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Terpenes: The Next Wave Of Weed Innovation

This post is part of Mashable’s High-tech High series, which explores weed innovations, and our cultural relationship with cannabis, as legalization in several U.S. states, Canada, and Uruguay moves the market further out of the shadows.


Chicken and waffles. Moscow Mule. Gingerbread cookies. Plum.

Joe Edwards says he’s made cannabis flower taste like all of the above and then some, using a high-tech curing unit produced by Colorado startup Yofumo.

The plum was made specially for his grandma who uses cannabis for her arthritis pain but hates the taste.

“My grandmother has no interest in Skunk No. 1,” Edwards, vice president of client applications and deployment at Yofumo, jokes, referring to a popular cannabis strain that smells, well, skunky.

Yofumo is part of a growing contingent of companies using science and tech to experiment with cannabis terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic organic compounds found naturally in marijuana, and they impact weed’s flavor and smell. The type and amount can also have varying biological effects when paired with THC and CBD, according to marijuana researchers.

As terpene experimentation advances, more producers are adding the amount and type of terpenes in their offerings to product descriptions. The compound, lesser-known among the general public, is something consumers are becoming more aware of as they seek out a specific kind of high — or flavor.

“We’re seeing a lot of our patients, or our clients, are demanding to be able to see terpene expression data for the flower that they purchase,” says Philippe Henry, director of R&D genetics and analytics at Flowr, which operates cultivation facilities in Canada.

“It’s part of educating people that they can make better choices,” adds Henry, who has a Ph.D. in population genetics and has analyzed 5,000 cannabis plants to study terpenes and genetic markers.

Cannabis gets a trim at a Flowr facility.Cannabis gets a trim at a Flower facility.                                       IMAGE: FLOWR

Sometimes marketing gets in the way of information in the cannabis field. Blue Dream is a popular strain, but some producers may call their plant Blue Dream even if it isn’t the same as the original product, Henry says. Knowing more about the flower’s chemical expression, and how you react to that mix, helps you as a consumer.

While there are hundreds of terpenes, a few show up more frequently. Generally linalool, also found in lavender, calms you, while limonene, with its citrusy aroma, can give you energy. Keep in mind, compounds may impact people differently. For example, myrcene generally relaxes, but it could do so to a different degree depending on the individual. When it comes to terpenes, and cannabis in general, it’s often about finding what works for you.

“It’s synergism,” says Mark Lewis, founder and president of NaPro Research in CaliforniaHe compares a single terpene or a single cannabinoid, be that THC or CDB, to a note — but when everything works together, it’s a chord.

What Lewis compares to a musical chord, others have called the “entourage effect.” Researchers have analyzed how terpenes interact with other compounds, but there’s room for further investigation. Weed is complicated, and there’s more to discover with expanding legalization.

While terpene levels in cannabis flower tend to be below 2 percent and cannabinoids hover around 20 percent, NaPro tweaks that through breeding plants with desired attributes together over several years. They’ve amped the terpene level up to 7 percent and THC down to 9 percent in one plant for a client entering a competition that awards top quality cannabis. Changing a plant’s composition can take years of breeding. Think about how watermelon today looks and tastes different than it did thousands of years ago, due to human intervention.

Once you get below 1.5 percent, the THC takes over, Lewis, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, says. But if a single terpene is higher than 2 percent, the flavor and impact “will hit you like a ton of bricks.” One NaPro offering that has 4.5 percent myrcene will cause one’s eyes to feel heavy for 15 minutes or so and then provide balanced, euphoric pain relief, Lewis claims.

NaPro Research has also built a search tool for clients to review the chemical expression of marijuana products to discern quality and value.

A breakdown of Cookie Crizzle from NaPro's search tool, called PhytoFacts.A breakdown of Cookie Crizzle from NaPro’s search tool, called PhytoFacts.   IMAGE: NAPRO RESEARCH

Flowr and NaPro mess around with a plant’s terpene profile through breeding, but Yofumo uses a different technique.

Its curing unit is currently only available commercially (the company is working on a consumer model). It releases terpenes from other plants stored in rods into a mahogany chamber, and through atmospheric transfer, the terpenes bind to the plant at a molecular level.

There’s a trend in the marijuana space of upping THC content to get super high, but Edwards says cultivators should look beyond THC.

“Instead of just maximizing THC potential, how can we also look at post-harvest curation practices and maximize terpene potential as well?” he questions.

OK, but how did he do that for his flower with hints of chicken and waffles?

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Brittany Levine Beckman on Mashable

Click Here

Published: November 16, 2018

Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News

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