Botanical, Cannabis, and Synthetic Terpenes - What's the difference?

Posted by Max Brown on

If you're new to the market, you need to know that terpenes are the building blocks of any plant’s aroma and flavor. In the same way that molecules are the building blocks of matter, terpenes are what make things smell and taste the way they do. Terpenes are derived by extracting essential oils from plants, and these essential oils are used in virtually everything. Your soaps, your lotions, your fruits and veggies all contain terpenes. As aforementioned, these terpenes occur naturally in all plants, including cannabis – so what are the differences between using botanically sourced terpenes, cannabis derived terpenes and synthetic terpenes?  

When we’re talking about terpenes in the cannabis industry, botanically sourced means that they are naturally extracted from non-cannabis plants. It’s pretty easy to then discern that cannabis derived terpenes are extracted from actual cannabis plants. As far as synthetic terpenes go… well they aren’t natural or ideal, but we’ll get to that later. Some terpenes like limonene possess Anti-Bacterial properties, while others like Alpha-pinene are Anti-Inflammatory. Our terpenes are all extracted from natural sources and are used to introduce new and unique commonly reported entourage effects to high potency concentrates for your enjoyment. Here at Extract Consultants, all of our terpenes are natural and botanically sourced.  

Cannabis consumers can be quite choosey about the products they use and remember, the terpenes present in these products determine the aromas, flavor profiles and commonly reported entourage effects. This is why we have seen a significant influx of products with high terpene content such as distillates, vape & oil cartridges and other concentrates. Consumers are big fans of being able to control their dosage and effects and terpene properties can vary depending on the way in which the cannabis is harvested. This is where adding terpenes back into the flower comes in. Similar terpene profiles and aromatic properties extracted from cannabis can also be found in different plants, herbs and fruits. So, if the same terpenes can be found in plants as in cannabis what’s the real difference?

Let’s start with cannabis-derived terpenes, these are the purest of essential cannabis oils. The flavors mimic the exact flavor and aroma of the plant from which it was extracted and since the ratio and concentration of terpenes extracted are identical to the flower from which it was derived. Botanical terpenes on the other hand are extracted from various plants. Both are naturally derived from plant sources, and both are essentially the same isolated terpenes. One benefit of using cannabis-based terpenes, though, is that a terpene extracted from a cannabis plant will provide a more natural entourage effect in most cases. Cannabis terpenes also provide the consumer with the maximum therapeutic and medicinal value of the individual terpene and plant.

We’ve already established that the same terpenes found in cannabis are present in other plants so think about it like this: Tea tree oil has a very distinct aroma and is commonly used as an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic due to its’ content of the terpene terpinolene. Certain cannabis strains may also contain terpinolene, however might also produce a slightly different result. The synergistic qualities and chemical makeup of cannabis work with your body’s CB2 receptors and when combined with the right compounds can cause psychoactive effects. It’s also important to keep in mind that each person’s body chemistry is different and its’ entirely possible that a certain compound may have one effect on an individual while another might experience a slightly different effect from the same compound. These individual terpenes are just as much a part of cannabis as they are tea tree oil or lavender. Advanced technology allows us to isolate these terpenes in any plant which is why more and more companies within the cannabis industry are beginning to introduce these individual terpenes back into their products.

So why do we, and many other companies choose to use botanically derived over cannabis derived terpenes? One important factor is cost; cannabis terpenes are exponentially more expensive to extract, and the process is more complicated. Cannabis is already a pricey crop, it makes much more sense to derive isolated terpenes from say, a field of lavender than it does to derive the same terpenes from a field of cannabis. It’s definitely an economical benefit to reintroduce botanically extracted terpenes after the product goes through a high-heat distillation process (when essential oils and terpenes are removed). Plus, you can buy natural terpenes in bulk versus a much smaller yield from a cannabis plant.

Lastly, let’s address natural vs. synthetic terpenes. Think about natural and synthetic terpenes like organic vs. non-organic or using strawberry flavoring instead of an actual strawberry (Hint: check out our recent organic terpene blog). Natural terpenes are extracted straight from the source like plants and whole foods. You can find limonene in lemons, pinene in pine and citronellal in oranges. Synthetic terpenes, on the other hand, are produced in a lab by chemical manipulation and blending.

Its important to pay close attention to the products you use. Can you trust the label? Does it contain natural or synthetic terpenes? Are terpenes being added to the final product? Are the terpenes being added to the final product botanically derived or cannabis derived? These are some of the questions you may want to ask your providers.

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