THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), the three-letter acronyms currently dominating the cannabis world.

Today, we are talking about the most important subject in cannabis. These cannabinoids define so many aspects of cannabis. 

The​y are what differentiate he​​​​mp, marijuana and CBD oils from one another. They determine whether your cannabis product is legal or not, whether you’ll experience a high, or what therapeutic effects you can expect.

What is THC and CBD?

THC and CBD are part of a group of chemical compounds called phytocannabinoids found in all cannabis plants. 

​Phytocannabinoids are one of three main compounds in cannabis that produce an observable therapeutic effect on the body. The other two compounds are terpenes and flavonoids.

We’ve identified over 100 different phytocannabinoids in cannabis. But THC and CBD stand out because cannabis contains significantly more of them. Naturally, they were discovered and research before the other phytocannabinoids—which we still don’t know much about. 

CBD and THC both produce fascinating effects in your body.  As such, the THC/CBD ratio has come to arbitrarily define cannabis plants into categories like recreational marijuana, medical marijuana, hemp, and industrial hemp.

The Chemical Structure of THC and CBD


Both THC and CBD start as the same phytocannabinoid CBG (cannabigerol) which is sparking great interest itself. On a molecular level, THC and CBD are very similar with both of them containing 30 hydrogen atoms, 21 carbon atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms each.

What separates them? There is a difference between one of their oxygen atoms.

THC has a cyclic ring with a single unbounded oxygen atom, where CBD has a hydroxyl group with a bonded oxygen atom — and this creates some significant changes in the body as you’re about to see.

How Cannabinoids Work

To better understand the difference between THC vs CBD, let’s take a look into how phytocannabinoids affect us.

​Phytocannabinoids interact with a select group of g protein-coupled receptors throughout your body.  These include CB1, CB2, 5-HT1A, TRPV1, PPAR and GRP55 receptors. Think of a receptor as a dimmable switch, and when it’s turned on or off, it tells the cell it’s located on to carry out a specific function and to what degree.

Phytocannabinoids interact with receptors that are involved in regulating and balancing internal functions that help with homeostasis. Some of these functions include regulating our immune response, increasing and decreasing our appetite, and changing our perception of pain.

So why do phytocannabinoid interact with certain receptors?

Well, while structurally different, phytocannabinoids share a fascinating relationship with special neurotransmitters our brain creates called endocannabinoids.

Phyto” = plant, “endo” = endogenous or something that occurs within an organism, tissue or cell. We produce two types of endocannabinoids—anandamide and 2-AG—which have the job of interacting with your CB1 and CB2 receptors.

All together they create a system called the ECS (endocannabinoid system or endogenous cannabinoid system).

Phytocannabinoids affect endocannabinoids and their receptors in two big ways:

  • First, some can temporarily prevent the body from recycling endocannabinoids, which lets their numbers build up and allows them to activate more receptors.  
  • Second, phytocannabinoids can undertake the same roles endocannabinoids carry out in the body and activate the same receptors.  

Now, endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids can interact with non-cannabinoid receptorsas we saw, but so can other compounds like capsaicin found in chili peppers and the neurotransmitter serotonin.

​Think of endocannabinoids and the receptors they trigger as the regulatory system that regulates and protects other more important regulatory systems like the nervous or immune system. Now that we know how phytocannabinoids work let’s look at how THC and CBD can affect our receptors in different ways.


How THC Affects the Body

THC interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors, but it’s the former receptors that give THC its notoriety. The endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-AG are responsible for turning CB1 receptors on by binding to them, but THC can undertake that role and bind to them as well. 

However, THC does this a little too well and binds to CB1 receptors aggressively.  By over-activating CB1 receptors, THC makes the normal physiological functions they trigger feel more pronounced, andthis gives us the sensation of feeling high and euphoric.

There are only a few other phytocannabinoids that can activate CB1 receptors and trigger a high. However, they occur at much lower levels, and research is still out on their effects. CB1 receptors are predominantly found in the brain and trigger functions that can elevate our mood, affect motor control, lower our perception to pain, and inhibit gastrointestinal activity.

Because THC triggers these receptors to a higher degree than endocannabinoids can, THC has a stronger therapeutic effect on the body than a phytocannabinoid that doesn’t — like CBD.

