As the cannabis industry continues to expand in Canada and the U.S., so does our understanding of its chemical composition. Each individual compound in the cannabis plant contributes to the aroma, flavor, effects, and overall consumption experience of every strain. 

These derived compounds, or cannabinoids, include some of our favorites such as THC and CBD. Although these two are the most common that we hear about, they’re only part of the hundreds of different cannabinoids produced by cannabis.

Among these, terpenes are also classified as cannabinoids.

Terpene Refresher

If you need a little refresher on what terpenes are, we’ve got you covered.

For many, the word terpene can sound odd or even foreign, but within the cannabis world that’s beginning to change. There’s much more to cannabis than the THC percentage. 

Terpenes are organic compounds that help to construct the aromas and flavors of certain “cultivars”. Traditionally, terpenes have been thought to only contribute to and enrich the aromatic and flavorful experience of cannabis. But more recently, some studies have suggested that terpene percentages can actually dictate the intensity of potency and smell in order to modify the effects of cannabinoids. 

An emergence of something called the “entourage effect” has started to gain more attention. This effect introduces a theory that therapeutic benefits are enhanced by an addition of cannabinoids and terpenes, in comparison with cannabinoids on their own.

Discovering Terpenes

Until recently, some of the only ways for consumers to find out about terpenes in concentrates, flower, or edibles was to check out retailer websites or to ask the grower through social media. 

Now as we see more and more brands displaying and labeling terpene content, the focus on terpenes is becoming more of a common “feature” of your product. This allows more experienced consumers to infer the advantages or benefits of a product with this information.

What consumers look for on the packaging

The practice of looking for the words Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid on the packaging is usually the norm for many when choosing a cannabis product. 

Leafly and other large cannabis groups have helped to deeply root these terms in mainstream cannabis society. They have slightly changed their stance recently,  stating that “as research opens up and we learn more about the cannabis plant, it turns out the chemical compounds in each strain—the cannabinoids and terpenes in it—determine the effects you’ll feel, not whether it’s an indica or sativa.”

In other words, within these three categories, there’s not much evidence suggesting that indicas and sativas show consistent patterns of certain chemical profiles that could make one more sedating or the other more uplifting.

Updated and accurate packaging information

Staying in the know is important when buying cannabis in Canada and the U.S.; knowing if your cannabis is coming from a certified producer, if the labs are testing properly, what is the content of the THC, CBD, and terpenes. This info makes a world of difference, not only for the average consumer but also for the more experienced users. 

The more transparency that exists, the better the relationship between the customer and the product will be. So, what are some labeling recommendations that can drive value for customers and clients? 

  • Showing completion of compliance testing (terpene batch testing).
  • Terpene dominance or top three to five terpene types found in the product. 
  • Downloadable or viewable online test results of terpene presence. 
  • Attributes, additional information (dependent on the state or country), along with flavors of the terpenes.
    • For example, in Canada, anything that is included on the label must comply with the Cannabis Act and its regulations. The United States faces a little more complicated set of rules depending on the state.
    • It should be noted that studies exist that aim to back the medical properties of terpenes in cannabis. Although these benefits are present, labeling positive effects or “influencing non-users” can be a tricky or illegal labeling subject.

Their favorite flavors and flavor profiles

Naturally, all of us are “flavor connoisseurs”. Whether we love the smell of flowers, fragrances, or cannabis products, what tends to agree with our noses will agree with our bodies. These flavor profiles for terpenes will let us better know what we’re getting into as well as lead to return visits of a specific strain.

Given that there are hundreds of terpenes alone found in cannabis, it’s hard to list them all on a label. Listing the top three to five terpenes found and their comparisons to other scents/flavors can help customers to pick out certain strains. For example, the terpene “Ocimene” smells sweet and “herbally” while “Myrcene” boasts fruity and woody flavors.

Terpene levels and percentages

Every person responds differently to cannabis. Adding too many terpenes to a vaporizer cartridge can negatively affect the flavor and make it harsher. Adding terpenes can amplify the effects of the cannabinoids―protecting from terpene overdosing (yes this can happen) and giving the customers what they are getting by providing accurate lab testing is huge.

How cannabis brands can adapt to consumer preference

Terpene labeling acts as a huge source of information for retailers, budtenders and customers. Labeling terpenes brings a lot more cannabis-related education to the table for everyone outside of the production facility. When consumers enter a cannabis retailer or order online, they should be able to see what’s in the product and make an educated purchase.

Terpene label profiles

The cannabis industry can learn a thing about packaging from the food and beverage industry and their ingredient lists. This “Sour Dream” strain grown by Morning Sun Farms shows a dense flavor and cannabinoid profile on their products. Along with a displayed batch number an expiration date accompanies this to be as transparent with consumers as possible.

Since terpenes are volatile compounds, they have a trend of evaporating over time. The processes of growing and harvesting can change the levels of terpenes. In turn, creating labels with unknown claims about terpene levels or percentages can turn into misinformation.

More transparency and showing off flavors

Although Canada and most U.S. states don’t require terpene testing, they can be vital when tailoring to recreational and therapeutic cannabis treatments.

Lazy Bee

More and more cannabis LPs and flavor labs have begun to show off dominant terpene flavors within strains. Lazy Bee Gardens, and Korova Cannabis have been boasting their terpene flavors in their dry herbs, concentrates, and cartridges on social media for quite a while now.

Even places that offer a more “deli-style” system are able to give out smell tests of flower and concentrate before purchase―building sales through smelling and educating about specific terpene flavors before buying has become more popular over time. Just as some consumers like to know what their wine smells like before buying, cannabis retailers should be able to allow consumers to find out whether their nose gets along well with the flower before they purchase.

Labeling cannabis products can be complex and lab testing for terpenes isn’t a perfect science. With the continued popularization of a terpene culture, it will only continue to advance our technology and understanding of how our bodies react to them.

Last Updated on August 25, 2021 by ADCANN

Liam Placek

Liam Placek

Multi-Disciplinary Copywriter versed in long-form blogs and articles. Research nerd and craft cultivator. Practiced social media manager with an eye for creating strong connections within the public.