Why terpenes in cannabis food and beverage development are a crucial ingredient for a successful product
As food and beverage product developers, The Vivid Team consistently works with the two main active compounds found in Cannabis, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). These cannabinoids provide therapeutic uses for a wide range of conditions including, chronic pain, vomiting, anorexia, glaucoma, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders, just to name a few. However, the positive effects of cannabis in foods and beverages doesn’t end with cannabinoids. Cannabis strains are also packed with over 100 different types of terpenes. Terpenes are an incredibly diverse group of chemical compounds which are synthesized in the resin glands of cannabis flowers. Terpenes in food make your food taste better while also enhancing the nutritional value and boosting therapeutic benefits. They are used mostly as flavoring agents or for their aromatic qualities and are added to many food and beverage products to further enhance the innate qualities already present.
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes, also known as isoprenoids, are highly aromatic compounds that determine the smell of many plants and herbs, such as mint and basil. They are lipophilic compounds meaning they easily dissolve in fats, oils and lipids. Being quick to dissolve means they easily cross membranes and the blood-brain barrier. This same class of compounds includes vitamins like A, E and K, as well as some coenzymes, such as coenzyme Q10. They are mostly found in plants but larger classes of terpenes such as sterols and squalene can be found in animals.
You can think of terpenes as the flavor and fragrance molecules of cannabis. Aromatic compounds that give each cannabis strain its distinct fragrance and flavor, like how Trainwreck smells like sweet lemons and pine, or how Strawberry Cough gives off more of a strong smell of fresh strawberries. “What makes terpenes important to food scientists is that we can utilize this class of compounds to enhance the smell and taste of foods and beverages while simultaneously increasing the restorative and medicinal qualities of consumer products.” says The Vivid Team CEO, Jessica Cristadoro.” The combination of flavor, aroma and therapeutic functionality all come together.”
Every cannabis strain possesses a unique terpene profile made up of varying percentages of different molecules. Common terpenes include Pinene, Linalool and Myrcene.
Pinene is what gives pine needles their distinctive smell. Outside of cannabis, pinene is found in rosemary, basil, parsley, and hops. Strain Suggestions for high piene content include Blue Dream, Jack Herer, and most strains with a Kush lineage.
Food Pairing Suggestions: Pinene works well with robust, hardy herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano. This flavor profile is an excellent addition to meat dishes, like a steak or a roast chicken. Baked or roasted potatoes would also work well with a-pinene infused butter.
Linalool is a terpene mostly associated with lavender and more floral spices. It’s a major terpene in mint, lemon balm, and some citrus flavors. Strain Suggestions for high linalool content include LA Confidential, Lavender, Master Kush, and Amnesia Haze.
Food Pairing Suggestions: Lavender pairs very well with desserts, and lemon based dishes. Foods like a lemon tart with lavender undertones or lavender-infused cookies would work well.
Myrcene is the most commonly found terpene in cannabis accounting for as much as 65 percent of the total terpene profile in some cannabis strains. It has an earthy scent that pairs wonderfully in foods that have an interplay between sweet and savory flavors. Myrcene is commonly associated with mangos, thyme, bay leaves, basil, and verbena. Strain Suggestions for myrcene content include Pink Kush, Jack Herer, and Himalayan Gold.
Food Pairing Suggestions: A myrcene-rich strain would work exceptionally well within a curry or salsa because of the ability to play to both sweet and savory flavors. Something like a mango salsa, which works well as a topping on fish and many Asian-inspired rice dishes would be a great dish to infuse with myrcene.
The Entourage Effect
In a 1998 study, researchers, Shimon Ben-Shabat, Ph.D. and Raphael Mechoulam, Ph.D., noticed that botanical drugs were often more efficacious than their isolated components. The term they coined to explain this relationship was “The entourage effect”. Essentially what this means is specific healing and therapeutic properties within cannabinoids are enhanced when combined with the essential oils and the distinctive aromas and flavors found in terpenes. A synergistic effect is achieved when the dozens of phytochemicals present in the cannabis plant interact producing a stronger therapeutic effect than any one of the isolated compounds alone.
Traditionally most studies have centered around the interactions between the compounds THC and CBD, however more recent research now indicates the positive role terpenes have in creating a more robust entourage effect. Terpenes offer possible enhanced medicinal value in that they regulate the interaction with the therapeutic cannabinoids in edibles. “This is encouraging for food scientists as this means enhancing food and beverages with THC and CBD as well as different terpene extracts and blends can lead to “superfoods” which will be that much more beneficial to the health and well being of consumers.” says Cristadoro.
The ViViD Team and The Werc Shop
The Vivid Team partners with The Werc Shop, a leader in cannabis terpenes science as their exclusive Colorado representative. The Werc Shop provides patented technology known as a True To Plant™ profile which maintains the original terpene signature of specific strains while using food grade ingredients. With this technology it is possible to eliminate the batch to batch variation that is associated with the cultivation of cannabis and ensure a consistent flavor and effect of the consumer product.
“Our ongoing collaboration with The Werc Shop allows us to formulate with custom terpene technology for our enhanced pre rolls with our brand KoKo Bayer and the Share the Hope campaign. Our ability to gain the best strain-specific aromas, tastes and effects with The Werc Shop’s next generation analytical technology and methods allows us to reach amazing flavor profiles and physiological effects.” says Cristadoro.
Isolating terpenes for use in foods and beverages means commercial product formulations can be further enhanced to meet consumer demands. As the THC and CBD food and beverage industry grows, you can expect to see more research into how to most effectively harness the amazing properties of these unique compounds. For manufacturers, precisely controlling the terpene profiles in their products means greater flexibility in the quality and flavors of their products which in turn gives consumers a better range of products from which to choose from.
As terpenes give products a boost in flavor and aromatic profiles as well as enhanced therapeutic properties, it makes sense for companies developing new cannabis-infused food and beverages to understand how their inclusion can elevate a product from ok to exceptional. Terpenes in cannabis food and beverage development are a critical component that can’t be overlooked. If you’re in the process of producing or concepting a cannabis-infused product and are looking for the help of an industry leader with decades of experience, please contact us.
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