​At the same time, this is what gives THC its classic side effects like paranoia and dry mouth. All things considered, THC ultimately doesn’t bind to CB1 receptors that well, unlike synthetic cannabinoids like K2/Spice which bind way more intensely, which is why people can overdose from synthetic marijuana, but can’t with naturally produced THC.  

The Pros and Cons of THC

The biggest pro of THC is its biggest negative, and that’s the high and side effects it causes. While it can provide a greater degree of help for many medical conditions, there is concern about its effects on the brain, especially, adolescent brains


  • Therapeutically stronger and particularly great for pain, low appetite, and insomnia
  • Small amounts can greatly improve CBD-based products without causing a high
  • Large amounts cause a high that many enjoy  


  • Psychoactive / Intoxicating
  • Laws are more restrictive/illegal in most places
  • Stronger side effects like anxiety, paranoia, and hunger
  • May interfere with brain development
  • THC metabolites are what drug tests look for to confirm a positive for marijuana  

How CBD Affects the Body

Unlike THC, CBD does not activate CB1 receptors in any significant way so it can’t cause a high. In fact, it appears CBD can’t even directly activate the other cannabinoid receptor, CB2. However, CBD is the phytocannabinoid that builds up natural endocannabinoid levels by temporarily binding and inhibiting FAAH enzymes, which stops them from recycling anandamide.

This helps trigger the same receptors that THC does, so we get similar therapeutic effects from CBD. However, they don’t feel as pronounced. Now, strangely enough, CBD can bind to the same receptors endocannabinoids can that are found outside the ECS like serotonin 5-HT1A receptors and TRPV1 receptors — THC cannot do this. Both of these receptors modulate anxiety, pain perception, appetite and sleep.

Research indicates that CBD always activates non-cannabinoid receptors to the same or less degree as endocannabinoids, so CBD effects remain intangible even if your mood improves after taking it.

For example, let’s say we’re feeling abnormally anxious. By activating these receptors CBD can lower our anxiety, making it feel much more manageable. If we aren’t feeling anxious, and the receptors are activated, we may feel happier and stronger, similar to how exercising can elevate the mood.

Exercising directly increases anandamide levels just like CBD, and we now believe they are responsible for the phenomenon aptly called runner’s high, and we even call anandamide the bliss molecule because of this.

Can CBD Improve Your Health?

Since CBD is only replicating natural physiological functions in the body among a similar pharmacology path as endocannabinoids, it has varying degrees of effectiveness where it can really help one person, but do little to nothing for another.   

Research is showing that ​the degree CBD can help you, likely depends on if you have an endocannabinoid deficiency which it may be very beneficial for.

Director of Research and Development of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute, Dr. Ethan Russo, has spent decades researching phytocannabinoids’ ability to help with an endocannabinoid deficiency and how it can have a big impact on our health.  In his most 2016 study, Dr. Russo explains how an endocannabinoid system can lead to poor health across the body.

If endocannabinoid function were decreased, it follows that a lowered pain threshold would be operative, along with derangements of digestion, mood, and sleep among the almost universal physiological systems subserved by the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The Prod and Cons of CBD

The biggest advantages to CBD is that it doesn’t make you high, and it appears safe for children where THC is questionable. But if you’re an adult and don’t mind the high from THC, you may find CBD doesn’t help anywhere near to the same extent depending on your medical condition.


  • Non-intoxicating; won’t create a high
  • More natural physiological effects
  • Can help correct endocannabinoid deficiency
  • Better than THC for inflammation, anxiety and controlling appetite  
  • Legal in more places
  • Milder side effects compared to THC
  • Not tested for on drug tests


  • In most cases, it’s not as therapeutically potent as THC
  • Can still cause side effects such as liver enzyme inhibition

How THC and CBD Affect Each Other

Most phytocannabinoids have unique effects allowing them to interact with each other just as much as they do with the endocannabinoids and the receptors in our body. We call this the entourage effect, and as we are coming to find out, the way phytocannabinoids interact with each other gives us much better results than isolating them.

When THC is isolated from all the other phytocannabinoids, a lot of people will experience paranoia, feel too high and the high generally feels uneven. When CBD is isolated, people find the effects can be one-dimensional requiring them take a higher dose than they would compared to CBD that includes the other phytocannabinoids and terpenes.  

