You’ve probably heard a thing or two about terpenes lately, but do you really know what they are or where they come from? Don’t sweat it! We’ve got all the details to help you understand the ins-and-outs of terpenes.
Over the past several years, terpenes have quickly become one of the most marketable compounds. Well, it might surprise you to find out that terpenes have actually been around...forever. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. However, they are a naturally occurring compound that’s been part of plant life for millions of years.
So why are terpenes suddenly the “it” compound and why should you care? First, terpenes are essentially the building blocks of scent and flavor. So, if you enjoy certain tastes and/or flavors, terpenes are pretty important. Secondly, more and more research is discovering the terpenes can influence a wide range of our experiences.
We don’t know about you, but we think that’s amazing! And by the time you’re finished reading our Beginners Guide to Terpenes, we think you’ll agree.
Reading Time - 12 min
Everything You Need to Know About Terpenes
Since there’s a LOT of information we’ll be covering, here are some of the different topics you can expect to find. Feel free to skip around or to slowly savor each new piece of information at your own pace.
- What are terpenes?
- Terpenes in everyday life
- Are there different types of terpenes?
- What do terpenes have to do with cannabis?
- Are terpenes legal?
- Why are terpenes so marketable?
- How to use terpenes
- Can you use terpenes in vape products?
- Do you need water-soluble terpenes?
- How do you make terpenes?
What are Terpenes?
In the most basic sense, terpenes are the building blocks of scent and flavor. While many people think that essential oils are the most purified version of a scent, essential oils are actually made up of many different terpenes. When you distill essential oils down even further, you’re able to create specific terpene isolates. These naturally occurring compounds are what create the many scents and flavors we encounter in the natural world.
That still doesn’t really answer the question of what terpenes are made of and what do they do?
Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons produced by most plants and some insects. If you’re wondering why terpenes matter in the grander scheme of things, hold tight. We’re about to blow your mind.
Terpenes help to repel dangerous animals while attracting beneficial ones. As an example, certain animals might not like certain smells, so they’ll naturally avoid those plants. Conversely, plants need certain insects, like bees, to help with pollination. So certain terpenes will attract pollinators to help keep the plant species alive. How cool is that?!?
It doesn’t stop there though. Many terpenes have certain therapeutic properties that have made them useful for medicinal purposes throughout history. Let’s look at an example.
Take pine needles. Certain cultures would brew tea from pine needles to help ease congestion. Well, conifer trees, like pine, are dense in alpha-pinene. This particular terpene has powerful anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator properties. Basically, it can help you breathe easier!
You’re not likely to come across specific terpene isolates in nature, however. Each plant that produces terpenes actually has its own unique terpene profile. They’re made up of LOTS of terpenes, and the different ratios of those terpenes are what creates a unique scent. If you check out any of our terpene blends, you’ll be able to see which specific terpenes are used when you look at its terpene chart.
Terpenes in Everyday Life
If you’re thinking that terpenes sound like some new, exotic compound that you’ve never experienced before, think again! Terpenes are all around us, and if you enjoy spending time in nature then you’re constantly surrounded by terpenes!
The practice of forest bathing comes from Japan, where spending time in nature supposedly increases mindfulness and helps you reconnect to the natural world. Well, a huge part of the success of that practice comes from the many terpenes you’ll encounter when on your nature excursion.
Even the natural fungi and bacteria of the forest get in on the terpene action. What’s really cool, however, is that they actually use terpenes to communicate with each other. It may sound crazy, but this isn’t a new phenomenon. Plants have been communicating with each other in various ways for millennia. Bacteria and fungi just happen to “talk” to each other via terpenes.
While you may not pick up on the “fungi conversations” happening around you, you may encounter some of the beneficial properties of terpenes on your nature walk. Some of these terpenes are anti-bacterial, mood-boosting, anti-inflammatory, sedative, anxiolytic, and more.
But you don’t just have to take a nature walk to encounter terpenes. Certain foods are rich in terpenes too! The list is long, but you can expect to find a lot of limonene in citrus fruits and beta-caryophyllene in many spices. So long as you don’t have any sensitivities, and you’re not drinking a straight-up terpene isolate (seriously, don’t do that), terpenes are natural and safe.
In fact, terpenes are even safe for your dog! So long as terpenes are used in the correct manner, there is no risk of addiction and little chance of any harmful side effects.
Are There Different Types of Terpenes?
While there are some insects that produce terpenes, the majority of terpenes are botanically derived. Basically, that just means they come from plants!
If that’s the case, though, why don’t people just use the actual plants in their products instead of adding terpenes?
Excellent question! The terpene profile of a plant can vary for a variety of reasons. Sometimes things as simple as the weather, soil quality, or farming techniques can alter which terpenes are more prominently expressed. That’s why two exact plant species can smell slightly different.
So, terpenes help take all the guesswork out of creating a consistent flavor and aroma for a product. That’s just one of many reasons why botanical terpenes are so important. However, there tends to be some confusion when people start talking about terpenes and cannabis.
What Do Terpenes Have to Do with Cannabis?
Technically, cannabis is a plant/botanical. So long as the same isolation method is used, the terpenes you might acquire from cannabis work the same as they would from any other plant. However, because some states have legalized cannabis (either recreationally or medically) while others have not, cannabis-derived terpenes are not legal everywhere.
We do want to remind everyone that our terpenes are 100% cannabis free. They’re distilled and isolated for the highest purity possible. So if you don’t want to mess with cannabis at all, you don’t have to! That’s kind of the beauty terpenes. But cannabis science and terpene science often overlap, so it’s hard not to talk about both of them.
