Make a Good Product Great: The Difference Between Cannabis-Derived Terpenes and Botanical Terpenes
There is no subset of people who uncork a high-end bottle of wine and speak avidly about how ‘alcoholic’ it is, disregarding its flavors and subtle qualities. There would be no point – winemaking, like so many other creative processes, is an art, and creating cannabis products is no different.
While cannabis has a variety of medical and recreational uses, it’s the underlying flavors and smells known as terpenes and flavonoids that make a good product great. Extracting these volatile compounds from the plant is a delicate process, but well worth the effort in setting your business apart in a highly-competitive market.
Up until recently, adding unnatural terpenes back into a product went largely unnoticed across the United States where legislation around cannabis continues to evolve. News out of Oregon, however, could be the first of many other states to follow suit and cause a wave of disruption for many cannabis extractors. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission wants to stop manufacturers from being able to mix THC oil with any additive such as flavors and thinning agents. For extractors using methods or solvents stripping the plant of its natural terpene content, the potential ruling could mean a costly halt in production for those operating with harsh solvents and methods bound to non-cannabis derived terpenes.
Terpenes make or break your cannabis product
Cannabis producers typically focus on extracting CBD and THC from the plants – and it makes sense, as they are the “useful” parts. However, as research continues to uncover, there is far more to cannabis than THC and CBD. The full spectrum of botanical compounds in cannabis produce effects on the cannabinoid receptors, but the idea that they all work together is called “the entourage effect”. CBD, THC, terpenes, chlorophyll, and the various other parts of the plant all combine their effects to produce a more powerful benefit than if you were to extract them individually.
Terpenes provide flavor and aroma to cannabis and can vary dramatically and help you make a unique product, distinct to your business. They’re responsible for that incredibly fresh and vital smell and taste, especially with cannabis concentrates. With so many products opting to neglect terpene inclusion, finding a good method to extract them can add a brandable uniqueness that your customers can gravitate towards and keep you in the clear when regulations enter the question. Cannabis customers – your customers – want that smell and flavor.
Perfecting Terpene Formulations for Quality Products
The challenge of perfecting formulations using the proper balance of terpenes is what will set apart quality cannabis products in the market, which is why terpenes are in high demand for manufacturers.
Aside from the associated costs based on the extraction method, standardization, efficacy, and scalability are all deciding factors that have motivated manufacturers to source terpenes from other plant sources as additives, often rich in the same molecules of interest that cannabis contains.
- Cannabis terpenes are ideal for flavoring products intended to smell and taste just like the plant in its natural form
- Cannabis terpenes allow formulas to remain completely derived from the cannabis plant
- Botanical terpenes are readily available in bulk supply at reasonably low costs
- Botanical terpenes can mimic the cannabis plant’s natural flavors and aromas
Choosing Your Extraction Method based on Terpenes
How quickly and cost-efficiently compounds can be removed from cannabis are often the first questions posed when it comes to deciding on the process, but it’s not that simple. Unfortunately, there are more compounds in cannabis than desirables like terpenes and cannabinoids. Chlorophyll, fats, and waxes are all co-extracted frequently and are ultimately unwanted. These undesirable compounds require additional refinement processes if they are to be removed from the extracted crude oil. Often, this refinement entails significant temperature fluctuations to separate out the undesirables for removal. For example, mixing your oil with ethanol and then placing it into the freezer (winterization) will separate out the fats and waxes for removal. However, the mixture then requires heat to remove the ethanol via evaporation.
Let’s say you used the strongest solvent possible for your cannabis extraction. Congratulations, you extracted (nearly) all the cannabinoids and terpenes! Unfortunately, you also pulled a ton of fat and wax, which is where things get tricky.
If heated excessively, terpenes can be destroyed completely. So, how do you evaporate out the ethanol added during winterization without heating and destroying your terpenes? In comes CO2.
With a low-temperature and -pressure CO2 extraction tuned specifically for terpenes, you can extract the terpenes first and store them safely. This process is called a subcritical CO2 extraction, which uses liquid CO2 below its critical point. The liquid CO2 is pumped through the plant material, dissolving terpenes and some oils. Then the CO2 is decompressed and returns to its gaseous state, allowing the terpenes and oils to precipitate out for collection. After the terpenes are safe, you can extract again, this time at a higher temperature and pressure. In fact, you can fine-tune the pressure and temperature to maximize your extraction efficiency by specifically targeting cannabinoids only and ignoring chlorophyll. Once your cannabinoids have been extracted, you can safely winterize them without worrying about damaging any terpenes. After refinement, the terpenes can be added back to the extract to produce a full-spectrum, natural product.
Your customers want flavor and aroma in their cannabis, so why leave it behind in your plants or use unnatural additives after? Use the best methods for terpene extraction and truly set your cannabis products apart from the competition.
With a CO2-based extraction system by Vitalis Extraction Technology, extractions can be customized with the fine-tuning of temperature and pressure to allow for precise extractions of nearly any desired compound. Have a few questions? Reach out to a member of our team.