As the cannabis and hemp industries continue to boom, new products flood into the marketplace with increasing speed and volume. From tinctures and vapes to topicals, beverages, and pet products—there is no shortage of new and creative applications on the shelves for consumers to choose from. In this increasingly competitive market, manufacturers are seeking ways to stand out from the crowd by providing their customers enhanced product experiences. For many, terpenes are the answer.
A Hidden History
In the cannabis space, many are familiar with terpenes as the flavor and aroma molecules present in the cannabis plant. The unique terpene profiles of these plants help to fuel and cement the popularity and legendary status of specific varieties. Many would be surprised, however, to learn of terpenes’ long-established history of use in mainstream consumer products.
Cleaning products, soaps, and shampoos have all used terpenes and their beneficial properties for decades. That familiar “lemony fresh” cleaning scent? You can thank d-limonene and α-pinene. It’s not just the cleaning products aisle where you may find terpenes, either. The cosmetics and beauty industries rely on terpenes for their potent scents as well.
As consumer awareness and understanding of terpenes grow, more brands inside and outside of the cannabis industry are leveraging the many benefits of terpenes—going beyond just aroma.
The Benefits of Terpenes
Terpenes are volatile compounds. When concentrating delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and other cannabinoids from plant matter for maximum potency, the valuable terpenes present in the plant are lost through volatilization. Product applications like vapes and edibles that utilize extracted cannabis oils often use botanically derived terpenes to “add back” the natural flavors, aromas, and effects present in terpenes, stripped out during the processing of the concentrates and isolates.
For example, a Mango Kush vape without the plant’s prized sweet tropical and piney notes would hardly live up to its namesake. While the benefits of terpenes from flavor and aroma perspectives are gaining in understanding by brands and consumers, terpenes also offer a host of potential synergistic and wellness benefits.
Dr. Ethan Russo’s 2011 landmark paper, “Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effects,” popularized the entourage effect notion, in which terpenes play a critical role.  Dr. Russo hinted at the possibilities of terpene synergies with cannabinoids, thereby eliciting enhanced therapeutic effects. In addition to the synergistic interplay of terpenes, research into individual terpenes continues to investigate their therapeutic efficacies in the treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, and more.
As an example (again), d-limonene is not only known for its citrusy, mood-elevating aroma, it has also exhibited anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  As it acts as a bronchodilator, it may be of benefit to those who suffer asthma, bronchitis, and allergies. 
Will It Terpene?
So, what products are right for terpenes? The answer is increasingly endless, and only bound by the creativity of manufacturers and the terpene producers innovating new technologies to bring the benefits of terpenes to more product applications. Rest assured, if you can think it—you can almost certainly terpene it.
THC (Delta-9, Delta-8, Delta-10)
There are hundreds of cannabis-derived cannabinoids, with the intoxicating delta-9-THC being the most widely understood. In actuality, “THC” represents a full family of isomers with different effects and benefits. New products with delta-8- and delta-10-THC are creating a buzz (and controversy) in the market and gaining popularity with consumers. Terpene products are designed to work with all of these THC analogs. It makes sense, after all, as terpenes are a critical and natural part of the cannabis plant. THC vapes, tinctures, and edible products can all benefit from the use and addition of terpenes.
Wellness and Functional Health
The trend towards natural wellness products presents manufacturers with an opportunity to enhance their products with functional and wellness benefits. For products in the hemp space featuring CBD, cannabinol (CBN), and cannabigerol (CBG), terpenes are a natural fit. From topical balms and lotions to infused beverages, terpenes can provide alluring and mood-altering aromas and medicinal efficacies. Even Fido and Fluffy can get in on the action, with terpenes playing a role in a bevy of hemp oil-based pet products.
Specialty Product Applications
In certain product applications, different formats may be required for terpenes to be integrated into the manufacturing process. Terpenes imparted with alcohol, like Extract Consultants’ BeerBudds, are specifically crafted for use in the brewing industry. As brewers continue to push the boundaries in search of new flavors and innovative cross-over beverages, terpene-infused brews, ciders, and seltzers deliver for their consumers seeking new experiences.
Most recently, Extract Consultants’ advanced technology has led to the creation of Powdered Terpenes. Terpenes rendered in this water-soluble format allow for easy addition into new product applications from beverages and dry mixes to nutraceutical tablets and capsules. Powdered terpenes open even more avenues for integration of terpenes into a wide array of product applications.
The Right Ratios
Unlocking the benefits of terpenes begins with using the right ratios. This is true of both the terpene producer creating blends for the marketplace, and of manufacturers adding those blends to their end products.
Most manufacturers aim to replicate the percentage of terpenes naturally found in cannabis (around 2%). Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Terpenes at high concentrations can do more than just taste bad or smell overpowering—they can lead to allergic reactions or sensitivities. With concentrated cannabis products containing much higher percentages of terpenes than found typically in nature, research is ongoing. The 2017 study, “Toxicant Formation in Dabbing: The Terpene Story,” from Portland State University, investigated the degradation of terpenes under high temperatures, although it’s debatable as to whether dabbers are using temperatures as high as those used in the study. 
Complete and transparent safety data sheets, certificates of analysis, food-grade certificates, solvent-free statements, pesticide statements, and technical data sheets from terpene producers help ensure the safety and efficacy of the terpene products. They provide manufacturers the regulatory documentation and information they need to integrate terpenes safely and confidently into their products.
Terpene blends, like Extract Consultants’ Essential Terpenes line, are designed to have very low add-back rates—an average add-back range of 0.5%-3%. Exactly how much to add can vary based on preference (taste and effect), so a general rule of thumb is start low and work your way up. You can always add more, but you can’t take away. Using online calculators provided by the producer from which you purchase your terpenes is also a good way to make sure you are adding the right amount for consistent desired effects.
Consumer demand for products offering new sensory experiences and functional and health benefits will continue to spur the integration of terpenes into a wide array of products. We’ll just have to wait to see what gets terpened next.
References: Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344-1364. [journal impact factor = 8.739; times cited = 736]  Yu L, Yan J, Sun Z. D-limonene exhibits anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in an ulcerative colitis rat model via regulation of iNOS, COX-2, PGE2 and ERK signaling pathways. Mol Med Rep. 2017;15(4):2339-2346. [journal impact factor = 2.952; times cited = 65]  Patel M, Narke D, Kurade M, et al. Limonene-induced activation of A2A adenosine receptors reduces airway inflammation and reactivity in a mouse model of asthma. Purinergic Signal. 2020;16(3):415-426. [journal impact factor = 3.765; times cited = 4]  Meehan-Atrash J, Luo W, Strongin R. Toxicant formation in dabbing: The terpene story. ACS Omega. 2017;2:6112-6117. [journal impact factor = 3.512; times cited = 25]