When THC and CBD are taken together, they actually duke it out a bit in the body and change how the other affects us. When taken alone, THC can bind to CB1 receptors too aggressively, creating unpleasant sensations such as paranoia, dry mouth and insatiable appetite.

CBD can directly counteract that by binding to a different location on CB1 receptors than THC, changing the receptors’ shape weakening THC’s ability to attach. The more CBD there is to THC, the less THC can activate CB1 receptors reducing its ability to cause people to feel “high”.

This means you can have THC in a CBD product without it causing a high. In fact, many experts now say you want THC in CBD oil because low amounts can still reduce pain, muscle convulsions, etc. in ways other cannabinoids can’t. One of those experts is neuroscientist Nick Jikomes, who explored the topic in “We Asked a Scientist: What’s the Right Dose of CBD?”

While THC and CBD have different pharmacological properties, they can both have similar physiological effects, probably acting through different mechanisms. For instance, both compounds can have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects; they may act through different mechanisms, so having THC and CBD could potentially enhance an outcome surrounding pain relief.

THC vs CBD: Legality

When it comes to the legality of a cannabis product, the amount of THC it has is becoming the main distinction into whether the product is governed by more restrictive marijuana laws or less restrictive industrial hemp laws.

For example, as of 2018, The United States defines “marihuana” as any cannabis plant with over 0.3% THC. When it has 0.3% or less, it’s defined as industrial hemp meaning it legal federally and any state can allow the sale of CBD if they choose.

While some states have legalized marijuana, it’s still considered illegal federally. Some places still consider CBD marijuana, but since CBD can’t get you high, laws are changing pretty fast make it legal.

How THC and CBD Define the Different Forms of Cannabis

Above, we mentioned that the biggest distinction between the different categories of cannabis is the amount of THC to CBD they contain. The terminology is fairly wonky, and cannabis plants have been so interbred that it can be challenging to determine the correct taxonomy of a cannabis str​​ain.

Plus, research is showing that terpenes and other cannabinoids are playing a bigger role in the different effects we feel from strains than we initially thought, but let’s save that for another day.

Fortunately, correctly classifying all of the different forms of cannabis is making a comeback due to pressure from consumers and the law. This makes choosing the right cannabis strain for you much easier than in the past.  


Wax, shatter, dabs, honey, butane hash oil and THC crystals all fall under this category and can easily contain four times more THC than our next highest form down below.

THC concentrations and isolates are only recommended for experienced users looking for the biggest highs because even they will often face the consequences of high THC.Depending on the extraction process, high THC concentrates may also be high in other phytocannabinoids and terpenes.


Stains and products ranging between 15-30% THC and 0-3% CBD are considered your classic marijuana and are most often used recreationally. However, depending on your medical condition and feelings about getting high, they can be fantastic medical strains.


When a cannabis strain has its THC and CBD ratio at or near the same amount, most people will consider it a strain better suited for medical use. There is enough CBD to greatly counteract much of THC’s ability to produce adverse side effects but still experience a notable high and some euphoria.


These strains can be labeled as both marijuana or hemp, depending on how much THC is present. When a cannabis plant is unable to cause the euphoric high due to low THC amounts, most people will consider it a hemp strain, and this usually happens when it contains around 1-5% THC, but most places still legally consider it marijuana.


In the U.S., when a cannabis plant contains only traces of THC—0.3% or less—cannabis plants are legally defined as industrial hemp and not marijuana. These are the plants where most legalCBD oil and other CBD products come from as they don’t have enough THC to get high no matter how much you take.


These products contain only cannabidiol (CBD) at concentrations of 90% and above with no other cannabinoid or terpene in sight. This is the form that was approved by the FDA in 2018, but it’s not the most common form of CBD oil by a good margin. On its own CBD effects are one-dimensional and quirky where it might help with anxiety but do nothing for pain and vice-versa. As well, dosing works on a bell curve, meaning you can overshoot your dosage for diminishing results.

Conclusion: Which is Better THC or CBD?

In truth, one isn’t better than the other, and it comes down to what you prefer. For the most part, despite taking different pharmacology routes in the body, THC and CBD have fairly similar physiological effects. 

THC is much stronger therapeutically, but it makes you high and has more side effects.  

