How Terpene Research Can Inform Cannabis Brands
Nadav Eyal, CEO and co-founder of Eybna
Terpenes, the tiny chemical compounds that give aromatic plants their unique smell, are a growing topic of conversation in the cannabis industry. As the market continues to evolve and expand, new cannabis companies want to offer a targeted effect or solution to differentiate their brand and attract attention.
A growing volume of research on the functional applications of terpenes suggests that they hold the key to developing these tailored and effect-driven products. Read on for a few of the most important recent advances in terpene science and how they are beginning to advance the industry.
Effect-driven formulations and medical applications
Cannabis contains over 1,000 unique compounds. Around 250 of these are terpenes. However, not all 250 are present in each and every cannabis chemovar; many strains have their own unique terpene profile, which can affect its flavor and effects. By identifying, isolating, and naturally formulating these specific terpene profiles, scientists have begun to explore the variety of ways that terpenes can be engineered to create targeted and consistent effects, from anxiety relief to sleep enhancement and more.
One of the most promising recent applications of this new method was in the development of NT-VRL, a data-driven formulation of terpenes selected for their proven anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. The formulation, which was tested in combination with CBD in two validated biological in-vitro models, demonstrated potential for treating inflammatory conditions such as the deadly cytokine storm syndrome found in Covid-19 patients. In the end, NT-VRL combined with CBD proved twice as effective as CBD alone, and twice as effective as dexamethasone, a corticosteroid recommended by the World Health Organization to treat patients with severe Covid-19.
In March 2021, the formulation was further proven to exhibit an antiviral effect when pre-incubated with host cells prior to in-vitro human coronavirus infection. In fact, the combination of NT-VRL proved more effective than the positive antiviral controls pyrazofurin and glycyrrhizin.
This research is among the first to delve into the potential of terpenes as a tool to prevent and treat human viral infections; it opens the door to numerous other research opportunities into the medical applications of terpenes in a variety of contexts. And because the terpenes in NT-VRL are all botanically and naturally derived, this solution is not blockaded behind pharmaceutical red tape. Indeed, it is already being made available to consumers and product makers worldwide.
True-to-flower experiences in any form factor
The market for live resin extracts has grown rapidly in recent years, signaling an important shift in consumer preference. As cannabis industrializes, putting a plethora of processed and cured products on dispensary shelves, consumers are seeking out the authentic flavors and aromas of the fresh living plant.
The industry has generally understood that changes in terpene levels from the fresh plant to the final product contribute to this loss of authentic flavor. However, it is not until recently that extensive chemical analysis has shown exactly which terpenes are lost and in what quantities.
By sampling cannabis cultivars before harvest, at the peak point of harvest, and two weeks after harvest and curing, new research has pin-pointed the exact evolution of terpenes over time. It seems that two-weeks post-harvest, a significant drop in monoterpenes levels occurs, causing a relative increase in sesquiterpenes’ presence in the final dried and cured composition.
By mapping exactly how specific terpene levels change over time, this research empowers product makers to reproduce the cannabis experience at its aromatic peak across form factors, using terpene formulations customized to match the desired experience or flower of origin. In other words, this recent development in terpene science marks a big step toward ensuring cannabis products retain their freshness.
Setting new authenticity standards through genetic analysis
Peruse the shelves of any dispensary, and you are likely to find numerous products advertising characteristics like Diesel, Kush, and Skunk – legacy strains that are famous for their pungent odor and specific entourage effect. Yet with so many varieties on the market, the industry is lacking a standard to help define what stands behind these beloved notes.
This lack of a standard may seem like a secondary concern. However, with thousands of different products claiming specific characteristics, each with slight variations, the full intended experience of these legacy strains is being muddled. This is a problem for two main reasons. First, it dismisses the rich history of cannabis, which is a collective responsibility of the industry to preserve. And second, this lack of standard undercuts the consistency and reliability that brands owe all consumers in order to continue building trust.
Here, terpene science emerged as a solution to bring consumers back to an authentic and reliable cannabis experience. Eybna scientists focused on three legacy note types: Kush, Skunk, and Diesel. First, they tracked down the purest, most authentic cannabis landraces, traveling around the world and working with the original breeders behind these strains to identify an authentic sample. Then, the scientists performed extensive genetic analysis on these samples, mapping out the exact compounds that contribute to an authentic Kush, Skunk, or Diesel experience. What emerged was a set of verifiable, reproducible, and data-driven terpene profiles.
This kind of genetic analysis encapsulates the vast potential of terpene science to advance the cannabis industry and drive product innovation. Preserving consistency and authenticity as the industry continues to expand is vital for long term, sustainable success.
The role of terpenes in cannabis is still a young field of scientific inquiry and experimentation. With new research and data actively emerging, the cannabis industry is still scratching the surface of what these hundreds of different compounds are capable of. One thing, however, is abundantly clear: the future of cannabis is targeted, authentic, and data-driven health and wellness solutions.