One of the more exciting things to come out of the cannabis revolution is our understanding of terpenes and the effect they have on our cannabis experience. Terpenes are responsible for the aromatic scents that overcome us as we stroll through a garden. They are also responsible for the wide array of flavors we encounter as we sample various strains. Terpenes give scents and flavors to not just cannabis, but nearly all fruits, vegetables, and other plants. Ever wonder why some strains taste like citrus and others like musk? Terpene isolation is the latest frontier in cannabis extraction.
You may not be familiar with them yet, but before you know it, you’ll be asking your budtender for strains high in limonene or pinene. Or better yet, you’ll be asking for a vial of terpene extract to drop on your favorite bud or to add to your vape pen. Terpenes are the delicious part of your cannabis experience, and as it turns out, they can impact your high nearly as much as THC. The varying terpenes present in your favorite strain are partially responsible for the overall feeling you get when you get high. What we once thought was just a THC high turns out to be a complex interaction between all of the plant’s components, primarily its various cannabinoids and terpenes.
When THC is ingested, it binds to the cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body. The CB1 and CB2 receptors bind to cannabinoids, which triggers the cannabis high.. Terpenes, however, seem to be able to enhance beneficial properties of cannabinoids, while detracting from their negative attributes. Having the ability to isolate individual terpenes could have incredible implications for applications in medicine, as well as make for an incredible recreational experience.
Advancements in cannabis extraction and distillation technology are now allowing for the isolation of these specific terpenes. These fragrant essential oils aren’t extracted using the standard blasting technology used to make cannabis concentrates. Distilling cannabis into its various components is a delicate process that requires the latest in cannabis extract technology. One of the more common techniques of terpene isolation through distillation is called Short Path Wiped Film Distillation. This process breaks down cannabis extract into its most basic parts. It also captures all lipids, residues and impurities, making the finished product as close to pure as you can get.
This short path technique first separates the terpenes from the concentrate fed into the instrument. Liquefied extracts are the base from which the distillation process begins. The extract is heated which causes THC distillate to evaporate. It is captured on the surface of a thin film, which is then wiped for collection. Distillation equipment would fit nicely in any nerdy chemistry lab, with hoses, tubes and beakers galore. One of those beakers captures the THC distillate, a nearly pure THC oil that catches quite a premium in retail stores.
Another beaker captures the liquefied terpenes, which in their current form, are rich with the smells of the strain from which they came. Terpenes capture the essence of the cannabis flower. This concentrated cannabis essence can then be re-infused with THC distillate in a variety of different recipes, all carrying with them unique taste and aroma profiles. The current market for terpene distillates is rather small, but growing as fast as the industry itself. The cost of terpene distillates is on the pricey side for the time being, however, as the technology becomes more proliferated, the retail cost will balance out.