Cannabis flowers or products of cannabis have one thing in common: they’re pungent. That wafting smell of pot is due to the compound called “terpenes.” These scent-carrying compounds naturally grow on almost all plants, including cannabis.
Cannabis companies all over the US are infusing custom terpene formulas into vaping oils, topicals, and edibles to enhance their flavor, smell, and therapeutic profiles. The only problem—extracting terpenes from cannabis can be costly. So, brands use plant-based (botanical) terpenes instead of cannabis-derived terpenes.
This is where the debate on terpene source comes in —cannabis terpenes or botanical terpenes?
Find out the better option as you keep reading.
What is the Difference Between Botanical Terpenes and Cannabis-derived Terpenes?
Source is the main difference between botanical-derived terpenes (BDT) and cannabis-derived terpenes (CDT). Botanical terpenes are taken from plants other than cannabis, while cannabis-derived terpenes are sourced from cannabis plants.
There are unique features associated with BDT and CDT. For example, botanical terpenes have greater variation in smell and flavor and are cheap. However, when it comes to cannabis product infusions, there is a lot of room for trial and error since botanical terpenes don’t naturally occur in cannabis plants.
Meanwhile, cannabis terpenes are more suited to cannabis products. Some consumers find cannabis terpenes to have a naturally enhancing effect on the cannabis experience.
Regarding legality, cannabis terpenes are governed by several legal and regulatory structures since it’s a compound taken from “marijuana.” On the other hand, botanical terpenes are legal in all states and can be purchased anywhere.
Get in-depth about botanical and cannabis terpenes and how each can influence your cannabis experience in the next sections.
|📝 Take Note
Plants and fruits, including cannabis, have unique sets of terpenes. For example, orange consists of terpenes a-pinene, camphene, sabinene, b-pinene, myrcene, d-3-carene, d-limonene, etc. Meanwhile, the dominant terpenes in the cannabis strain Durban Poison are Terpinolene, Beta-Myrcene, and D-Limonene.
What Are Terpenes?
Individual terpenes are similar at a molecular level, whether sourced from cannabis, fruits, or other plant sources. For example, Limonene extracted from cannabis and orange is identical.
Terpene’s main effect is to delight the senses through its colors, scents, and flavor. Depending on the terpene, their effects are likened to aromatherapy, wherein you may feel energized, soothed, relieved, etc. Occasionally, terpenes may work with other molecules to enhance each other’s beneficial effects.
Some of the abundant and commercially utilized terpenes are:
- Limonene: obtained from the rinds of citrus fruits like lemons and has been extensively studied for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
- Linalool: extracted from lavender and commonly used before sleep
- Beta-caryophyllene: derived from cloves and black pepper and is reported to exert antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities
- Humulene: a terpene found in hops, cloves, and ginger, which may support inflammation relief from allergies
- Pinene: has a unique pine scent and is sourced from rosemary, basil, and other aromatic herbs
- Myrcene: a terpene derived from hops, thyme, lemongrass, etc.
|📝 Take Note
Aside from botanical and cannabis terpenes, there are lab-made compounds called synthetic terpenes. These artificially made terpenes mimic the effects of cannabis and any botanical terpenes.
Caution is advised among consumers of synthetic terpenes. The long-term effects of chemical residues from making synthetic terpenes are currently unknown.
What Are Cannabis-derived Terpenes?
Cannabis-derived terpenes are aromatics extracted from Cannabis Sativa. Not to be confused with cannabinoids, terpenes are responsible for the cannabis plants’ character. They give cannabis cultivars color, signature smell, and flavor.
Unlike Delta 8 or other THC analogs, terpenes can’t make you high, but they have other beneficial properties. Also, they contribute to how users experience cannabis, which experts call the “entourage effect.”
Purists insist that cannabis-derived terpenes smell and taste more authentic to cannabis than botanical terpenes. However, it’s possible to replicate this in some combinations of botanical terpenes.
Terpenes obtained from cannabis plants fall under the category of “marijuana.” Therefore, in some countries, cannabis-derived terpenes are considered illegal.
In some American states where recreational and medical marijuana is legal, the use and production of cannabis-derived terpenes are allowed.
