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

Introduction to Terpenes

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. For more information on what terpenes are and where they come from, check out our blog post on What are Terpenes and Why do They Matter?

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?

*Looking for a quick summary of this article? View the Talking Terpenes: Cliff Notes edition.*


Botanically Derived Terpenes or Cannabis Derived Terpenes

When we’re talking about terpenes in the cannabis industry, botanically derived 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.

You can check out our selection of botanically derived terpenes on our Essential Terpenes product page.  For more information on the medical benefits of terpenes, check out our blog post, The Benefits of Botanically Derived Terpenes


Why Add Terpenes?

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.  For more info on how to add terpenes to your products, check out our How to Use Terpenes page for helpful tips on properly heating and blending terpenes in with your products.

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?


Which Type of Terpenes Should I Use?

Let’s start with cannabis derived terpenes (CDT's).  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, the resulting effects and flavor stay true to the flavor and effect profile of said cannabis plant as well.

Botanically derived terpenes (BDT's), on the other hand, are extracted from various plants, fruits, and other natural botanical materials. Both CDT's and BDT's are naturally derived from plant sources, and both are essentially the same isolated terpenes. It's with these botanically extracted terpenes that we can then rebuild the terpene profiles of specific cannabis strains.

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 known as terpinolene.
  • Certain cannabis strains may also contain terpinolene, however they might also produce a slightly different biological result than the terpinolene found in tea tree oil.

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 it's 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 or other botanical material, which is why more and more companies within the cannabis industry are beginning to introduce these individual terpenes back into their products.


Why Use Botanically Derived Terpenes?

So why do Extract Consultants and many other terpene companies choose to use botanically derived terpenes over cannabis derived terpenes? One important factor is cost.  Cannabis terpenes are exponentially more expensive to extract, and the process is much more complicated than the process for extracting botanical terpenes.

Cannabis is already a pricey crop, and from a cost standpoint, 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.

There are huge economic benefits for both terpene and terpene product manufacturers to use botanically extracted terpenes to reintroduce terpenes after the product goes through a high-heat distillation process (when essential oils and terpenes are removed).

Another massive factor that comes into play is availabilityBotanically derived terpenes are much more readily available to buy in bulk versus cannabis derived terpenes.  Both because of the higher availability of botanical materials and the much smaller yield of terpenes extracted from a cannabis plant.  Higher availability will almost certainly come with it lower prices.


What are Natural Terpenes vs. Synthetic Terpenes?

Lastly, let’s address natural vs. synthetic terpenes. Think about natural and synthetic terpenes like using an actual strawberry to flavor a milkshake instead of a strawberry flavored syrup. 

Comparing natural terpenes with synthetic terpenes can also be described as organic vs non-organic.  It's important to note that the term "organic" in this sense in reference to the type of materials that the terpenes are classified as on a biochemical level, not in reference to the USDA's classification of "Certified Organic."

For more information on the "organic" vs "certified organic" discussion, check out our blog post on Organic Terpenes.

Natural terpenes are extracted straight from the source, such as plants and whole foods. For example, 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.


What You Put in Your Products Matters

It's 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, and it's why we focus on having strong regulatory and customer support available to you to answer any questions you may have about terpenes.

If you have any questions for us at all regarding our products or processes, please visit our Contact Us form, email us directly at, or call us at 1-888-541-9089 to speak with one of our trained staff members.

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What are diluents?

Diluents, by scientific definition, are substances that dilute, or weaken, other substances that they're mixed with. They do this by essentially thinning out the other substance. Common examples of diluents include medium chain triglycerides (MCT oils), and propylene glycol (PG), which are also both substances that are commonly used in vape cartridges as a thinning agent.

Vape cartridges contain active extract material, terpenes, and a diluent. Our Solvent Free Terpenes contain zero thinning or diluting agents whatsoever, while our TasteBudds Flavors are based in either MCT or PG. Because of this, our terpenes are of the highest quality and are incredibly concentrated, and our diluent based flavors are highly concentrated as well, with a base concentration that's still 4-5 times stronger that most flavors today.