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The Evolution of Cannabis Terpenes

Become an expert on the botanical compounds showing up everywhere from dispensary menus to high fashion fragrances.

When you exhale that puff, or digest that edible and start to feel those shoulders fall and stresses loosen, that is the feeling of the building blocks of cannabis getting to work. Terpenes deserve some of the credit.

A large part of those primary building blocks are cannabinoids, naturally-occurring compounds that interact with our bodies’ endocannabinoid systems. THC and CBD are just two of the 113 cannabinoids identified by scientists so far. They play a major role in the way this plant makes us feel, but they aren’t the only factor.

The other essential building block is terpenes: aromatic compounds that contribute the smell, flavor, and to some degree, the effects of cannabis. Terpenes are what make a rose smell like a rose. Terpenes are why slicing an orange emits that undeniable zesty scent.

A pot plant can contain more than 100 types of terpenes, but most are at trace amounts. The handful of the most prominent terpenes present are what determine a strain’s unique scent profiles. Sour Diesel varietals, for example, often contain heavier concentrations of terpenes such as limonene and pinene — a citrusy sharp and piney combination of scents that contribute to that strain’s signature gassy aroma. 

As consumers and researchers get more familiar with these elements that make weed, well, weed, terpenes are becoming a bigger part of the conversation, and they are trending far beyond the realm of smoking circles. 

Familiarize yourself below.

Wellness Within

Because of the unique way different strains interact with individual people, the popular categorization of “indica,” “sativa” and “hybrid” is totally inaccurate.

There are studies that demonstrate that a sedating effect can accompany myrcene — the presence of limonene in many antidepressants — and it’s terpenes that offer better insight into a strain’s effects more than name or even THC percentage. 

With more studies to back up potent formulas — and less complications than dealing in cannabinoids — it’s also terpenes that are making more versatile leaps in non-cannabis markets.

The new class of wellness beverages includes products such as Zolt, a brand of plant-based, adaptogenic-centric drink mixes that contain a “proprietary terpene complex composed of 21 terpenes.”

There are also non-alcoholic tonics like Aplos and Artet, designed to adequately substitute spirits — calling on carefully concocted terpene blends to mimic those flavors.

Companies like True Terpenes and Eybna sell terpene extracts on their own or in “bouquets,” allowing for customers to enjoy these compounds’ effects via their diffuser of choice or use as fragrance for DIY candles or bath salts. There’s even terpene-infused smelling salts for aromatherapy on the go.

It’s this scent-based application of terpenes that’s really caught the imagination of mainstream brands —even high-fashion houses.

Flower-Inspired Fragrance 

The creativity that cannabis can inspire is being celebrated in a particularly cool way in the fragrance space right now. Within the cannabis space, Broccoli Magazine collaborated with OLO Fragrance and Quill vaporizers on Imeon — a fresh, springy scent that contained terpenes extracted from Purple Hindu Kush.

Additionally, CBD brand Black Dahlia dropped two fragrances containing terpenes and CBD oil and “crafted to transform your mood.”

Weed is nowhere near legal in France, but cannabis-inspired fragrances seem to be welcome. Perfumier Room 1015 debuted Sweet Leaf last summer — a cannabis-inspired fragrance steeped in 1970s vibes, featuring notes of jasmine, cashmeran wood, cannabis, eucalyptus, and grapefruit.

Maison Anonyme just dropped a “hallucinatory” fragrance called THC (alongside two other releases in the collection: LSD and DMT).

Even Comme des Garçons created a weed-inspired fragrance. Not positive on the terpene content of GANJA, but its notes of hemp, maté, frankincense, and patchouli oil are certainly extracted from authentic cannabis culture. 

Contemporary Compounds

Whether sniffing flower or just browsing the latest offerings in the fragrance department, expect to see terpenes stick around. Cannabis is an exciting world for all brands to dip a toe into, and these less controversial compounds are creating a more flexible opportunity to do so.

Individual terpenes are bound to come into style and have their moments in the light, while popular bouquets or pairings may end up finding popularity in distinguishing more than just vape pen offerings.

Any way you slice it, the future smells good. 

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