All-and-all, most people will want to avoid just taking a high THC concentrate or CBD isolate, and instead should look for a cannabis product that includes both.

If you’re not sure which THC/CBD ratio is right for you, we have a great experiment you can try.  Grab both a full spectrum CBD product (meaning it has all phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and traces of THC), as well as, a high THC concentrate/isolate. 

You can use the THC concentrate or isolate to change the ratio of THC to CBD you take at a given time. It takes a little math, but not much, and we have a nice little article to help you out. 

​This is the easiest way to find your preferred ratio without buying several different products, and it gives you so much more control over your desired effects.  If you already know you like high THC to CBD ratios, this experiment can still benefit you. 

Taking CBD an hour before you take THC may help lock THC within the blood-brain barrier causing it to activate CB1 receptors for longer periods of time so you’ll experience a longer high. We know a lot of our readers will love that, and so do we, so go experiment, and leave us a comment on what you’re preferred THC/CBD ratio is and why.

The Differences Between Winterized and Distillate Cannabis Oil

Cannabis oil is often viewed as the most versatile cannabis plant byproduct. It represents much of what the cannabis culture is today. But have you ever wondered how is it’s possible to get such a clear, pure oil from this plant?

Most companies use two very common methods to refine oil that has been extracted from the cannabis plant through our cutting edge CO2 Extraction technology: Winterization and Distillation. These methods create an oil of superior quality, allowing them to produce the purest oil for our consumers.

The visual differences between the distillate and winterized cannabis oil.
(Distillate to the left: With a more clear and bright oil color / Winterized to the right: With a translucent amber color)

Winterization and Distillation

It’s important to note that extraction and refinement are two different processes and they are done in very different ways. The refinement process is done after an initial extraction procedure using Supercritical CO2.

The winterization process involves putting the raw cannabis extract through an alcohol wash that filters some of the undesirable materials. The raw extract is immersed in the alcohol, where it is then frozen, hence its name. This process separates the cannabinoids from other compounds like terpenes and wastes such as waxes, lipids, and plant chlorophyll. This process creates a superior oil, reaching the rate of up to 65% potency.

The non-removal of the lipids may negatively affect the final product. As fats lower the purity of the cannabinoid and may cause the distillate to become less transparent, their presence will damage the final result. Also, when used in vape cartridges, the oil can get burnt. The amount of fats in the final product may vary depending on the extraction method used and the type of refinement applied to it.

Distillation: this method occurs through a process called “short path distillation”, which separates and refines valuable molecules, as well as contaminants, resulting in a clean and practically transparent concentrate. In comparison with other refinement means, the distillate is in a level above because it obtains a pure oil of very high potency. Most companies produce CBD and THC distillates with 75-85% potency, in addition to the ultra-premium THC distillate oils that can reach up to 90% potency.

You may be wondering why the distillation method creates such high potency cannabis oils. This is because the boiling points of cannabinoids are very high, causing manufacturers to distill at lower temperatures than in other molecular distillation processes. Cannabis distillates, however, are created using a short path distillation technique that differs from a typical solvent extraction. Heat vaporizes the cannabinoids, which is then transferred to a cooling system for consolidation and eventual collection into beakers. This process is repeated over and over again to create pure cannabinoids without chlorophyll, plant matter, or residual solvents.

It’s important to note that after obtaining a solvent-free oil through a CO2 extraction and a winterization or distillation refinement, most of the terpene properties are lost, but they can be re-introduced later by the manufacturer.

The terpenes have peculiars smell and taste when compared to cannabinoids, and when it’s combined with other compounds of the plant, it may result in different tastes, smells, and effects. Besides that, the terpenes control how the THC levels react in the human body. You can learn more about them here!


In the end, the importance shouldn’t be placed on which method was used to refine it, but in whether it was done correctly and if it is of good quality.

When choosing products made with distillate or winterized oil, you should be aware that these products might be more concentrated, thus having a greater effect on the user.  Always remember to consult a doctor before consuming any medicinal product in order to determine the best product for your condition, as well as to obtain information regarding the correct dosage and strength required.

