Each cannabis strain has a unique aroma and flavor that sets it apart and delights its fans. Cannabis plants have compounds called terpenes that are responsible for scents and flavors and other benefits. Terpenes are also found in many other kinds of plants.
Terpenes can be extracted from cannabis and other plants and then added to tinctures, oils, ointments, beverages, and edibles to provide enhanced benefits. However, there is an ongoing debate about the pros and cons of cannabis-derived terpenes vs. plant (botanical) derived terpenes.
Purists in the cannabis community argue that plant-derived terpenes offer a richer experience. Advocates for botanical-derived compounds contend that they are less expensive, unquestionably legal, and can be used to replicate the terpene ratios of most cannabis strains.
How Terpenes Affect the Body
Terpenes can include scents that energize, soothe, or simply create a pleasant atmosphere. But their impact on the body is not limited to sensory delights. The compounds work with other cannabis molecules to produce various beneficial effects. (Weedmaps, 2021)
Research shows that terpenes strongly impact the human body. They affect the brain’s neurotransmitters and receptors and can even mimic some antidepressants. Terpenes provide benefits typically associated with cannabis use, including pain and anxiety relief.
The Entourage Effect
A terpene that has been extracted from a non-cannabis plant and added to a product provides many of the benefits associated with cannabis. Terpenes extracted from cannabis plants include trace amounts of compounds that may assist in producing desired effects.
This is known as the entourage effect and has been the subject of numerous cannabis studies. Essentially, the entourage effect occurs when a specific group of cannabis compounds in terpenes produce a more powerful impact on the body than a single compound.
Cannabis purists generally feel that the entourage effect is crucial and are likely to believe that the best cannabis supplier is one that offers full-spectrum products. Full spectrum means that products contain lots of cannabinoids, essential oils, various cannabis plant extracts, terpenes, cannabinol, and other compounds.
Terpenes Are Common in the Natural World
It is no coincidence that the aroma and flavor of cannabis strains often replicate other plants and fruits. Terpenes are found in dozens of fruits and vegetables and are responsible for various plants’ unique scents and flavors. (Mayfield, 2018) Research into terpenes is still in the early stages, but there are ongoing studies and evidence of their benefits.
Common terpenes that are present in cannabis and other plants include:
Found in hops, rosemary, cloves, and cannabis, caryophyllene has an unmistakable herbal aroma. It is associated with pain relief and has anti-inflammatory properties.
One of the most prominent terpenes in cannabis, myrcene is known for an earthy scent that is typical of most cannabis plants. Myrcene is very relaxing, is often used as a sedative, and can help reduce pain.
Pinene is very common in nature and famously found in conifers, particularly pine trees. It has a distinctive pine scent that is associated with certain cannabis strains. Pinene is often used to help with memory retention and to increase energy. It is also used as a bronchodilator.
Another terpene that is everywhere in nature, limonene, is found in citrus fruits and has a crisp, citrusy scent. Limonene is frequently added to cleaning products.
Limonene has an energizing effect and is known for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and stress-relieving properties. (Schmidt, 2019)
Cannabis Derived Terpenes
Secreted by plant glands, cannabis terpenes are oils that give plants their intense flavors and scents. The quality and quantity of each plant’s terpenes can be influenced by factors that include fertilizers, climate, soil, and maturation.
Terpenes extracted from cannabis plants include trace amounts of other compounds. While this combination may increase their efficiency, there is also a chance for antagonistic reactions.
Some members of the cannabis community feel that terpenes extracted from cannabis offer the best aroma and experiences. However, it is difficult to produce cannabis-derived terpenes that provide consistent results.
So many things affect cannabis terpenes, it is almost impossible to duplicate generations of plants with similar terpene makeup. (Botanical Terpenes vs. Cannabis-Derived Terpenes, 2021)
Botanical Derived Terpenes
Botanical-derived terpenes extracted from plants other than cannabis are becoming very popular. Extracting them is cost-effective, and manufacturers can use a single formula to recreate each product.
