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Terpenes: More than Just a Passing Trend in the Cannabis Vaping Industry

Dr. Saira Zulfiqar, PharmD

Written by: Dr. Saira Zulfiqar, PharmD

Updated on January 5, 2024

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What’s Terpenes?

Terpenes, or “terps” as they are sometimes called, are one of the trendy topics in the burgeoning cannabis vaping market. Terpenes are a type of chemical compound that is found in many natural products, including not only cannabis flower but also in certain grapes (giving a distinct floral taste to certain wines) as well as other plants such as lavender and mint.

However, during the extraction process to create cannabis oil from cannabis flower, the ethanol that is used to separate the oil also has the effect of removing the terpenes from the final oil product. Therefore, in order to preserve the taste and health benefits of terpenes, cannabis oil producers usually reintroduce terpenes from a separate source after the extraction step.

What properties of terpenes make them so important for users of cannabis vaping products, and how do cannabis oil producers decide how much and which terpenes to add to their oil after the extraction process? In order to understand these questions, we must first delve into the science behind terpenes so that we can understand how they provide both taste and health benefits for cannabis vapers.


Terpenes: The Basics

Terpenes are a compound that is created by a number of plant species either to fend off predators or to attract pollinators (Erickson, 2019). Perhaps one of their most well-known associations is with wine, as there are a number of terpenes found in various grapes, and as a result terpenes have also become a major topic of discussion among wine aficionados.

There are over 100 identified terpenes that can be found in cannabis, each with its own particular properties regarding both taste and physiological effect (Rahn, 2014). These compounds play a very large role in determining the properties of particular cannabis subspecies, also known as strains. Indeed, the names of different strains are quite often based on the particular qualities given to the strain by its terpene profile. For example, the strain Lemon Kush gets its name from its high concentration of the terpene limonene, which is also found in lemon peels and other types of citrus, giving the strain a distinctive “lemony” taste.

On the other hand, the strain Blue Dream gets its name not from the distinctive taste of its terpenes but by the physiological effects associated with the terpene myrcene, which give it a stronger sedative effect compared to other strains. In other words, terpenes play an extremely important role in determining the experience of smoking each type of cannabis flower. Yet how do terpenes come into play after many of them have been initially removed during the oil extraction process?

The Chemical Structure of Limonene.jpg

Terpenes and Cannabis Oil

When oil is created from the cannabis flower, as mentioned above, a large percentage of the terpenes are removed, taking away some of the natural flavor from the oil (for the moment). The mixture that is left after this process contains THC, CBD, and several other cannabinoids that contribute to the taste and effect of the oil. However, as the oil isolation process does remove some of the natural flavor from the cannabis, cannabis oil producers often add terpenes from another source back into the oil mixture, so that users will not only be able to experience the taste that they have come to expect from cannabis but also so that they can experience the full health benefits of consuming cannabis oil. Terpenes are reintroduced to vape oil in a way that often is intended to mimic the terpene profile of the flower of actual cannabis strains. The terpene content of most cannabis oils lies between 5 and 10 percent (Erickson, 2019). If the terpene content is too low, the positive effects of the terpenes will not be noticed, while if it is too high, the flavor can become unpleasant or even sting one’s tongue and lips. However, with just the right terpene concentration, the vaping experience can match the experience of smoking cannabis flower while providing added health benefits.

Terpenes: Not Only for the Taste

It has already been mentioned that terpenes provide a floral or fruity taste to the vaping experience, such as the citrusy notes found in limonene. However, terpenes are not only reintroduced into cannabis oil for their taste and smell. Instead, terpenes also possess a variety of health properties which have led to their popularity even as a standalone supplement. For example, the terpene linalool, found in some cannabis strains, has been discovered as having pain-reducing and anti-inflammatory properties and has also been found to help some people with reducing stress and anxiety (True Blue, 2020).

Likewise, in addition to its distinctive taste, the terpene limonene has been found to possess antibacterial and mood-elevating properties (Erickson, 2019). The terpene a-pinene has even been found to have potential memory-enhancing properties, an effect that is not necessarily always associated with cannabis use. Finally, there is evidence that terpenes create a synergetic health impact with other cannabinoids, with Sommano et al (2020) stating that “phytocannabinoid-terpenoid synergy could enhance the treatments of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal, and bacterial infections.”

In other words, knowing about terpenes can help users not only to determine the taste and smell experience of their vaping but also to tailor the different potential health impacts of cannabis to their own personal needs and preferences. It is no wonder that terpenes have become a central concern of cannabis vaping consumers and producers alike.

Conclusion: A Personalized Experience through Terpenes

As is often emphasized on this blog, cannabis vape consumers place a high emphasis on the personalization of their experience, a fact which every producer of vaping products must be keenly aware of. It is the profiles of terpenes that ultimately allow producers and other sellers of cannabis oils to give an exact description of the effects and sensory experience of a given cannabis oil product, allowing the consumer to mix and match between a variety of taste and health benefits in order to meet their particular needs for any given moment. Cilicon believes that the future of the cannabis vaping industry is personalization. With terpenes, cannabis users can experience a variety of wonderful sensations that come directly from the profile of compounds that are found all throughout nature, for an effect that nonetheless at times can seem downright magical. Whether you are a business looking for oil-producing partners, or a consumer looking for your next oil purchase, it should be clear by now that the growing attention being placed on terpenes is not just a passing fad.

Dr. Saira Zulfiqar, PharmD
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