Terpenes are the large and diverse class of organic compounds that are rightly known as the aromatic building blocks of a variety of plants especially conifers. These organic compounds found in the natural world of plants contribute by providing scent, flavor and color and are the basis of plant raisins. They are used extensively in aromatherapy, food additives and perfume industry.
It is these fragrant oils from terpenes that provide cannabis its aromatic diversity. In cannabis, more than a hundred terpenes are known, which are predominantly responsible for creating strain flavor profiles. In recent times, this terpene extraction has become a new craze in the growing cannabis industry. The people working in the cannabis industry worked to isolate the terpenes and with their hard work and some help from the fragrance industry were able to develop methods and technology to do it. This isolation has opened new horizons to develop new products and apply them in various ways. This can be understood better with an example.
Let’s say we consider the cannabis strain Sour Diesel. It has a peculiar taste and smell, which is a combined result of many terpenes present, the prominent being d-limonene, β-caryophyllene and β-myrcene and then there are many less prevalent ones too. Only when all these are present in correct ratio that Sour Diesel gets its peculiar taste and smell and if one has to recreate this complex aroma present in nature then he/she will need the complete knowledge of terpene isolation.
Extracting terpenes from plants has been in practice for long in the fragrance industry and in fact, those attempting to try it on cannabis have borrowed the knowledge of extraction and isolation from there only. It was Kenneth Morrow who first attempted it on cannabis seeds and is a renowned name in the industry. He was trying to extract oils from cannabis flowers when he realized he was actually trapping terpenes.
Today many methods are used to extract and isolate terpenes like cold trapping, steam distillation etc. Each method has its own pros and cons and none can be considered perfect. Processing in the cannabis industry started long back, but with cannabis getting legalized in the many US states the things are on a fast track now.