Because many plants have higher volumes of terpene than cannabis, botanical-derived terpenes have a bolder taste and scent. When producers can add higher volumes of terpenes to concentrates, the viscosity improves. That makes products more convenient for vaping.
Terpenes extracted from plants also allow for more innovation. For example, companies can re-create older strains that no longer grow naturally.
There is also the question of legality. While it is legal to buy terpenes online, products may be affected by various regulations, depending on the source plants. In some cases, cannabis-derived terpenes could be considered illegal, while botanical-derived terpenes are unquestionably legal.
Botanical Terpenes vs. Cannabis Derived Terpenes
While dozens of products now contain either plant-derived or cannabis-derived terpenes, the debate about which is superior continues among customers and members of the cannabis community. Examples of each side’s arguments include:
Pros and Cons of Cannabis Derived Terpenes
- It can provide the most authentic aroma and flavor
- Cannabis purists question the therapeutic value of cannabis-derived alternatives
- Purists like to keep related processes in the cannabis family
- Legal if derived from hemp
- Difficult to repeat results
- More expense process
Pros and Cons of Botanical Terpenes
- Experts can replicate precise terpene ratios
- Can be used to create appealing non-cannabis flavors
- Customers may be eligible for bulk discounts
- Might not provide the same authentic experience as cannabis-derived terpenes
- Adds non-cannabis ingredients to cannabis products, sometimes in very high concentrations
- May not offer the same level of therapeutic benefits as cannabis-derived terpenes
The debate over the effectiveness of cannabis-derived terpenes vs. botanical terpenes is likely to go on for some time, as modernists clash with cannabis purists. Each side has pros and cons. However, customers who buy cannabis products from trusted companies can ensure they are getting safe, high-quality products, regardless of the terpene source.
Disclaimer – Information is provided for educational purposes. It does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice or medical advice. We attempt to be accurate and up to date but the legality of cannabinoids and the science of cannabis is evolving. The author is neither a lawyer or a legal expert, nor a doctor or medical expert. You should check with your local authorities and medical providers before buying or using any products.
- Botanical Terpenes vs. Cannabis-Derived Terpenes. (2021, January 14). Retrieved from Terpene Warehouse: https://www.terpenewarehouse.com/blogs/news/botanical-terpenes-vs-cannabis-derived-terpenes
- Mayfield, A. (2018, March 21). Terpenes: What the Research Says. Retrieved from Terpenes and Testing Magazine: https://terpenesandtesting.com/category/science/terpenes-research-and-effects/#:~:text=What%20Are%20Terpenes%3F%20Terpenes%20are%20volatile%2C%20aromatic%20oils,works%2C%20and%20how%20they%20play%20off%20each%20other.
- Schmidt, E. (2019, October 8). Pros and Cons: Plant-Derived Terpenes vs. Cannabis Extracted. Retrieved from ACS Laboratory: https://acslabcannabis.com/blog/wellness/pros-cons-plant-derived-terpenes-vs-cannabis/#Predominant-terpenes
- Weedmaps. (2021, July). Terpenes. Retrieved from Weedmaps: https://weedmaps.com/learn/dictionary/terpenes
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it legal to send CBD related products through the mail?
Yes, but even though these products are federally-compliant, individual states may have their own regulations about purchasing or using hemp-based products, and these are subject to change. You should check your state and local rules before ordering.
What does “hemp-derived” mean?
Hemp-derived means made from hemp, sometimes also referred to as industrial hemp. The 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills established new federal legal definitions and rules for hemp, including that hemp and “and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis” may be used for production, sales, transport, and use.
What is a COA?
A certificate of analysis (COA) is a document attesting to a product’s laboratory analysis for cannabinoids and in some cases adulterants, heavy metals and pesticides. It is a useful tool for cannabis producers and customers to ensure quality and trust.