Cannabis Derived Terpenes: A Formulation Guide

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This article examines a variety of topics regarding cannabis derived terpenes. From proposed health benefits, to extraction methods, and product formulations, this is a terpene formulation guide for any producer looking to optimize terpenes in their production.

If there is anything cannabis is known for, it’s that familiar aroma. Sometimes it’s fruity, sometimes it’s earthy, sometimes it’s skunky, but hemp and marijuana both have that signature smell because of terpenes. Terpenes or “terps,” as they are often called in the cannabis industry, are natural hydrocarbons commonly found in a variety of plants that create their smell and flavor. In any botanical extraction process, terpene preservation is a critical factor from capture to product. This article will dive into cannabis derived terpenes and terpene formulation guide from top to bottom including identification, possible health benefits, best capture processes and final product formulations.

Cannabis Derived Terpenes From A to Z

There are roughly 20,000 known terpenes in the world with over 100 of them present in various strains of the cannabis plant. Not only are terpenes responsible for smell and flavor, recent studies have also shown many of these terps have some health benefits as well. Let’s examine some of the most prevalent terps found in cannabis in our terpene chart:

Terpenes Found in Cannabis


Terpene Smell Benefits Found in
Myrcene Earthy, musky, fruity Reduces inflammation, chronic pain Mangos
Limonene Citrus Improves mood, stress; antibacterial Citrus fruits
Linalool Spicy, floral Sedative effects Lavender, cinnamon and mint
Caryophyllene Spicy, peppery Research for alcohol withdrawal¹ Cinnamon, cloves, other spices
Alpha-pinene and Beta-Pinene Pine-like Anti inflammatory properties, improves respiratory functions Orange peels, basil, parsley and other plants contain this terpene
Alpha-bisabolol Floral Treats bacterial infections Chamomile
Trans-nerolidol Woody, citrusy, floral Antifungal/Anti-microbial Jasmine, tea tree oil
Eucalyptol Minty Positive effects on Alzheimer’s² Eucalyptus trees
Humulene Earthy, woody Appetite suppression Sage, black pepper
Delta 3 Carene Sweet Helps osteoporosis, arthritis, and fibromyalgia Peppers, cedar, pine
Camphene Musky, earthy Antioxidant, topical treatment Fir tree needles
Borneol Minty, herbal Insect repellent Rosemary, camphor
Geraniol Grassy, fruity Neuroprotectant, antioxidant Tobacco, lemons
Valencene Oranges Insect repellent Valencia oranges
Terpineol Floral Antibiotic and antioxidant Perfumes, cosmetics


How to Capture Your Terps

If you are a CBD oil producer, you can’t overlook the benefits of capturing and utilizing terpenes in your production. But, what’s the best way to capture them? During which phase of extraction can you collect them? Is there a way to make sure they are free of CBD or THC? extrakLAB’s Paul Hamel explains.

“We like to capture our terpenes before the extraction process,” Hamel says. “There are three reasons that we do this: we get better terpenes, increase the solubility of remaining components for the extraction process, and have better process control with pure terpenes.” Let’s break down this process into further detail.

Better Terpenes Captured in Fractional Distillation

Many manufacturers in the hemp processing industry completely lose these valuable components if ethanol extraction is used. Ethanol dissolves cannabinoids, waxes, fats and volatile components all in one single liquid. The only way to get the terpenes out in this case is to do fractional distillation, which is costly and also degrades the terpenes.

Another method uses separate vessels designed to capture their terps during supercritical CO2 extraction, but there are drawbacks to this method. According to Hamel, “Terpenes are among the most volatile components in the cannabis plant. If you try to pull terps during the extraction process, you will need to keep the collection vessels cool and possibly reduce the temperature of extraction. Too much heat will degrade the terps.”

The extraktLAB supercritical CO2 extraction machine can run both methods with complete control over extraction collection temperatures and pressures so that these methods might be easily implemented with the touch of a button.

Another method utilizes what is called a subcritical extraction to collect their terps. This involves a short, 20 minute run with lower temperature and pressure. By doing this, the collected product should yield a cleaner terpene extract. But, there is still a possibility that the extract will contain unwanted products like CBD or THC. So, what is the extrakLAB method?

“We use vacuum distillation with a custom built in terpene collector to capture our terpenes,” Hamel says. “By doing this, we get 100% pure cannabis terpenes in a reliable, consistent process.” Pure cannabis derived terpenes means they are without residuals or cannabinoids like THC and CBD. This is important for a number of reasons – including the need to follow Food and Drug Administration 2018 Farm³ Bill guidelines that final CBD products contain less than 0.3% THC. When those captured terpenes are used in a product, any level of THC could ruin a product intended to be THC free according to those stipulations.

Vacuum Distillation = Better Extraction

Vacuum Distillation is a process that some producers choose to forgo, but the benefits are impossible to ignore. Not only is it an ideal time to capture those valuable terps, it ensures that they are pure, preserved and THC free. The other benefit that vacuum distillation provides is a faster extraction of cannabinoids by decarboxylating the cannabinoids.