MrTerps Releases Hemp CuTT Liquidizer & Diluent for eLiquid eJuice, CBD, and Distillate

Brand new for the summer 2019 MrTerps is back and has introduced the best liquifier/emulsifier on the market to perfectly blend extracts, and waxes. A leading terpene supplier, MrTerps is enhancing the terpene experience with a terpene-derived natural companion. MrTerps is releasing a premium extract diluting solution, Hemp CuTT. The liquefier is crystal clear, flavorless, and odorless, meant to carry and stabilize extract. Hemp CuTT is a natural clear cut stabilizer and is perfect for MrTerps all natural Terpenes. Derived from hemp ingredients, Hemp CuTT is 100% Natural and Derived from a proprietary Blend of Terpenes.

There are two versions of Hemp CuTT. The first, Hemp CuTT is a solution for designed to thin all extracts. When using wax, Hemp CuTT is perfect solution for liquidizing a solid into a manageable oil. Hemp CuTT will turn any wax into vape juice, ejuice, or e-liquid. The second, Hemp CuTT EX, is a thicker version of the original, completely all natural, and best suited for thicken any liquid or additive. EX is perfect for cartridges and more. Both are proprietary blends of natural extracts and terpenes without propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), or Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT). Both Hemp CuTT and Hemp CuTT EX are flavorless and can be used for any flavor or odor extracts.

The solution is meant for mixing. To use, combine with extracts for a perfectly smooth finish, and no need to add any emulsifiers. Hemp CuTT can be used with shatter, isolate, herbal wax, oil, rosin, butters, other 420 products, and more. Hemp CuTT won’t separate like other cheap fillers and is without additives to create the smoothest possible vape experience. Hemp CuTT is a perfect stabilizer for all of your extracts. It can be used to turn your favorite goods into oil concentrates for a seamless vapable e-liquid experience.

Hemp CuTT is the purest, simplest, cleanest, and easiest dilutant to turn a variety of waxes, oils, and concentrates into a suspension. It creates a custom vaping or smoking experience and is the perfect emulsifying agent. The terpene blend is flavorless and colorless, and can be used for even consistency, maximum absorption and custom emulsifying. These marajuana terpenes are THC and CBD free.

All of Hemp CuTT’s hemp derived ingredients are perfect companions to your favorite MrTerps terpenes such as cali red ak, girl scout cookies, blue dream, lemon crush, fruity pebbles, and other terpenes. As always, MrTerps terpenes are whole plant extracted premium cannabis terpenes. Whether your favorite method is in a vape pod, vape pen, box mod, or squonk, Hemp CuTT and Hemp CuTT EX is the best clear liquid emulsifying agent available for perfect viscosity every time. Hemp CuTT is a must have for any kind of cartridge making or e liquid smoking and vaping experience.

Hemp CuTT is an all-natural extract dilution solution with no inorganic materials. Hemp CuTT contains NO propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), or Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT). To purchase or for more information, check out and

CBD May Be All The Rage, But Cannabis Terpenes Are About To Hit Big

In a period of just five scant years, cannabis has gone from the frequently maligned status of stoner counterculture to a Kardashian-level social phenomenon. Popularity of the plant has eclipsed even the most avid marijuana supporters’ expectations. That success has had a lot to do with many decades of activists fighting for legalization state by state, combined with powerful political interests in America taking a can’t-beat-em-join-em approach to the popular substance. There are enormous profits to be made in weed and corporations are ready to do what they do best — acquire it, scale it, and mass distribute it into every CVS, Starbucks and Walmart on the planet.

The principal event that’s affected the greatest change to date in the American cannabis industry occurred last December with the federal legalization of hemp (the non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana) passing with the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. That bill effectively sounded the starting gun for legal, hemp-derived cannabis products to be sold across the country starting in January of this year. The trendy cannabis compound CBD (short for cannabidiol) has been the biggest hit so far of the cannabis renaissance, showing up seemingly everywhere at once. A recent estimate reckons the collective market for CBD sales in the U.S. should surpass $20 billion by 2024. That stratospheric number shouldn’t really come as a big surprise, as CBD is currently an ingredient in a variety of goods, including sleep aids, face creams, energy drinks and pet products.

Now another floral star is about to hit the scene hard: cannabis terpenes.

