seeing an overall rejection of the old indica vs. sativa dichotomy. For too long, the industry has been using indica, sativa, and hybrid to describe the effects of cannabis, with much of this classification being based on antiquated observations of how the plant grows. Now, efforts are being undertaken, notably by Dr. Ethan Russo and his colleagues, to move towards a new way of classifying cannabis cultivars via their terpenes. Dr. Russo and Mark Lewis have proposed the idea of “superclasses”, which organize cannabis cultivars into families by dominant terpenes. So far, these researchers have identified limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-caryophyllene terpenes as three terpene families or “superclasses” under which cannabis cultivars can be classified. It may be a long way before producers and retailers get away from simply sativa, indica, or hybrid classifications, but thankfully, the recognition that terpenes are a better way to understand cannabis effect is being more commonly adopted.
Terpenes Infused into Multiple Product CategoriesIt was largely the CBD industry that emerged following the passing of The Farm Bill of 2018 that allowed the functionality of terpenes to be brought into the spotlight. While the benefits of CBD were touted, the emergent industry couldn’t deny that “just CBD” wouldn’t produce much of an effect that THC users had become familiar with. Thus, CBD producers began embracing terpenes to bring effects to CBD products. Tinctures, oils, beverages, and edibles were infused with terpenes to bring functionality into products, using various terpene blends to bring about effects such as calming, energizing, or helping with focus. The importance of terpenes simultaneously rose in legal cannabis states as consumers became more educated about terpenes and how certain terpenes interact with THC through the Entourage Effect. Terpenes have thus been embraced in every product category within legal cannabis markets. Flower, extracts, edibles, beverages, topicals, oils, and tinctures are now leveraging terpenes, not cannabinoids, as the compound in cannabis that brings about product differentiation. Terpenes are also being celebrated in other product categories outside cannabis. Cosmetics companies use botanically sourced terpenes to enhance aroma and produce therapeutic effects, such as skin or acne creams. Terpenes are used as flavoring agents in baking and cooking. The craft beer industry has been infusing terpenes into beer to increase flavor, aroma, and functionality.
Terpenes Drive the Cannabis ExperienceIn 2022, we expect we will see more and more emphasis on terpenes as the cannabis industry matures beyond just THC. With so much variety on shelves, consumers want to be able to target their cannabis experience with a particular outcome. Terpenes are the way to do that. As more is discovered about cannabis and terpenes, we expect we will see a greater push to continue the work of Dr. Ethan Russo and his colleagues to classify cannabis terpenes into “superclasses” so that cannabis cultivars can be better described in terms of effect.
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About True Terpenes
True Terpenes, a fully owned subsidiary of True Companies, is the industry-leading producer of effects-based, GMP/ISO/FSSC-certified terpenes and terpenoids blends. Using ultra-refined botanical terpenes and other aromatic compounds, the custom terpene blends are used for beverage, cannabis, cosmetic, food, industrial and pharmaceutical products. The company uses advanced scientific analysis to identify terpenes and other compounds in the cannabis plant for recreation by utilizing other botanicals and hemp-derived ingredients. This allows companies in various industries looking to leverage cannabis flavors and effects with a scalable, standardized, and worldwide legal solution.