“Decarbed cannabinoids are more soluble in CO2,” says Hamel. “This means the solvent has a higher capacity for solubilizing cannabinoids in the input biomass and therefore is faster to extract. When decarbing prior to extraction, we convert 90% to 100% of the cannabinoids to their neutral forms thus enabling fast and efficient extraction.

The bottom line is that an increase in extracted cannabinoids means a more efficient extraction business overall. Following the extraktLAB decarb method allows for a producer to collect the best terpenes and increase their own extraction.

terpenas table

Increased Process Control

There is a distinction in the CBD industry between products that are THC “non-detect”, full spectrum and broad spectrum. Where THC “non-detect” products have been further processed to remove THC, full spectrum contains a large quantity of beneficial terpenes and cannabinoids including <0.3% of THC. The middle ground between these two is broad spectrum which has a number of cannabinoids, terpenes, and CBD, but goes through a final process to remove any residual THC. All of these product variations are important to different consumers, so it is critical for producers to know how to properly formulate each of these products and the use of cannabis derived terpenes is an important part of that process.

By following the extraktLAB extraction process, the terpenes captured during vacuum distillation are preserved from extensive processing and are considered to be the highest quality, pure THC and CBD free terpenes available. This means when they are reintroduced into a final product, producers know with certainty that they would not be adding any residual THC to a product meant to be THC free. It also means that formulation is precise, “giving a processor the ability to intentionally formulate whatever combination of cannabinoids and terpenes they want,” according to Hamel.

terp infused products

Why Cannabis Derived Terpenes Matter in Product Formulation

Your terpenes are captured, your oil has been distilled, and a final product is in sight. Now it’s time to consider how cannabis derived terpenes fit into the formulation process.

“Terpenes are a component of the cannabis spectrum that are very important to formulations,” says extraktLAB formulations expert Joe Hynes. “A terpene profile varies by strain, and is what makes a strain unique. Each strain and grow will affect these cannabinoid profiles.”

The most obvious utilization of terpenes in a product is for smell and flavor. But, there are many other factors to consider during formulation.

Organic Terpenes vs. Synthetic Terpenes

While natural botanical terpenes are used in many popular cannabis products, synthetic terpenes are commonplace in product formulation as well. These are often found in products like vape cartridges, tinctures, and other consumables. While there is little evidence to suggest that synthetic terpenes are less safe than their natural counterparts, many believe that more studies could prove them to be less than desirable in an end product. For that reason, extraktLAB sticks to organic terpenes.

“When we extract our terpenes, we end up with a much a broad spectrum terpene profile,” says Hynes. “Broad spectrum refers to a wide range of terpenes that a natural extract will have. Because we have those organic terpenes from the plant matrix to add to our products later on during formulation, we don’t need processed or synthesized terpenes.”

An example of these organic terpenes used in products are found in Holus CBD products. Holus creates a number of high quality CBD products including full-spectrum tinctures. These tinctures come in a variety of flavors including mint, key lime and strawberry all formulated from naturally derived broad spectrum terpenes. Broad spectrum are difficult to reproduce with synthetic terpenes when added to a product, the appeal of an organic cannabis terpene profile provides potential health benefits and mitigates unknown risks of lesser studied synthetic terps.

The Entourage Effect

Due to the numerous reported health benefits of naturally derived plant terpenes, recent studies have addressed the therapeutic benefits of terpenes. One interesting study recently conducted points to the synergistic effect of cannabinoids and terpenes called The Entourage Effect4.

“The Entourage Effect is a study monitoring the activity of cannabinoid receptors in the brain when isolated cannabinoids were consumed compared to cannabinoids combined with terpenes,” says Hynes. “When terpenes were introduced, the activity of those receptors increased, suggesting that cannabis derived terpenes could potentially enhance the medical benefits of cannabinoids.”

In other words, these studies show that the benefits of certain cannabinoids on their own are less than that of a compound that contains a full range of cannabinoids and terpenes. This ongoing study provides further evidence of the value that terpenes have in a final cannabis concentrate product, and how important it is to collect pure, unadulterated terps.

How Could you Formulate like a Rockstar?

For all the processes that are described above, extraktLAB provides methods and equipment needed to extract, preserve and formulate the best terps on the market. We train people on the best way to measure and preserve those terps and provide consultation for each process.



1.  “The cannabinoid receptor 2 agonist, β-caryophyllene, reduced ….” 3 Jul. 2014, The cannabinoid receptor 2 agonist, β-caryophyllene, reduced voluntary alcohol intake and attenuated ethanol-induced place preference and sensitivity in mice. Accessed 26 Mar. 2020.

2. “1,8-Cineole (Eucalyptol) Mitigates Inflammation in Amyloid ….” 1,8-Cineole (Eucalyptol) Mitigates Inflammation in Amyloid Beta Toxicated PC12 Cells: Relevance to Alzheimer’s Disease. Accessed 26 Mar. 2020.

3. “Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill – 07/25/2019 | FDA.” 25 Jul. 2019, Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill – 07/25/2019. Accessed 26 Mar. 2020.

4. “The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional … – NCBI.” 9 Jan. 2019, The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain. Accessed 24 Apr. 2020.

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