Terpenes: Medicinal Benefits and Characteristics

dank budTHC has often been the chief concern of growers, patients and connoisseurs for decades but experiments have shown that Cannabis can contain dozens of active cannabinoids and hundreds of another class of active chemicals known as ‘terpenes.’ Though often overlooked, terpenes have long been known to possess powerful medicinal properties (they are the molecules responsible for many of the odors we know and love) and recent studies have suggested that they may play a more important role in the beneficial effects of cannabis than previously thought.

The cannabis community has always reinforced the anecdote that more odorous (my personal favorite term is ‘louder’) buds tend to be more potent but it wasn’t until 1998 that a scientific connection was be made to identify the synergistic effects between terpenes and cannabinoids. After over a decade of research, an article was finally published in the well-respected British Journal of Pharmacology outlining the potential medicinal properties of terpenes found in cannabis. We’ve outlined his work for a few of the more prevalent terpenes below:

D-Limonene:

  • Has a strong ‘citrusy’ scent and is responsible for the smell of citrus fruits, this is the second most common terpene found in nature.
  • Shown to have strong anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects
  • Being tested as treatment for breast cancer
  • Treats gastro-esophageal reflux
  • Demonstrated to have effective ‘antioxidant’ properties

β-Myrcene:

  • Found in hops, bay leaves and eucalyptus and fresh mango
  • Strong anti-inflammatory properties
  • Shown to prevent liver cancer
  • Has a sedative effect that may be associated with “couch lock” when combined with THC

α-Pinene:

  • The single most common terpene found in nature, responsible for ‘piney’ odors.
  • Insect repellant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Bronchodilator at low concentrations (opens breathing passages in the lungs)
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotic properties with ‘prominent activity against MRSA’
  • Appears to aid with short-term memory by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase (a neurotransmitter)

D-Linalool:

  • Responsible for the scent of Lavender
  • shown to have strong anti-anxiety properties
  • Sedative properties
  • Effective local anesthetic
  • Anti-convulsant

β-Caryophyllene:

  • The most common terpene found in decarboxylated cannabis extracts, has a ‘black pepper’ scent
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Shown to be effective in treating stomach ulcers
  • May have anti-malarial properties

Nerolidol:

  • Found in lesser concentrations in orange peels
  • Used to fight colon cancers
  • has strong skin-penetrating properties and may be useful in treating fungal growth

Caryophyllene oxide:

  • Common to lemon balm and Eucalyptus, this terpene is responsible for the scent detected by drug-sniffing dogs
  • Strong broad-spectrum anti-fungal
  • Shown to be an effective anti-coagulant in vitro

As you can plainly see, cannabinoids are not the only factor at work when it comes to the real medicinal properties of cannabis. Still, many growers and “concentrate artists” still take little care to ensure that these volatile terpenes are preserved during processing (they begin to decrease in concentration as soon as a plant is harvested and over purging only accelerates that process). Armed with the information we now have, it’s up to providers to ensure that these compounds are preserved and it’s imperative that the federal government remove Marijuana from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act so that more research can be done.

How to Make Solventless Wax: Dry Ice Extraction Method

solventless waxWhen most people think of hash these days, the first thing that comes to mind is the BHO shatter and wax that has become so popular within the last few years. The development of closed-loop extraction systems and vacuum ovens built specifically for concentrates have caused many high-end producers to shift away from traditional hash-making methods in favor of more modern, solvent-based techniques. Recently, however, a few concentrate artists have shared some extraordinary “solvent-less waxes” rivaling the flavor and potency of many solvent-extracted waxes and the technique to making this hash is both simple and incredibly safe—no explosive or potentially toxic chemicals required.

Solvent-less concentrate is made by collecting stalked trichomes from raw plant material. These trichomes are dense with THC and other psychoactive compounds, some of which may not be present in BHO due to their varying structures and solubility properties. While there are several specific methods, trichomes are most easily Trichomes-are-milky-white-collected by sifting—passing the plant matter through a series of screens that separate particles by size. As the heads of the trichomes fall through the smallest screen, they are collected to form the finest grade of “blonde hash” (because the milky heads of the trichomes typically produce an off-white color) or what we’re calling “solvent-less hash” now.

In order to optimize this process, the Pollinator Company in the Netherlands developed the Iceolator Bags (later spun off in the states as Bubble Bags) which allow for an efficient ice-water separation to be carried out. The bags each contain various-sized mesh-screen bottoms (ranging from 200µ to 25µ) which are then stacked within one another so ice, water and plant material can be added and mixed. The ice water helps lower the temperature of the plant material making the trichomes brittle and more readily separated from the plant (and thus, collected).

Unfortunately, the addition of water also requires about 48 hours of drying time and can potentially pick up some unwanted, water-soluble compounds during the separation. That’s why I’ve become very interested in dry-ice extraction. Instead of using water and ice, solid CO2 aka dry ice is used to cool down the plant matter for sifting. Dry ice is both cheap and much colder than regular ice and the way in which it sublimates (goes from solid to gas) rapidly cools down more of the area around it which eliminates the need to use water or some other insulator (water would freeze in contact with dry ice!). The dry ice also serves as an agitator so all you have to do is shake the sifting container/ bag, no need to sit there stirring. Dispensaries seem to carry product listed as “Solvent-less wax” from no larger a screen than 70µ but you will undoubtedly obtain better product (albeit smaller yields) from an even finer screen size.

So the next time you’re thinking about blasting that extra bag of trim/bud you have lying around, consider busting out the bubble bags instead of the butane and turkey baster— your lungs and neighbors will thank you!

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