Cannabis products infused with non-cannabis derived terpenes are gaining popularity for their consistency, convenience and delicious flavor, but a new study out of the University of Pernambuco in Brazil suggests that mixing cannabis with non-cannabis derived terpenes may not be the best thing for your health.
Terpenes, the molecules responsible for the smell of cannabis, not only have their own individual medicinal properties, but they also work in conjunction with each other and the other cannabinoids to create the overall effect of a particular strain. They are largely responsible for why one strain feels, smells or tastes different from others. Terpenes aren’t just in cannabis either, they are in all plants. And many plants share terpenes in common with cannabis. Beta caryophyllene for example is also found in black pepper; myrcene is found in mangos; and linalool is found in lavender.
As the demand for terpene-rich products has increased, a variety of product lines have come out, featuring cannabis concentrates infused with isolated terpenes. But, rather than using terpenes derived from cannabis, often these essential oils are extracted from other plants. While the resulting extractions will be very similar, it is very challenging to create an extract that doesn’t have some remnant of the plant it was extracted from. If you take myrcene from a mango, there will be trace amounts of the other substances in mangoes left in your extract. If you take myrcene from a cannabis plant, there will be trace amounts of the other substances in cannabis left. This means there can be very slight difference in the extracts taken from cannabis and non-cannabis derived terpenes.
The products made with elements based from plants other than cannabis taste great because they are in a higher volume and they are also incredibly consistent because the makers can use the same mixture of terpenes and cannabinoids each time. In addition, adding terpenes can add viscosity to a concentrate, allowing these types of extracts to be put into convenient vape cartridges.
This practice creates concentrate cartridges that are delicious, consistent and convenient, but are they healthy? According to the recent study the answer may be “no”. The research focused on cannabis and beta caryophyllene. While beta caryophyllene is one of the most common terpenes found in cannabis, they used non-cannabis derived beta-caryophyllene for this study and found that using the two mixed together may cause more harm than benefit.
In the study, scientists exposed rats to a mixture of non-cannabis derived beta caryophyllene and cannabis smoke. In stark contrast to the either substance on its own, rats exposed to the combination were more likely to develop kidney problems. When they analyzed the chemical effects of mixing these two, they found that the cannabis smoke had degraded the beta caryophyllene into chemicals known to be toxic for consumption. The authors warn that mixing these compounds is not advised for humans.
This news is troubling, considering the practice of mixing non-cannabis derived beta caryophyllene with THC oil is becoming more wide-spread. More research needs to be conducted in order to understand whether there are other health risks associated with concentrates enriched by beta-caryophyllene or the other terpenes. In the meantime, choose your concentrates carefully.
What do you think? Is there a reason to be concerned about vaping terpenes that are not derived from cannabis?