Could Terpenes Be The Next Big Thing in Supplements?
Although volatile and hard to manage, terpenes offer botanic properties popular with today’s consumers without the regulatory hassles of CBD.
by Volunteer Botanicals’ CEO, Derek Odette
Not so long ago, few people other than botanists or chemists were familiar with the word “terpene,” much less possess the knowledge to name one or two of them. But with the growing popularity of CBD and legal cannabis products across the U.S., more consumers are becoming aware of terpenes and the fragrant and often healing properties they can provide.
As the trend toward natural, organic wellness products expands, more mainstream customers are investigating hemp and cannabis-based products that contain terpenes. For mainstream manufacturers, this presents an opportunity to enhance products with unique attributes that are capturing the imagination of consumers everywhere. So just what is it about terpenes that can be so attractive as a product ingredient? And what are the pros and cons of incorporating them into products? …….
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While it is true that CBD and other cannabinoid ingredients—with their inherent regulatory complications—remain largely out of the question for mainstream supplement manufacturers, terpenes come with no such legal baggage. In fact, they provide significant benefits that can credibly enhance existing products while attracting a growing terpene-aware consumer market. Here’s why terpenes could be the next big thing in supplements.
Terpenes on the Rise
First, a little education might be in order. Terpenes are a large and varied group of organic compounds that are found in a variety of plants and even some insects. Each terpene projects a significant odor that serves as either an attractive force for pollinating insects or a protective warning to predators. Humans find the odor either pleasing, unpleasant, or in some cases a combination of both. But in most all terpenes, people generally have a significant reaction to its scent.
We are fortunate to know a great deal about terpenes, since unlike cannabinoids they have been studied for centuries. Historians and anthropologists have uncovered uses for terpenes that can be traced back to the Babylonians, ancient Chinese, and other cultures. All used essential oils and their terpenes for medicinal purposes. Over the years, different terpenes have been researched and found to have various therapeutic effects, including as a neuroprotective (pinene), anti-convulsant (d-linalool), and anti-inflammatory (myrcene).
Many consumers are familiar with terpenes, even if they don’t immediately recognize them by name. Call it the “Pine-Sol effect,” but now that terpenes are more widely discussed, that product’s familiar scent is instantly recognizable as pinene to a growing number of the general population. In addition, who today would be surprised to learn that limonene is responsible for the scent of lemon? Many consumers still uncomfortable with CBD and cannabis are realizing that just like cannabinoids, terpenes may have hidden value in wellness products.
A strong indicator of the growing popularity of terpenes is how the cannabis industry is now utilizing them to enhance, differentiate, or market “premium” products. Formulators of both inhaled and infused products are identifying ways to maintain or enhance terpene profiles. Extraction technicians and extraction machine manufacturers are developing technologies and methodologies that help retain terpenes, which are often lost during the extraction process.
Consumer products outside of cannabis are also embracing terpenes. Touted as “botanical stress support,” a company called R3SET has developed a line of products utilizing various terpene-producing botanicals designed to relieve stress and aid in sleep. In addition, Rellies promotes its “terpene shots” and tinctures as mood enhancements created from a “natural terpene blend.” These terpene-focused products make a point of highlighting that their ingredients come from non-cannabis sources; and in the case of R3SET, now available at both Walmart and CVS, the products could not be more mainstream.
So, what is keeping mainstream manufacturers from adding terpenes to energy drinks, protein powders, and vitamin supplements? First and foremost, a sector as large as the mainstream nutraceutical and supplements industry requires time to adopt new formulations. However, the advancing awareness of terpenes among consumers is certainly creating waves in the industry, and it is only a matter of time before we begin seeing well-known products introduce terpenes to their formulations—or at least start highlighting them where they already exist.
A second and perhaps more critical delay is that terpenes can be notoriously difficult to manage properly. Terpene profiles are volatile and can degrade during processing. In addition, terpenes are temperature sensitive which can interfere with some products’ long-held manufacturing processes. The decision to introduce terpenes into an existing product can pose serious obstacles to success.
But technology is catching up with the escalating desire to maintain terpene profiles and enhance products using specific terpenes. As mentioned earlier, extraction machine manufacturers are developing technologies and methodologies that specifically work to maintain terpene profiles—and these work well on all types of botanicals, not just with cannabis. We can now regain the loss of terpenes during extraction, which makes their production and use more efficient. In addition, startups are working to identify new technologies to process terpenes that make them more easily incorporated into traditional supplement products.
At Volunteer Botanicals, we recognized the challenges that working with cannabinoids presented for manufacturers, so we created a technology to help make them better suited for consumer-friendly products. But we discovered that our Lipid Neutralization System (LNS) also works extremely well with terpenes. By utilizing “flowable powders,” it is possible to produce reliably consistent ingredients that can bring terpenes to tablets and other traditional form factors without interfering with existing manufacturing processes.
For decades, products like household cleaners, dishwashing liquids, and beauty products have touted the power of terpenes without referring to the actual terpenes. Think of all the “lemon fresh” and “power of botanicals” you have heard and seen in consumer product advertisements. But with their added notoriety, new-age appeal and proven capabilities, terpenes may be ready to become the star of the show rather than the unbilled side player. The opportunity for supplement and other wellness product developers to enhance their brands and grab a curious new market awaits.
Derek Odette is CEO of Nashville-based Volunteer Botanicals, developer of precise cannabinoid formulations that provide manufacturers with consistent, versatile hemp-based ingredients for use in a wide variety of products meeting specific demands of product creators inside and outside the hemp industry. He can be reached at [email protected] or you can continue this conversation on LinkedIn.