Breeders continue to miss out on a lot by focusing on increasing THC content in cannabis plants instead of terpene profiling.
Many argue that the best thing about cannabis is THC, but I believe that the terpenes in this plant are king. Terpenes give plants their aroma and flavor, and like all consumables, people will hardly consume anything unless it smells good.
Close your eyes and imagine the scent of pine emanating from your last Christmas. If you’re finding it hard to remember, visit the nearest grocery store or farm and catch the whiffs of the ripe fruits that have just been harvested or stocked. It would do you wonders to capture the unforgettable fragrance of lavender or eucalyptus that hits you when you enter a salon or spa.
My point here is that aroma is directly linked to experiencing nature and the world at large. Any natural place or area you find yourself in has its unique smell. The scent given off in a location can boost your mood or put you off.
Aromas help solidify vital memories and also help remember these memories. For instance, whenever I catch a whiff of strawberries, I remember my late grandparents’ farm and the beautiful memories I made there with my siblings and cousins. No matter how faint the aroma is, it can instantly transport you to another location or period.
Terpenes are the astounding compounds responsible for producing these distinct aromas. Notable scientists worldwide have taken time to investigate these compounds and shed more light on their existence. Although the information available is still limited, it’s better than nothing.
A General Overview of Terpenes
Terpenes are available in most plants and trees, like lavender, oranges, roses, mint, and our favorite plant, cannabis. In the last decade, very little attention was directed at these compounds, whereas they occupy a crucial position.
In the cannabis ecosystem, terpenes play a direct role in cannabis’s acceptance within the human body. The first sense a consumer comes into contact with when holding cannabis is its aroma. All forms of cannabis, whether indica, sativa or hybrids, contain terpene compounds. These compounds determine how the entourage effect plays out. They are a key determinant of psychoactive and therapeutic cannabis effects. However, they’ve not been considered as much as they should be. To understand the interaction of cannabis compounds with receptors in the body, there has to be an in-depth understanding of the vital role terpenes play.
The cannabis industry needs to prioritize research of these compounds to improve the quality of their products.
The industry is now at a critical inflection point. By 2028, the global cannabis industry will be worth at least $70 billion. Before then, the industry has to come together to study the different compounds in the revered cannabis plant. Every actor in the industry, including the breeders, testers, cultivators, retailers, and consumers, needs to prioritize terpene research. They must also try to figure out the other important traits in cannabis plants that should be prioritized. THC and CBD are not the only important compounds in cannabis, and their study alone will not provide the ecosystem with the needed diversity.
Why Is Terpene Research Important?
The cannabis industry has a lot to lose if it continues to prioritize only THC and CBD studies instead of looking into the other vital compounds. The industry needs to clearly understand the unique compounds in all forms of cannabis plants.
For starters, cannabis testing labs can focus on extracting and investigating the most dominant terpenes. This would save the industry from missing out on tapping into hundreds of diversities. The less common terpenes can be considered as soon as more information has been gathered on dominant terpene compounds.
Regular cannabis consumers probably have no inkling or understanding of how the knowledge of terpene compounds could boost the breeding and testing niche in cannabis production lines. The absence of useful information has been detrimental to breeders. A majority of them do not understand why after-pains are formed in cannabis, as they cannot directly correlate this to genetics. Working with a few terpene profiles would show them better ways to improve cannabis genetics instead of focusing only on cannabinoids and their content levels.
Misconceptions About Cannabis Potency and Terpenes
The cannabis industry has several misconceptions related to the potency of cannabis products. In the last 10 to 20 years, many breeders have focused on creating products with high THC content rather than genetic diversity. Consumers believe that the “skunky” aroma of some cannabis strains indicates high THC levels. I’m afraid that’s not right. The intense skunky smell can be traced to sulfuric compounds present in the plant.
Proper terpene profiling would be a far more accurate way to get information about various induced effects. Breeders continue to miss out on a lot as the focus is on increasing THC content in cannabis plants. In contrast, they should be looking into the “champagne” of supreme powerhouse cannabis, which are the terpene compounds.
Taking Advantage of the Terpene Market
The parents give plants, fruits, spices, and flowers unique flavors and aromas. Some of the dominant terpenes include linalool, myrcene, pinene, and limonene.
The best thing for cannabis operators to do is to look into the prospect of creating diversity through terpenes. This would prevent cannabis from going through the same path as tomatoes. Tomatoes are a prime example of what happens when a traditional market focuses more on increasing yield than improving the flavor and aroma profiles. Tomatoes in the US are more or less the same genetically. There is little or no genetic diversity in the breeding process, and no industry wants that.
More information about the terpene profiles of cannabis plants will help breeders generate varying collections of cannabis genetics.
As an industry, breeders and other cannabis operators must decide to learn more about which dominant or less common terpenes produce the different aromas. Then breeders can take the next step by accessing these reports to grow genetically diverse plants with sufficient terpene levels. This is merely the surface of cannabis research. With successful alignments across the legal industry and a more intense focus on cannabis genetics inbreeding, expect to have dozens of newly-developed cannabis plants with brand-new fragrances.