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Why Does Everyone Keep Talking About Terpenes?

Understanding the excitement of terpene science, and what it means for cannabis brands.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I’m often asked, “Why is there so much talk about terpenes these days? What makes them so important?”

Martin Deja | Getty Images

I love answering these questions because terpenes are so fascinating and vital for the future. We’re right on the brink of transforming the flavor and fragrance mechanisms used across the cannabis, food, and beverage, and consumer goods industries.

Scientists are increasingly educating humanity on the profound things that are naturally occurring around them in nature.

Related: How Terpenes Could Revolutionize The Cannabis Industry As We Know It


Understanding terpenes

Plants happen to be one of the most profound technologies on the planet, each with mind-blowing compounds (or terpenes) that drive unforgettable sensorial and physiological experiences.

For example, when you peel a lemon, there’s an instant burst of limonene, which catapults toward your nose. Instant sensorial memories arise into your consciousness, and it creates an impression that impacts your entire body from head to toe. For some, the experience is delicious and soothing. Invite limonene into your body or as a topical, and it has the power to reduce inflammation and potentially fight disease.

This is why scientists and a growing number of product developers are becoming obsessed with leveraging their power — how they smell and the way they make people feel. At ABSTRAX, we’ve been able to quantifiably prove why we think terpenes are going to reshape the vape, cannabis, and consumer goods industries.


Why terpenes matter

A terpene is an aromatic organic compound (or essential oil) found in plants. All plants contain a specific mixture of terpenes that make their essence unique. For example, lemons are full of limonene, mangoes are packed with myrcene, and each cannabis strain contains its unique complex blend of terpenes.

In the case of cannabis, terpenes play a massive role in how a strain makes a person feel. Some strains make you feel dreamy; others inspire pure energy, while others have the power to ease pain and stress. The secret sauce for each strain lies in how cannabis, THC, and the naturally-occurring terpenes interact with each other. Plus, each offers its unique aroma and flavor that keeps cannabis loyalists coming back again and again.

At ABSTRAX, we’ve been utilizing the only state-of-the-art licensed terpene R&D manufacturing lab in the world. Our scientists and researchers have identified more than 400 cannabis-derived terpenes via 3D metabolite fingerprinting technology, which discovers and isolates hidden aroma and fragrance compounds.

It’s now possible to analyze a single cannabis strain (or any plant for that matter) and peer into its soul (so to speak). Scientists can identify every aroma and fragrance compound and catalog the exact amount within the strain. They can then 100 percent recreate its aroma, flavor, and physiological effects by using either cannabis-derived or botanically-derived (THC-Free) terpenes extracted directly from fresh plants.


What the science means

Of course, cannabis laws and rules around the world are not created equal. The same is true within the United States. This is where terpenes have the power to work magic. Brands can now recreate the most popular cannabis strains using non-cannabis, botanically-derived terpenes and make them available in vape blends, beverages, alcohol, edibles, rolling papers, candles, and more.

Likewise, we can standardize the flower’s profile and cannabis-derived terpene blends. For example, Dan Herer is developing authenticated products in addition to flower — including Live Resin Vapes in California, distillate vape terpenes, terpene-infused rolling papers, and even Jack Herer Beer.

So now, the Original Jack Herer Brand can standardize their flower, cannabis extracts, vape formulations, and consumer goods product applications across the country with other manufacturing partners.

By bringing together the essential terpenes and compounds found within a specific strain, terpene blends can ensure consumers will enjoy similar physiological effects when consuming infused products — such as increased energy and creativeness, followed by a relaxed “chilled” feeling as time progresses.

It all comes down to the mastery of mapping cannabis terpene profiles from flower through extraction and developing quality-centric testing standards to improve metrics and further educate consumers and empower the industry with scientifically driven data. And thankfully, we can accomplish this without residual solvents, heavy metals, and pesticides.


Where the research is headed

In the world of cannabis, this means focusing on: 

  • The Gas Factor – the components giving cannabis its quintessentially “skunky” smell,
  • The Fruit Factor – the components that contribute to sweet or fruity flavors.
  • Strain Balance — the dispersal of terpenes in a flower,
  • Sensory Panel — describes the flavor and intended effects
  • Specific Terpene and Aroma compounds found within each cannabis strain ranked by concentration.

If you’re new to the world of terpenes, you’re not alone. There is still so much for all of us to learn. But it’s safe to say that there are several reasons the terpene industry is one of the most rapidly growing segments of the global flavor and fragrance market.

Brands can finally leverage nature (instead of chemicals) in a cost-effective manner to assure targeted, repeatable, and consistent product experiences. The flavor & aroma market is expected to grow to $35 billion by 2024, with terpenes being a quickly growing segment of the market, including cannabis, CBD, skincare, cosmetics, health and wellness, and food and beverage industries.