What Are Botanically Derived Terpenes?
Non-cannabis terpenes or botanically derived terpenes are taken from various fruits, flowers, and plant sources besides cannabis. Most botanical terpenes are infused with essential oils, fragrances, and other aromatherapy products.
Cannabis terpenes might smell and taste authentic, but plant-based terpenes are more flavorful and aromatic.
From a manufacturer’s standpoint, extracting terpenes from botanicals is a dream. First, there is zero legal impediment, so growing, moving, and purchasing the plants are easy. Second, the terpene option from botanicals is wide. You could easily grow a particular set of terpenes and use it to formulate specific terpene combinations.
Also, some plants have higher concentrations of terpenes than cannabis, yielding more terpene extracts.
Botanical terpenes are fully legal in the States. Products like aromatherapy can be purchased anywhere in the country, from grocery stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores to commercial websites.
Is CDT better than BDT or Vice Versa?
Botanical terpenes are touted to be more scalable. Still, diehard purists would stand by cannabis-derived terpenes for quality sake.
High-concentration terpenes, which BDT offers, may be richer and more flavorful, but an overdo of its volume could ruin cannabis’s flavor profile. With controlled and safety-focused processes, it’s possible to craft cannabis products with suitable botanical terpene combinations.
Since each option has its merits and disadvantages, reassessing your immediate goal is a good place to start. What are your immediate concerns? Are you aiming for a good user experience, low-cost production, or differentiation?
After determining your goals, look at the pros and cons of CBD and BDT. Decide which option serves your goals the best.
Here’s a comparison table of CDT vs. BDT pros and cons:
|Taste and experience go naturally well with cannabis
|It may be illegal in some countries where marijuana is banned
|They have an intense taste and aroma that might make it less suitable as a terpene alternative
|Promotes the entourage effect
|Cost-production is expensive
|It can be bought in any state in the US
|Not naturally occurring in cannabis
|It may contain moisture that registers in vapes
|Costs less to produce
|Batches are widely different since botanical terpenes are taken from different sources
|Batches of terpene products may not be the same
|Similar to cannabis terpenes at a molecular level
The Legality of Cannabis-derived Terpenes
Before anything else, it’s vital to define cannabis, hemp, and marijuana. They may be referenced as one, but they’re not the same. Defining each is important to make the legal discussion below clearer.
There is confusion about the legality of cannabis-derived terpenes, mainly because no law explicitly says it’s illegal. However, one thing is sure: hemp-derived terpenes are legal, while marijuana-derived terpenes are not.
To define hemp from marijuana, it’s important to look at how the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and the Farm Bill describe them.
In CSA’s “marihuana” section, a part reads:
“[T]he term ‘marihuana’ means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin.”
Technically, “every compound” should include terpenes since it’s a naturally occurring compound in cannabis plants. So, as per CSA, terpenes derived from cannabis plants are illegal. However, the CSA didn’t include “hemp” in their description nor provided further details. This is where the 2018 Farm Bill comes in.
According to the Farm Bill or the Agriculture Act of 2018:
The term ‘hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.
Hemp and its extracts have been legalized at the federal level, but some states can choose to ban it.
Hence, you can conclude that terpenes derived from industrial hemp that don’t exceed the 0.3% THC threshold are deemed legal. On the other hand, terpenes taken from cannabis plants, specifically marijuana, exceeding the 0.3% THC limit may have some legality issues.
|💁 Related Article
Hemp-derived THC under 0.3% is legal under federal law. However, states have the freedom to enforce unique laws about cannabis and THC within their jurisdiction. Know whether your state allows the use of THC.
So far, there are zero reports on cannabis-derived terpene crackdown on the makers of the extract or its users.
Terpenes, botanical or cannabis-derived, is slowly becoming a staple ingredient among cannabis products. Manufacturers and consumers alike are starting to realize the importance of cannabis in enhancing the experience.
There is pressure among brands to provide a steady stream of quality cannabis products while maintaining their affordability. For some, sourcing terpenes from plants other than cannabis seems to be the answer. Other manufacturers prefer to enhance their products with the real thing (cannabis-derived terpenes).