When I first learned about terpenes, it was from another Chef who lived in California. He was talking about these magical compounds found in cannabis that were responsible for its beautiful aroma and flavors. It was so intriguing to learn that terpenes were not only found in cannabis but also plants, herbs and fruits. When this chef told me this was the real future of culinary cannabis, I knew this was something I wanted to dive into head first. Fast-forward a year later and my connection with Lab Effects out of Colorado has opened the door to the research and development of recipes using terpenes with cbd & thc for the purpose of health and wellness.
What are Terpenes? The Wikipedia definition says; are a large and diverse class of organic compounds, produced by a variety of plants, particularly conifers, and by some insects. They often have a strong odor and may protect the plants that produce them by deterring herbivores and by attracting predators and parasites of herbivores. Terpenes are responsible for the smell, taste and different effects we get when we use cannabis. We are taught through the retail industry that Indica means a heavy high which helps you sleep and Sativa is an energetic boost that is great for daytime use. The sad truth is that that isn’t true. Sativa & Indica refers to the growth pattern of the plant – Sativas originally grew in warmer climates producing long stringier buds & Indica plants grew in colder climates, producing tighter thicker flower buds. What makes us feel that energetic boost is when a strain is high in Limonene; a terpene commonly found in citrus fruits. Myrcene, which we find in mangoes, lemongrass and hops is what causes tiredness and increases the effects of THC & CBD. Typically, sativas were predominantly high in Limonene & indicas were predominantly high in Myrcene, however due to decades of cross-breeding strains, a majority of what we consume today are hybrids.
Each terpene has therapeutic effects and can be found in a wide range of fruits, herbs and plants. We use them in our household cleaning products (Pinene) and as essential oils for aromatherapy. When isolated they are extremely potent, like a perfume, only requiring a couple drops to use. They are fragile in the sense that they have evaporation points, and will be lost if they receive too much heat. This means that you must be strategic in how you incorporate into recipes.
Terpenes on their own do not cause any reaction in a person’s endocannabinoid system but when they are combined with other parts of the cannabis plant, including thc and cbd, we start to see an entourage effect. The Entourage Effect is a proposed mechanism by which cannabis compounds other than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) act synergistically with it to modulate the overall psychoactive effects of the plant. This is where things start to get exciting in regards to the culinary aspect. With today’s technology we can isolate thc, cbd and terpenes, allowing use to pinpoint where we add them into a recipe.
When you look for a recipe online on how to make an extraction at home, you are almost every time going to find a process saying to decarboxylate your cannabis first before adding it to your fat. Doing this will give you a higher yield in potency however the flavor and taste will be off. That is because when you decarb your flower first you burn a large majority of the terpenes away. This is why equipment like the Levo Machine and a Sous Vide are such great tools for making extractions; we can control the temperature of the entire process. Over the next couple of weeks I will break down each terpene and explain its traits and how it relates to our goal of proving cannabis as a super-food. The world of cannabis derived terpenes in food in vastly unexplored and the possibilities ahead could be a huge game changer.