The essential oils present in the cannabis plant — and in fact in all plants — terpenes are like the hardworking herbal roadies to the cannabis flower rock-star. Laboring behind the scenes, terpenes give cannabis its distinctive aromatic and flavor qualities, as well as imparting a host of therapeutic effects. Cannabis terpenes like linalool (also present in lavender) and pinene (in conifers) have been used to promote sleep and fight inflammation. Studies by the National Institutes of Health have also shown the terpene duo can produce an antidepressant-like effect.

A Mass-Market Appeal

For years, devoted cannabis consumers have been aware of cannabis’s therapeutic benefit, but it’s only recently that the idea of these hidden properties has truly penetrated popular American culture. One high-profile example this year was Kim Kardashian West’s baby shower. The company True Terpenes — creators of terpene products including lotions, make-up, chocolates and candles — was hired to provide guests with terpene-infused teas for the “CBD and Meditation”-themed celebration.

“It’s fun to see a family like the Kardashian’s with such a large audience helping to educate the world about CBD and terpenes,” True Terpenes COO David Mclean told Yahoo Finance.

Recently, at a bar called the Sidecar in San Luis Obispo, cocktails were being shaken up with cannabis terpenes provided by Golden Apple Cannabis Co. Sidecar’s creations have included new cocktails using myrcene and limonene — compounds also found naturally in citrus, basil, and hops — inventing mixtures from the wide spectrum of tastes available in cannabis terpenes.


“It’s a tool that a lot of bartenders have never had at their disposal,” says Sidecar owner Josh Christensen. “You’re messing with things at a molecular level. It’s kind of fun. It creates a situation where we have kind of unlimited possibilities.”

Then there’s the company Mr Terps that’s creating terpene mixtures that mimic the properties and flavors of cannabis without using any marijuana at all. “Our strain profiles are developed without using any ingredients derived from cannabis,” CEO Alec Riffle told Leafly. “Instead, we work with non-cannabis botanically derived terpene isolates, essential oils, and flavorings to recreate a strain’s terpene profile from scratch.”

New Terpene Tech

And then, of course, there’s the psychoactive market, which is a mammoth industry also looking to optimize the enjoyment of terpenes. Products are coming online that specifically cater to consumers looking to make the most of marijuana’s psychoactive lift, taste and terpene effect. A new product that’s just debuting this week is the Pulsar Rök, a portable, electronic water pipe that is a technological leap forward for concentrate lovers. The Rök allows consumers to more efficiently capture the wide spectrum of terpene flavors available in cannabis. Its coil-less quartz cup atomizer offers precise temperature control, preventing contact with an actual heating element, and ensures peak vaporization and optimized flavor.

The new Pulsar Rök electronic water pipe is an oil rig that enhances the flavor profiles in cannabis.

The new Pulsar Rök electronic water pipe is an oil rig that enhances the flavor profiles in cannabis. COURTESY OF PULSAR RÖK /AFG DISTRIBUTION.

“The Rök opens up the ability to experience premium innovation and taste the finer properties of your exquisite concentrates and open up their full flavor profile,” says Marketing Manager Bennett Dickert from AFG Distribution, makers of Pulsar products.

The Rök is a creation of AFG’s close attention to consumer input, utilizing valuable feedback from a variety of sources — influencers, smoke shop owners, forums and social media — to create the unique electronic oil rig. The result is a new device delivering top terpene enjoyment to an ever-expanding cannabis concentrate consumer base.

“We listened to the people and we created a product for the people,” says Dickert.

Rise of the Terpenes

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. 

SEE ALSO: How to find the best temperature for your high-tech weed vape

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. 

“My grandmother has no interest in Skunk No. 1.” 

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 geneticsand hasanalyzed 5,000 cannabis plants to study terpenes and genetic markers.

Cannabis gets a trim at a Flowr facility.
Cannabis gets a trim at a Flowr facility.

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. Generallylinalool, 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.

“I like to refer to it as the Jurassic Park principle.”

“It’s synergism,” says Mark Lewis, founder and president of NaPro Research in CaliforniaHe compares a single terpene or a singlecannabinoid, 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.

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? 

Yofumo plans to release smaller units for consumers next year. As of know they focus on commercial clients.
Yofumo plans to release smaller units for consumers next year. As of know they focus on commercial clients.

He starts with scrutinizing what makes up the flavor of chicken and waffles — the herbs you use, the buttery crunch of the bready exterior, the syrupy sweetness — and then replicates that as best as he can through chemical means. 

