Terpenes are incredibly common; they exist in every living plant and are the primary component of essential oils. In nature, plants use the strong smells produced by terpenes to attract helpful pollinators and repel pests. In cannabis, the naturally occurring terpenes influence how the dried flower smells and tastes when combusted or vaped. Needless to say, terpenes make up a big part of the cannabis consumption experience.
The distinction between cannabis-derived and botanical-derived terpenes is a little redundant, cannabis itself is a plant and therefore inherently botanical. However, it has become increasingly common in product marketing to highlight whether a product has botanical or cannabis terpenes. Understanding how these terms are used will help consumers pick the right product for their preferences.
Typically, when cannabinoids are extracted for concentrate products, the naturally-occurring terpenes are removed during processing. Those original cannabis-derived terpenes can sometimes be collected, depending on the extraction process, and later re-added to create the final product. Terpenes used in vape products are generally botanically-derived, synthetic, or cannabis-derived. There is an art to creating terpene containing formulations; cultivators must balance flavour and fragrance to produce a well-rounded extract product, true to the plant itself.
When a product contains cannabis-derived terpenes, it means the formula is crafted with terpenes strictly from cannabis plant material. This doesn’t necessarily mean the terpene blend is from the same cannabis used in production, it simply indicates that there are no other botanically sourced terpenes in the formula. Cannabis terpenes can be added back, and combined with distillates and extracts after processing (unless the product maintains it’s natural terpene profile from the start of the extraction process, like Phyto’s live resin and CO2 Terp Sauce HTFSE). Some aficionados prefer terpenes directly from cannabis instead of other botanical sources. However scientifically speaking, isolated terpenes are the same on a molecular level regardless of their source. Cannabis terpene formulations in vaporization products are still relatively new, more costly to produce, and not widely available.
Botanical terpenes are not the same as synthetic terpenes, these compounds are naturally occurring in plants and are often extracted to create essential oils. Botanical terpenes are more thoroughly vetted and in abundant supply than their cannabis counterparts. Botanical terpenes can mimic the scent and flavours of cannabis when crafted in the right formulations, using analytics to match certain cultivars. Using botanically-derived terpenes in product formulations allows for producers to create innovative and exciting profiles that aren’t commonly found in cannabis, such as watermelon. The standardized extraction process for botanical terpenes makes them less expensive, allowing producers to pass those savings onto consumers. Phyto Extractions uses botanically-derived terpene blends which are made by combining isolated terpenes, such as myrcene, pinene, limonene, etc, with similar ratios as the original cannabis terpene blends.
There have been concerns around the safety of inhaling terpenes, despite their natural source. Additives like the naturally-occurring terpene phytol, and synthetic additives like Vitamin E Acetate, and Propylene Glycol have been questioned in the media about potential negative physical effects. Recently, Tokyo Smoke has halted the sale of vape products that contain phytol due to concern associated with a 14-day inhalation toxicology study that has been shared with Health Canada. Phyto Extractions products do not contain phytol and stood up to Tokyo Smoke’s internal testing, remaining available for purchase on their website and through their retailers.
There is a misconception that if a product is ‘all natural’ then it is inherently safe to consume. When exposed to heat, terpenes can degrade, and change properties just like any other organic compound. There are still many unknowns when it comes to understanding how heating and inhaling terpenes might affect human health. This is why quality assurance is so important when manufacturing complex products like cannabis extracts. Phyto Extractions uses all natural, third party tested, botanical terpene blends in their products which then go through rigorous final testing and quality control before distribution.
By: Ashley Keenan