Terpenes are an incredibly diverse group of aromatic organic compounds which means they can serve many uses. They’re primarily used as either flavoring agents or their aromatic qualities are added to everything from food and beverage products to cleaning and health and beauty products. However, there is increasing research that shows seemingly infinite health benefits to be found in ingesting terpenes.
The Entourage Effect
There is a phenomenon commonly known as “the entourage effect” that suggests that terpenes and cannabinoids, when strategically combined, can work together to produce a variety of therapeutic effects that go far beyond the typical results of cannabis products, whether they’re ingested, topically applied, or inhaled.
The theory is that terpenes work with CBD, THC, and other present cannabinoids to create a union of compounds that can achieve better results as a group than they would in isolation. The levels of THC, CBD, and the presence of certain terpenes can influence what effects the strain will have on not just your mood, but also your health. This effect may explain why people with certain medical conditions seem to benefit more from consuming one strain of terpene over another with a similar THC level.
The current reality is that there isn’t enough research to confirm the entourage effect. The massive roadblocks to clinical trials is primarily due to the fact that cannabis has been illegal and is only recently legal in just a few states. From a research point of view, we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of understanding the nuances associated and available with cannabis use. As the laws change, so does this situation. New research will provide research and study to discover and determine the potential health benefits of cannabis terpenes as well as the various tastes and smells they offer and how those, too, can be of benefit.
Terpenes: Less is More
Similar to how essential oils and herbal medicines work, it’s recommended to consume terpenes in small doses over long periods of time if you’re seeking to manage or mitigate a specific physical/mental issue. The benefits are cumulative versus a quick fix.
The most important thing to know — the crucial thing to know — about using terpenes is that they are extremely concentrated. They are NOT intended to be used at full potency! All food-grade terpenes should be diluted before they’re added to any type of cannabinoid-rich product — whether smokable, edible, or topical. In fact, it’s dangerous to let some pure terpenes come into contact with your bare skin, and you should be sure to use the appropriate skin protection, eye protection, and to use your terpenes in a well-ventilated area.
It’s important to understand and apply proper percentages of concentrated terpene to your hemp and cannabis products. Our Mixology Calculator can be enormously helpful to you in this endeavor.
When using terpenes in your marijuana products, remember that they are NOT water soluble. Terpenes mix best with marijuana plant extracts, coconut oil, vegetable glycerin, and more.
How to Use Terpenes
Below are a variety of ways to use terpenes and take advantage of the benefits they offer.
This year, nine new research awards totaling approximately $3 million will investigate the potential pain-relieving properties found in cannabis, including both minor cannabinoids and terpenes. These awards, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are great news for furthering study and understanding of the potentials of cannabis, cannabinoids, and terpenes in the role of pain management.
The opioid receptor system in the body allows endorphins pain-relieving effects, but the body also has a cannabinoid receptor system. There are three forms of cannabinoids: (ECS) endocannabinoids which are made by the body, phyto-cannabinoids made by cannabis plants, and synthetic cannabinoids produced in a laboratory.
The three most important components in pain management are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and beta-caryophyllene. The main psychoactive component of cannabis — THC is a mild pain reliever and CBD reduces spasms, inflammation, nausea, and anxiety. Beta-caryophellene is a strong anti-inflammatory cannabinoid and is found in highest concentration in cannabis essential oils.
Terpenes and CBD are increasingly being used without THC to manage pain for those suffering with physical pain from conditions such as fibromyalgia or other chronic pain that is often due to inflammation, muscle spasms and/or nerve pain. People suffering various types of “mental pain” like anxiety, stress, and depression can also turn to various terpenes for relief.
Edibles and Cooking with Terpenes
As more states in the U.S. continue to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use, there is an increasing demand for terpenes. With many in the business looking to take a more natural and organic route in the production of edibles, the need for organic terpene varieties is constantly growing.
Terpenes make a great ingredient when preparing edibles and help to increase the entourage effect. Similar to cooking with essential oils, care must always be taken. Food-grade terpenes are a must, as well as understanding proportions and profiles because a very small amount of terpenes can create big flavor and taste.
When it comes to cooking, there aren’t a lot of mainstream foodies adding cannabis terpenes into their dishes just yet, but that is changing. In Los Angeles, Chef Holden Jagger is merging fine-dining and marijuana to create cuisine that embraces the flavor of marijuana — rather than hiding it — using terpenes. And Jagger is not alone. There is a growing number of cannabis-using chefs, although it’s not likely we’ll see a ton of restaurants popping up just yet; the restrictions are still likely more than most restaurant owners want to take on.
Just like with essential oils, terpenes can be added to a diffuser and simply breathed in. With the right terpenes, you can diffuse them to help relax you before bed, or get you revved up before a workout or before tackling a project that requires focused attention and energy.
Again, similar to essential oil use, terpenes can be diluted and consumed, sipped throughout the day. They can be diluted into drinking water or your favorite kombucha blend. The proportions are SMALL, like 1-2 drops into 500ml of water and should be consumed slowly throughout the day. It’s not beneficial to knock it back all at once.
Terpenes can be mixed into e-liquid, generally 1 drop of terpenes to every 1ml of vape liquid. For best results, allow the vape liquid to steep for 48 hours. This allows the flavor to be consistent.
Mixing Terpenes with Concentrates
Terpenes can be added to shatter, wax, crystals, or hash as a great way to increase the quality and effects of the products. As always, it’s recommended to add extremely small amounts to your concentrates — even a drop can be too much, so use the “less is more” approach every time!
The Bottom Line
Big aroma and big flavor come from very small amounts of terpenes. Adding too many terpenes to any product may quickly backfire, leaving you with an overpowering flavor and/or aroma that is unpleasant. Read the profiles and learn the benefits to be found in some of the most common terpenes available in our Profiles & Benefits of the Top 10 Most Common Cannabis Terpenes blog post.
Hopefully this post helps you understand a little bit more about how to consume terpenes safely in cannabis products. Learn more about how we combine the art of fusion to the science of selection, or shop our full selection of terpene strains, experiences, and flavors and please contact us if you have any questions.