“Once you understand the creation and how this works, it really does open itself up to you,” Edwards says. “I like to refer to it as the Jurassic Park principle.”

Edwards has had his share of duds in the past, but those failures have helped fine-tune the curing process.

“I’ve personally consumed an amount of cannabis that is extraordinarily unpleasant,” Edwards says.  “I’ve had results that are similar to orange dish detergent just as often as I’ve had them be similar to orange fruit.” 

Yofumo customers work with flower as well as oil, but it’s the expanding vape and oil market that has added an extra boost to terpene’s rise. (The strength of terpene’s impact in flower versus oil can differ because of a variety of factors, including the types of terpenes used, their source — cannabis or another botanical, synthetic or natural — and the ratio of cannabinoids to terpenes.)

Yofumo sells terpene formulas to clients to use in their curing units.
Yofumo sells terpene formulas to clients to use in their curing units.

LucidMood adds terpenes from other botanicals to enhance cannabis oil for its vapes. 

The Colorado company removes the jargon from the equation, naming vape pens based on the desired effect, including Energy, Calm, and Relief. Each contains roughly 40 percent THC, 40 percent CBD, and 20 percent terpenes. LucidMood is focused on new users, not the seasoned dabber. “It’s for the person who doesn’t have a Ph.D. in cannabis,” Tristan Watkins, LucidMood’s chief science officer, quips. 

“The more that we learn about these, the more we can control.”

Calm includes geraniol, a terpene that smells like roses. LucidMood names its pens based on focus group studies in which the first group gets pens with terpenes and a second does not. By having a control group, LucidMood can show that terpenes were behind certain biological effects felt by the first group. 

“The more that we learn about these, the more we can control,” Watkins, who has a Ph.D. in neurology, says.

There is a divide among terpene researchers, though. Purists believe terpenes should come from the cannabis plant, not an additive. There are also those who don’t want their marijuana’s flavor messed with at all.

“Consumers should be asking for a product that’s 100-percent cannabis,” Flowr’s Henry says. “The ones that are really 100-percent cannabis are going to catch a premium sliver of the market.”

LucidMood's "lifestyle" collection of pens include Chill and Energy.
LucidMood’s “lifestyle” collection of pens include Chill and Energy.

As marijuana legalization spreads in the U.S., each state has its own regulations, from who can buy to requiring mold checks. At least two U.S. states, Nevada and New Mexico, mandate terpene testing. 

Now, what about weed you eat? If terpenes bring flavor and aroma, are they being used in edibles? Not so much. Edibles tend to use distillates, a form of THC that is supposed to be void of taste, or cannabutter, which is butter infused with cannabis that provides a strong, euphoric high.

Periodic Edibles uses terpenes in their caramels, but for the effect, not the taste. 

“We’re actually limited on how high we can go with the dosage because of the flavor that they add,” says the Oregon company’s founder, Wayne Schwind. If Schwind adds limonene to give a burst of energy, he doesn’t want the lemon flavor to overwhelm the caramel. 

Periodic Edibles current packaging that lists terpenes.
Periodic Edibles current packaging that lists terpenes.
Periodic Edibles caramels will get a packaging makeover in 2019, but the terpene content will still be listed.
Periodic Edibles caramels will get a packaging makeover in 2019, but the terpene content will still be listed.

Periodic Edibles started listing terpene profiles on their packaging a few months ago. Schwind says budtenders, the people who sell weed at dispensaries, love it, but buyers are sometimes confused. Many don’t know what terpenes are, but that may change over time. 

Multiple brewing companies have also been adding cannabis-derived terpenes to their beer. Devour Brewing Co. in Florida uses cannabis terpenes to add lemon, pine, and earthy flavors to its Florida Thunder IPA, and Lagunitas, a California brand owned by Heineken, adds them to its SuperCritical Ale. Prank, a Los Angeles bar, mixes terpenes in cocktails

The terpene innovators like Mr Terps may disagree on what’s best, but they concur that discerning customers will be key. Those seeking high-quality products, the craft beer drinkers of weed, if you will, are the target market for terpene experimentation.

“It’s not a big thing now, but I think that return to quality is going to explode,” says Yofumo founder Alfonso Campalans. “It’s really the only way the small and middle producer is going to compete.”