Cannabis happens to be an incredibly terpene-dense plant. Just to be clear, terpenes won’t get you high on their own. But they CAN alter, enhance, or lessen the effects of cannabis through a phenomenon known as the entourage effect. That’s the way cannabis and terpenes work synergistically together to have more therapeutic effects. Essentially, when you put them together, they’re more powerful than the sum of their parts.
This is important because a lot of the therapeutic effects of cannabis are lost when you utilize cannabis isolates or synthetic products like Marinol. That’s because the terpenes are completely removed from these products!
That’s why we work so hard to isolate the terpenes in specific cannabis strains. Understanding botanical flower metrics (specifically cannabis flower) will benefit both cannabis products and non-cannabis products.
Are Terpenes Legal?
Due to the connection between terpenes and cannabis, a lot of people aren’t sure whether or not terpenes are legal. Well, so long as terpenes are being distilled from your everyday botanicals, they’re 100% legal!
However, people tend to get confused when terpenes are either manufactured from the cannabis plant OR when they’re used in cannabis products. While our terpenes are 100% cannabis free, any cannabis-derived terpenes can only be sold in states that have legalized cannabis. And even if you use non-cannabis derived terpenes in a product that contains cannabis, that product will still only be legal in states that have legal cannabis (duh).
Why Are Terpenes So Marketable?
By now you’ve probably noticed that we keep mentioning using terpenes in your products. That’s because terpenes are applicable to a huge amount of products! Seriously, terpenes are one of the world’s most marketable compounds.
We know that terpenes allow you to create unique aromas and flavors, but what else? How about their ability to add flavor with no extra calories or sugar? That makes them a great option for wellness, food, AND the beverage industry! What about their ability to promote sleep, relaxation, or even elevate your mood?
Plus, we haven’t even BEGUN to talk about their many therapeutic properties that can benefit skincare, haircare, aromatherapy, and even wellness products. So yeah, terpenes are kind of a big deal.
How Do You Make terpenes?
We’ve talked a lot about all the cool things terpenes can DO, but how exactly do you make terpenes? If you’re hoping to gather a few tools to start your own terpene manufacturing company...you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
First, terpene isolates aren’t exactly “made.” You need high-tech equipment run by experts to “distill” terpenes from plant matter. That might sound a bit intimidating, and honestly, it is. That explanation is actually on the simple side.
There are several different types of distillation methods you can use (we prefer molecular distillation) and they each come with their list of pros and cons. There are several different types of solvent and solvent-less terpene extraction, and newer techniques are even making a case for light hydrocarbons.
No matter what method is used, the goal is to create pure, isolated terpenes that can provide superior taste, flavor, and therapeutic value. So, terpene extracts really are worth all the effort.
How to Use Terpenes
Ok, so maybe you won’t be jumping into distilling your own terpene isolates anytime soon (that’s what we’re here for), but how do you use terpenes once you have them?
Before you get started, make sure you have ALL the necessary equipment. Terpenes are highly concentrated, and because of that, you’ll want to make sure you have an assortment of pipettes, scales, mixing containers, and more.
As a general rule, try to add terpenes to your products last. You should always start with a 1% concentration of terpenes, so it makes more sense to do it at the end when you have a better understanding of the total volume. Plus, because they’re so concentrated, you might not need as much as you think.
There’s also a long list of mathematical conversions you’ll want to be familiar with, and...you know what? We’ve written about this in detail already, so definitely just check that out here. We’ve included a list of the equipment you’ll need, the necessary conversions, and several other items you’ll want to consider.
You’ll also want to consider whether you want to use MCT Oil or products like Tec Temper to improve your products as well.
Can You Use Terpenes in Vape Products?
Absolutely! Terpenes are one of the safest, natural ways to infuse vapes with aroma and flavor. Plus, it’s a great way to shape the overall vaping experience. So, how do you use terpenes in vapes?
Before you go adding terpenes directly to your vape cartridges (which we don’t recommend) remember that terpenes are very strong. You should never vape straight terpenes, and, as of now, there aren’t any vapeable products made purely of terpenes. They’re meant to be inhaled in conjunction with other compounds. So, to ensure a safe vaping experience possible, make sure you’re using high-quality compounds that have been tested for health and safety.
Like we said earlier, you should start out by creating a vape liquid made up of 1% terpenes. If you need more after that, feel free to increase the amount. But in the beginning, it’s best to start low and go slow.
Do You Need Water-Soluble Terpenes?
Depending on the type of product you’re trying to create, you may need to use water-soluble terpenes. One of the trickiest parts about using traditional terpenes is that they’re oil-based. So, if your product isn’t oil-based, the terpenes will naturally sit right at the top.
To get around this, we’ve created a line of water-soluble terpenes. These are run through an emulsifying process with ultrasonic homogenization. This means that water-soluble terpenes can seamlessly blend with products like food and beverages!
In fact, keep your eyes out for terpene infused beer! We don’t know about you, but that sounds like a mouthwatering match made in heaven.
We covered a lot of information here, but we hope this gave you a glimpse into the amazing potential of terpenes. If you’re ready to get creative and start concocting your own terpene infused products, be sure to check out our different isolates and premium blends. And, of course, if you’re interested in creating cannabis products with terpenes, be sure to check out the blends for our premium strains.
We’re genuinely fascinated by terpenes and enjoy being at the forefront of terpene science. Be sure to follow us for all the latest updates and feel free to tag us in all your Abstrax Terpene adventures!
Did this article wet your appetite for more terpene science? Keep learning with some of these other Abstrax articles!Are Terpene Extracts Really Worth It?