Part 2 | The Science of Exotic Cannabis: Funky, Chemical, and Savory Aromas
In Part 2 of our Science of Exotic anthology, we’re diving into the funky, chemical, and savory notes of strains...
Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons, which just means they're organic compounds made of hydrogen and carbon.
They are found in plants and even some insects, and are responsible for the heavy aroma and pungent flavors of their host.
If you knew this much, you're ahead of the game.
Terps are blowing up.
What most people don't fully understand, beyond “What are terpenes," is that they can actually offer a range of health benefits with no effort on your part other than consuming them.
We know you don't have hours to take an organic chem class on things like the entourage effect and terpene profiles.
In this comprehensive article, we’ve got your easy answers. Here's what we'll cover:
(Side note: If your friend starts talking about "terpenoids", they're not exactly the same chemically speaking.)
You can find terpenes in citrus fruit rinds, black pepper, and pine needles or pine tree sap.
In flowers, sticky resin glands secrete specific terpenes that give different strains their unique aromas and flavors.
Terpenes are responsible for the sweet blueberry smell and taste of Blue Dream, for example. and the diesel smell of Sour Diesel.
But they don't just make up the sexy parts of plants...
Terpenes will degrade with any amount of elevated temperature, but the damage you do to them depends on the severity of the temperature and the length you heat them for. Once you hit the boiling point, they’re beyond saving.
Just don't go all Rick and Morty with them and they're safe to use. Read our instructions and our posts about terpene formulation to produce some potentially soothing benefits for your mind and body.
Terpenes may help to produce:
Terpenes can mean the difference between creating a healing hand cream that restores skin vs one that doesn't work.
If you don't know the level of purity or the amount of the specific terpenes in your essential oil, how can you know the effects you should expect?
What if you could dial in the potency to create predictable flavors, smells, and benefits?
Cue the lightbulb:
This is how you can use isolated terpenes to make your own products, build a following loyal to your brand, and conquer the market space.
Centuries ago, our ancestors refined plants with particularly interesting aromas into what we now call ‘essential oils’. This concentrated oil amplifies the plant’s original potency for therapeutic and medicinal use.
Today, we use these oils in many ways, including in:
But innovators like Abstrax are refining these essential oils even further using an advanced process called molecular distillation to get at the source of the medicinal benefits -- the terpenes themselves.
There are hundreds of different terpene profiles.
These 28 are the most common terpenes for general purposes, and we'll run through their profiles and uses.
Chamomile contains alpha bisabolol and helps settle stomachs, encourages relaxation, and soothes heartburn and nausea. It also moisturizes, eases pain, and acts as an antioxidant. This terpene is commonly used in topical cosmetics like hair and skin care products in addition to consumption due to its host of beneficial properties. The terpene itself has a slight woody, floral, and earthy taste.
This terpene is Incredibly fragrant and possessing well-documented anti-inflammatory properties, Humulene literally gets its name from hop plant formal name: homulus lulupus. As such, it makes sense that this terpene would be a primary constituent of the iconic smell of beer. Also commonly known as Alpha-Caryophyllene. Humulene has a potent earthy flavor with a bitter woody overtone.
Alpha-Phellandrene displays anti-fungal properties as a component of turmeric and eucalyptus oils. In fact, Chinese healers used it to help treat stomach illnesses Present in dill, garlic, cinnamon, garlic, and parsley, this terpene adds a slight citrusy smell and flavor to foods.
You’ll find alpha-pinene in the oils of cone-bearing trees (PINEne). It’s a known bronchodilator, which sounds like an ancient dinosaur but just means it allows for more oxygen to enter your lungs and bloodstream. This terpene also features anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and memory enhancing properties. It boasts a woody flavor with herbal influences.
This terpene features antioxidant properties and exists in marjoram and Indian cardamom-members of the mint family. A fresh, herbal aroma joins forces with notes of citrus and spice.
