There are two major cannabinoids that get the credit for the effects of cannabis: THC and CBD. As cannabis science progresses, we are learning that the minor cannabinoids, terpenes and terpenoids that naturally occur in hemp and cannabis are also worthy of the spotlight. Unfortunately, many of these necessary compounds are stripped during extraction. Luckily, cannabis operators can re-introduce the power of hemp-derived ingredients to increase the flavor, aroma and therapeutic effects of their cannabis products.
THC and CBD are important bedrocks of the chemical makeup of cannabis, but they aren’t the only two compounds that matter. Without minor cannabinoids, terpenes or terpenoids to modulate the effects of THC and CBD, the result is a flat and uninspiring end result for your customers.
Stripping the Nature Out of Cannabis
Every variation of cannabis grown, known as a chemovar, is different. Each one comes with a unique profile of chemical compositions, made up of cannabinoids, terpenes, terpenoids, fatty acids, and more.
Every extraction technique strips cannabis from some amount of its natural chemical makeup, leaving behind valuable terpenes, cannabinoids, fatty acids, and more. This fundamentally changes the end product.
The good news? You can add hemp-derived versions of the chemical compounds that get stripped during extraction and processing! By utilizing hemp-derived terpenes and cannabinoids in end cannabis products, cannabis producers can:
- Recreate a truer representation of the natural plant;
- Utilize existing cannabinoid and terpene science on the entourage effect to craft more efficacious results for specific use cases;
- Enhance flavor and aroma without using artificial ingredients.
A Truer Representation of Nature
Even the most careful and modern cannabis extraction processes strip cannabis of many beneficial compounds.
Take, for example, ethanol-based extraction methods. When ethanol is used to extract cannabis, terpenes are lost due to volatilization. These stripped terpenes cannot be saved and reintroduced to the end product. This can not only affect the natural aroma and flavor of the end product, but also the desired effects.
By adding hemp-derived versions of the chemical compounds that cannabis loses during extraction, cannabis producers can create end products that more closely mirror the natural state of cannabis.
Utilizing the Science of the Entourage Effect for Greater Outcomes
There is no doubt that cannabinoid and terpenoid science is still in its infancy. One of the most groundbreaking and industry-shifting working assumptions is that the entourage effect exists. Simply put, the entourage effect theory claims that there are interactions between the chemical compounds in cannabis. These interactions lead to different effects when consumed.
There are two main entourage effects thought to happen at once in cannabis: cannabinoid-cannabinoid (cannabinoids interact with each other) and cannabinoid-terpenoid (cannabinoids interact with terpenes). One study shows that a cannabinoid-cannabinoid entourage effects exist, at least in animals. When THC and CBD are combined together, they interact and produce analgesic effects in mice. Another study concludes a cannabinoid-cannabinoid effect between THC and CBD, with CBD acting to mitigate the intoxicating effects of THC.
The evidence for cannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects is still in its infancy. One recent study out of Australia did not conclude there is a synergistic effect between cannabinoids and terpenoids, at least not through CB1 and CB2’s (cannabinoid receptors) signaling pathways. The study does not discount the existence of the cannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects, but rather posits that if a synergistic interaction does exist, it happens through non-cannabinoid receptor targets. The study authors note, “the quest for entourage does not end here; in many ways it has only just begun.”
According to the scant scientific evidence and the more prevalent anecdotal evidence, the entourage effect is worth considering when developing products. According to this theory, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts when it comes to cannabis. By adding hemp-derived versions of the terpenes and cannabinoids lost in production, cannabis producers can provide their customers a whole-plant experience. And by utilizing specific blends of terpenes, brands can create products to meet specific needs.
Enhancing Flavor & Aroma Post Vape Gate
In August of 2019, the first instances of lung injury due to electronic cigarette or vaping use were reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It became apparent that these cases were largely linked to vaporizer cartridges from the illicit market using unsafe ingredients. According to the CDC, Vitamin E acetate is “strongly linked” to the outbreak.
As a result of the vaping crisis, states like Washington moved to temporarily or permanently ban vaporizer cartridges utilizing artificial flavors. Many extract brands had to scramble as their top-selling products were liquidated from stores, leaving these brands quickly trying to pivot their production strategies. Other extract brands experienced little to no disruption. How could some extract brands be hit so hard by Vapegate, while others weren’t? The answer lies in the utilization of terpenes.
Terpenes or terpenoids are highly concentrated and volatile compounds found inside of cannabis and all plants. Think of them like essential oils. Each terpene, of which there are hundreds, produces different flavors, aromas and effects. Terpenes are food-grade safe flavoring agents that are used in a variety of applications, including beverages, skincare and more.
Many cannabis companies utilize cannabis and hemp-derived terpenes to flavor their products, rather than artificial compounds. As a result, these brands faced little to no disruption when flavoring bans were enacted in the wake of the vaping crisis. And of the cannabis brands that pivoted to terpene flavoring use, many have continued even when flavoring bans are lifted in their state.
Cannabis Products that can Utilize Added Hemp-Derived Ingredients
- Cannabis Topicals: Hemp-derived ingredients can be utilized in topicals for aroma and to boost intended effects.
- Pre-rolls Yes! Cannabinoids and terpenes can be added to pre-roll joints.
- Vaporizers: Terpenes can be used for flavor and aromas. Terpene blends can also be used as a viscosity diluent instead of propylene glycol and other commonly used thinning agents that, when heated, emit formaldehyde.
- Edibles: Hemp-derived terpenes can be added to edibles to increase intended effects and as a food-grade flavoring.
- Beverages: Terpenes can be easily added to beverages to boost flavor, aroma and intended effects.To note: Cannabinoids are not water soluble. In order to introduce these into beverages using sophisticated techniques developed by pharmaceutical companies to encapsulate cannabinoids with micelles and microemulsions.
GNA TIP: Before adding hemp-derived ingredients to your products, consider the natural ratio of terpenes in cannabis. Terpenes are naturally found in 2-5% ranges. When adding terpenes to your cannabis products, these terpene levels should stay around this same percentage.
Ready to learn more about utilizing hemp-derived terpenes in your cannabis products? Contact Groff North America to schedule time with one of our lab experts.