I’m sure those of you who are consuming or looking into Hemp products come across the word ‘terpenes’ being thrown about a lot. So let’s get to the basics of what exactly terpenes are, how they work and what types are available.
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are the fragrant compounds that dictate the smell of many plants and herbs, such as mint and basil.
Terpenes play an important yet differing roles in plants. In some plants, they attract pollinators, while in others, they repel predators. Some terpenes play a protective role in the plant, others act as a part of the plant’s immune system.
How do they work in the body?
Research shows that terpenes bind to chemical receptors in the brain and body in the same way as cannabinoids, sending signals to help regulate the systems for optimal health.
Hemp plants contain hundreds of terpenes and each plant contains a different mix at varying concentration levels. They require a proper drying and curing process, because terpenes can easily evaporate making it difficult to extract. The process of extracting hemp flower terpenes is extremely expensive and often yields a much lower quantity than extraction from other plants. As the demand for delectable whole-plant products grows, hemp companies have turned to nature for reinforcement.
Botanical terpenes are isolated terpenes extracted from plants other than hemp. The process of extracting the same hemp terpenes from other plants is simple, cost-effective, and more consistent. They also exist in a higher volume in other plants, taste and smell stronger.
Non-hemp terpenes also enable more innovation by allowing companies to recreate strains that no longer exist in nature.
Now that we’ve established the benefits producing botanical terpenes has, what’s the downside?
Isolated terpenes of the same type are the same in terms of chemical makeup. Blending cannabinoids with non-hemp terpenes is unnatural and potentially unsafe at high concentrations. Some companies are infusing products with non-hemp plant terpenes at concentrations much higher than naturally found in hemp flowers. At concentrations greater than 15%, these products may be irritating if applied to the skin or inhaled.
These products still lack the health benefits provided by the whole plant. Hemp-derived terpenes are more effective because they contain trace elements of other compounds found in hemp that would not exist in other plant terpenes. These synergize to enhance the product’s medicinal value via The Entourage Effect. Therefore, pure flower extracts not only deliver the fragrance and flavor profile, but also enhance the psychoactive and therapeutic benefits.
Both botanical and hemp-derived terpenes have unique and important roles within the plant and their own therapeutic effects. Hemp-derived terpenes retain their taste, but botanical terpenes offer a variety of flavors and aromas that can be different from hemp.
Synthetic terpenes are produced in a lab by chemical blending and manipulation. Thus, create a perfect terpene profile. Many people liken this to GMO Foods.
Synthetic terpenes mean more intense smells and flavors. They can be produced through dilution, re-distilling, and reconstruction. These methods may use chemicals. Many companies have advertised their products containing synthetic terpenes as all-natural when they aren’t. It is important to always check whether a hemp product contains botanical or synthetic terpenes as well as other essential oils. Synthetic terpenes may be entirely safe, but just like with GMO foods, there is always a risk.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.