Beta-caryophyllene exists in large quantities in traditional medicinal plants like black pepper, black caraway, cloves, basil, oregano, and cinnamon. This is a spicy terpene (not like ghost pepper spicy, but Chai spice). Its analgesic (pain reducing) properties and antipyretic (think pyretic, pyro, fire, fever-reduction. You get the connection.) work in addition to anti-inflammatory qualities. Beta-Caryophyllene is a core ingredient of many contemporary spices, fragrances, soaps, and lotions.
Did you guess Beta pinene has a piney wood smell by its name? Notes of eucalyptus and nutmeg undercut this Christmastime aroma. Known for its anti-inflammatory qualities, this terpene gives coniferous trees (yep, like your Christmas tree) their distinct smell. Snowflakes and reindeer not included.
Camphene comes from the camphor (Cinnamomum camphora) tree and boasts topical painkilling and anti-inflammatory properties. Lab tests also suggest antioxidant benefits (say goodbye, toe fungus). The aroma is damp wood with fir needle influences and works well if you want to create a fragrance, resin, or lacquer.
By this point you’re getting good at the name-game: cedrene comes from cedar trees. Different species of cedar grow around the world, so different societies use this terpene for its antiseptic and diuretic purposes (diuretic = makes you pee more to eliminate toxins). Cedrene also plays a role as an expectorant to help clear airways and reduce breathing problems. Its antifungal attributes aid in annihilating athlete’s foot and ringworm, too. Moving from feet to food: add it to baked goods, sorbet, and sherbet for a medium strength, woody aroma with an undercutting sweetness.
You already know where this terpene comes from. Citral has a citrusy, lemon-peel aroma, and we obtain it by distilling citrus fruits, lemongrass, lemon myrtle, and lemon verbena. You can use it in perfumes, food and beverage flavorings, and in soaps and body washes. Scientists report citral helps balance hormone levels and aids in Vitamin A synthesizing.
Citronellal stays fresh (to death) with a powerful lemon-lime, citrusy smell. It’s used in perfumes, soaps, incense, candles, potpourri, and as a food flavoring agent to boost their aromatic and tastebud-pleasing potential. Citronellal, commonly derived from lemongrass, lemon-scented gum, and lemon-scented tea tree, has strong antifungal and antiseptic traits. You may have also experienced the bug-repelling effects if you’ve ever lit a citronella candle on a muggy summer night.
No, it’s not a typo: this terpene isn’t the same as its cousin above. Citronellol derives from roses, geraniums, and lemongrass. It’s also found in citronella oils, but it smells floral with a sweet citrus nuance. It appears in many common products like shampoos, perfumes, lotions, and food flavoring agents.
D-Camphor comes from the evergreen camphor tree and is the main active component of camphor oil. This terpene is a popular ingredient of many topically applied products like creams and salves, as it absorbs quickly through the skin. Studies suggest it provides anti-inflammatory benefits and relaxes users when inhaled. It has a powerful menthol flavor that often appears in aromatic vapors, cold-rubs, and decongestants (think Vicks VapoRub).
D-limonene. Limon. Lemon. Easy, right? This terp produces the loud citrus flavor and smell found in oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits. D-Limonene is a very popular terpene, and thorough tests show numerous benefits. These positive effects include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, appetite-suppressing qualities, and the ability to help regulate mood, sleep, and digestion. Add it to enhance the flavor of your favorite bud or put it in food. It’s a terpene Swiss Army knife.
You might have some of this terpene in your garden and not even know it. It’s common in plants and herbs like basil, bell peppers, cedar, pine, rosemary, and more. Delta-3- Carene is a colorless terpene with a sweet, nectar-esque aroma. Studies suggest it stimulates calcium production in bones and works as an anti-inflammatory, so researchers continue testing its potential use for the treatment of arthritis, bursitis, and fibromyalgia.
Ever eat granny smith apples? Studies conducted on their skins suggest farnesene produces the smell of green apples with additional floral and woody notes. It corrodes quickly, however, as it only exists on the outermost layers of the rind. You can add this terpene to cosmetics, personal care products, fragrances and as flavoring for food. It may also be responsible for the worst Jolly Rancher flavor known to mankind.
