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Are Terpenes More Important Than THC?

Cannabinoids like THC contribute to the psychoactive properties of cannabis products, but could terpenes be more important than THC?


As research has shed more light on the importance of terpenes, we get asked a lot whether terpenes are more important than THC. But before we can answer that, it’s important to ask “important in what way?” 

Are we talking in terms of psychoactive potency? Therapeutic properties? Mood effects? Flavor? There’s a lot to consider! These questions are particularly important when manufacturers are working with isolated compounds (distillate, terpene isolates, etc.) to create products like vapes, edibles, beverages, etc. 

It helps to think of all the different compounds in cannabis like a band. Sure, the lead singer gets most of the fame, but the songs wouldn’t feel the same without the other supporting musicians. In this situation, think of THC as your lead singer and terpenes (and other botanical compounds) as the bass player, drummer, etc. Obviously, they’re all pretty important. 

But song covers and remixes can be just as popular as their originals. The same goes for the various compounds in cannabis. It just really depends on the audience and the intent of the song/product. So, are terpenes more important than cannabinoids like THC or CBD? Read on for details.

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Terpenes vs. Cannabinoids

Need the quick version? No problem!

  • Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons found in most plants (including cannabis) that give them their unique aroma, flavor, and effects. The terpenes in cannabis are what dictate the specific effects (mood elevation, creativity, sedation, etc.) a strain will have.
  • So, if specific effects are what’s important to your products, terpenes ARE more important. However…
  • THC is what actually infuses products with psychoactive properties. So, if having potent psychoactive properties is the main goal, then THC is pretty important.
  • But it’s more than that. Even full-spectrum CBD products, which shouldn’t have enough THC in them to get someone stoned, benefit from the minuscule amount of THC in them. It helps overcome the bell-shaped dose-response, ultimately making those products more effective. 
  • What’s more, the various compounds in the cannabis plant work synergistically together to have more powerful effects than they’re capable of on their own. This is known as the Entourage Effect.
  • In the end, it’s the combination of all these different compounds that allows manufacturers like you to create unique products that solve unique problems.

Why Are Terpenes Important?

Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons found in most plants that give them their unique aroma, flavor, and effects. Lavender, for example, smells floral, herbal, and sweet. But it’s also relaxing and has powerful sedative properties. A terpene isolate called Linalool is largely responsible for those scents, flavors, and effects. 

Linalool Terpene Isolate | Abstrax Tech

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Admittedly, each plant contains a complex terpene profile made up of a unique ratio of many terpenes. The dominant terpenes, however, generally dictate the overall experience. This is particularly important when it comes to cannabis and cannabis products. 

Each chemovar has its own blend of terpenes that gives it a unique scent, flavor, and variety of effects. That’s why some of your favorite strains give you “couch-lock” while others turn you into a “Chatty Cathy.” Cannabis terpenes are basically what dictate the type of experience cannabis will give you. 

So, if specific effects are essential to the effectiveness of your product, then terpenes ARE more important than THC. However…

Why is THC Important?

The simplest answer? Because THC is what actually infuses products with psychoactive properties. Without good ol’ tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabis and cannabis products wouldn’t actually get people high. So, if having potent psychoactive properties is the main goal, then THC is pretty important.

But it’s more than that. Even full-spectrum CBD products, which shouldn’t have enough THC in them to get someone stoned, benefit from the minuscule amount of THC in them. That’s because THC helps people overcome what’s known as a bell-shaped dose-response (1).

Essentially, CBD alone is only effective up to a certain point. After that point, taking additional CBD doesn’t increase its effectiveness. That limits any desired effects like reducing inflammation and/or anxiety. However, several studies have illustrated that the addition of THC, even a very small amount, helps overcome this response for greater effectiveness (2).

It’s important to remember, however, that these full-spectrum products are supposed to contain the full array of cannabinoids and botanical compounds present in the original cannabis plant. This is where the Entourage Effect comes into play.

Terpenes And Cannabinoids Are Essential For The Entourage Effect

Terpenes and cannabis have a pretty special relationship. We’ve touched on it a bit already, but here are some useful metaphors. 

THC is like an elevator; it takes you up and, when it wears off, you come back down. Terpenes, however, are like destinations. Do you want to feel energized? Try D-Limonene. Want to reduce inflammation? Try Beta-Caryophyllene. Need a complex experience like creativity? Try a complex terpene profile like that of Tangie or Chemdawg.

Chemdawg Terpene Profile | Abstrax Tech

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When you combine cannabinoids and terpenes, however, they’re more like an airplane that actually takes you to those destinations. All those beautiful terpene effects are heightened by cannabinoids and the psychoactive effects of THC now have more specific experiences. 

Essentially, the various compounds in the cannabis plant work synergistically together to have more powerful effects than they’re capable of on their own (3). This is known as the Entourage Effect.

Both cannabinoids and terpenes interact with our bodies and produce different effects. When products carefully use all of these compounds together, however, the overall effects are more pronounced and specific. 

For example, a consumer looking for anxiety relief probably won’t find it from a product that only has THC in it. However, a product with a variety of cannabinoids and calming terpenes will likely suit their needs. 

In the end, it’s the combination of all these different compounds that allows manufacturers like you to create unique products that solve unique problems.

Terpenes Are JUST As Important as THC

Both terpenes and THC are important when it comes to the ways consumers experience your products. If you have any questions about product formulations in regard to botanical and/or cannabis-derived terpenes, contact us today.


READ NEXT → What Are Terpenes Used For?

 

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