CO2, Cannabis, and Terpenes Extraction Information

Terpene Profile Disconnect

Tamir Bresler
Written by Tamir Bresler

Is There a Missing Link Between Flower and Concentrates?

As the manufacture of concentrates has become a larger industry, and as its regulation and scrutiny has likewise increased, many have wondered (to themselves or out loud) whether the feeling and physiological benefits of these machine-made wonders compare to the ones obtained from the cannabis flower that forms its starting material. This feeling can mainly be described scientifically by looking at the terpene concentrations in the two forms and seeing how they compare.

Intuitively, we can envision several stages in which terpenes may become “lost” between harvest and extraction. Things like curing conditions may have the most significant effects, as high temperatures and lack of humidity tend to cause those more volatile terpenes to float away into the atmosphere way before they’ve had the chance to reach an extraction chamber.

Likewise, the conditions of storage and transport of the plant matter factor in when determining how the terpene profiles differ from virgin flower to processed concentrates. Were the plants flash-frozen upon curing? Were they kept away from sunlight? Just like with the flower itself, environmental stressors that can compromise the molecular integrity of the terpenes on their journey to the extraction facility play a major role in determining whether or not a concentrate’s terpene profile will match that of the original plant from whence it came.

But assuming the best, that the flower that reaches those extractors are of the highest quality and equal in terpene content to the ones sold on premium cannabis dispensary shelves, can differences exist even then between the buds and the concentrates that follow?

Again, many determinants will decide whether that is the case. Some types of extraction will certainly favor the complete removal of terpenes over others. Being almost entirely hydrophobic, those extraction techniques that are able to capitalize on this non-polarity will capture much of the terpenoid content in a given cannabis sample, along with their cannabinoid cousins.

Hydrocarbon extractions are supremely talented at extracting terpenes from cannabis matter. They can even do special “terp runs” that focus solely on the extraction (and eventual distillation) of these cannabis-derived terpenes. Supercritical CO2 extractions have the ability to fine-tune the hydrophobicity of their carrier solvent, the liquid CO2, and therefore, to refine the details of the extraction to emphasize the removal of one type of molecule over another, giving the savvy extractor a potential advantage in the terpene extraction game. Depending on the concentrate being made, it’s common practice in certain scenarios to recreate the profile of a chemovar in a flavoring laboratory by mixing together isolated extracts of natural or synthetic terpenes.

Certificates of Analyses, as discussed in a recent piece by Dr. Lupoi, should give you a breakdown of the terpene content in the concentrates that you purchase or consume. Comparing those results with the concomitant data from testing the corresponding flower is a good consumer indication of how these terpene profiles may compare in practice.

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Tamir Bresler

Tamir Bresler

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