You’ll find fenchol (also known asfenchyl alcohol) in the essential oil of basil. Research suggests it provides antibacterial benefits potentially useful in clinics or laboratories. Use this terpene in your next perfume, food flavoring agent, or germ-blasting soap.
Geraniol comes from roses, sandalwood, and (drumrol)... geraniums. It has a pleasant, floral, rosy taste and smell that makes it useful in perfume, flavoring, and numerous bath and body products. Studies suggest geraniol also comes packed with antioxidant attributes. Despite its enjoyable smell, some critters can’t stand it. Use it as a pesticide against cockroaches, flies, ticks, and mosquitoes next time you head outdoors.
As is often the case, hard science and the FDA are behind eastern medicine when it comes to approving this terp for medicinal use. The Japanese medicinal practice called moxibustion involves burning mugwort, a plant-heavy in Isoborneol, near the skin. The Chinese use Isoborneol flakes as Bingpain, an extensively studied therapeutic. Isoborneol appears in many essential oils, topical salves, and creams, too. These serve a vast range of purposes, from soothing stomachs and reducing inflammation to helping skin heal. This terpene smells like a powerful mix of cinnamon and menthol.
When you spray some lavender oil on your pillow to help you sleep, it’s Linalool’s time to shine. This popular terpene is floral and slightly sweet with a hint of mint. We often use it for its analgesic (pain-reliever), sedative, or anxiolytic (reducing anxiety) properties. You’ll hear a lot about the benefits of this terp as the buzz around these compounds grows.
You’ve heard of this terpene before. L-Menthol dishes out a massive minty blast that feels cold upon skin contact. It lends this potency to its parent plants peppermint and wild mint. Menthol boasts many therapeutic qualities and is an ingredient of antiseptics and decongestants. It also appears in food additives and flavorings. To experience the taste, mash together a box of Junior Mints, a box of Thin Mints, and a few York Peppermint Patties, and let us know what you think.
Myrcene is responsible for producing the legendary “mango effect”: an increase in the saturation level of your body’s CB1 receptor in the brain. Simply put, it helps get you higher. Good news, if that’s what you’re looking for. The myrcene terpene comes from hops, mango, bay leaves, lemongrass, and eucalyptus. Both the British Journal of Pharmacology and the Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture conducted studies suggesting Myrcene acts as a sedative-analgesic (painkiller) and antioxidant. Add myrcene to bud or food for a sweet, minty balsam and a vegetative leafy feel.
Nerol is a derivative of neroli oil (check the name) from bitter orange tree blossoms. It’s common in perfumes due to an herbal, rosy smell. Add it to foods as well for a slightly bitter flavor of hops and lemongrass.
Its fragrant, sweet, herbal smell makes ocimene the perfect aromatic component for perfumes. A variety of fruits produce it, and it’s found in allspice (myrtle pepper) as well. You can add it to jerk seasonings for delicious barbeques, stews, chilis, and other meat dishes.
Sabinene is a flavorful terpene derived from black pepper, basil, the Norway spruce, and nutmeg. It smells and tastes of fresh spice and citrus-like Grandma’s fresh pumpkin pie. Studies show Sabinene assists in detoxification, helps relieve cramps, and has antibacterial properties. It may also boast antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Terpy terpinolene occurs in the tea tree, lilac, cumin, nutmeg, allspice, and apples. Woody overtones mesh with a subtle hint of citric sweetness. Studies recognize terpinolene as an antioxidant, and it also displays antifungal properties.
Named for the Valencia orange, this terpene has the fruit’s iconic sweet, orangewood flavor. It also makes up a large part of the festive tastes of other citrus produce like grapefruits, tangerines, and nectarines. Lab results suggest valencene provides anti-inflammatory benefits and may work as a deterrent for insect pests.
To offer manufacturers and consumers a sustainable, consistent, and flavorful terpene product we've forged our own path at Abstrax.
We offer award-winning terpene blends and isolates ready for worldwide shipping.
This allows us to help build the future of terpene production without waiting for the government to get on board with legalizing and regulating currently non approved plant sources.
And it allows you to design and produce personalized:
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