One of the wonderful things about the rapidly growing cannabis industry is the sheer variety on offer. It used to be that your selection for cannabis products was pretty limited: you had whatever you were growing or whoever you were buying from was growing. Now there’s a near infinite supply of different strains available, not to mention plenty of vapes, edibles, and extracts in a variety of flavors.
But how do Delta-8 products (and cannabis in general) get those flavors? Most of it comes down to three main components: cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. These three elements, along with how they interact with each other, come together to create the many flavors and aromas associated with cannabis strains.
What Are Cannabinoids?
The term “cannabinoid” refers to any chemical substance that joins and impacts the endocannabinoid system of the human body. As it turns out, several of the compounds produced by the cannabis plant qualify as cannabinoids, which means that they can interact with the endocannabinoid system. This is why cannabis and cannabis products get people high and have various others on the body and mind. The two most common cannabinoids are Delta-9 THC and CBD.
Cannabinoids also impact the flavor of cannabis and cannabis-infused products, though not generally for the better. Pure CBD or THC extracts are often intensely bitter and earthy to the taste, which can make them difficult to tolerate. The other compounds found in cannabis often help to improve the taste, but on their own, cannabinoids tend to be either flavorless or have an unpleasant taste.
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are aromatic oils that are secreted by the same glands that produce cannabinoids like THC and CBD. These oils are chiefly responsible for the more varied flavors and aromas found in different cannabis strains. They can also influence the various effects that cannabis can have on users: some terpenes are thought to promote relaxation and stress relief, while others are energizing and encourage focus. Scientists have identified roughly 20,000 different terpenes, though we only understand the full effect of around 100 of them.
Terpenes are not unique to cannabis. In fact, these organic compounds are found in almost every flower, herb, and fruit, providing plants with their unique scents and flavors. This is why so many cannabis strains smell similar to things like pine trees, citrus fruits, or mint: they probably share similar terpenes.
Some of the most common terpenes (and the types of plants they are associated with) include the following:
- Myrcene – mangoes, lemongrass, thyme
- Pinene – pine trees, parsley, dill
- Limonene – lemon, orange, grapefruit, rosemary, peppermint
- Linalool – lavender, birch bark, rosewood, sage
- Humulene – hops, cloves, ginseng, basil
- Caryophyllene – black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cotton plants
- Terpinolene – apples, nutmeg, cumin, tea tree oil
- Eucalyptol – eucalyptus, ginger, bay laurel
- Borneol – mint, rosemary, mugwort, camphor
- Phytol – green tea, basil, mint, tarragon, seaweed
- Sabinene – carrot seed oil, tea tree oil, cassis bud oil, allspice
- Ocimene – orchid flowers, parsley, basil
- Nerolidol – bitter orange blossom, jasmine, citronella, ginger
What Are Flavonoids?
Like terpenes, flavonoids make up a variety of compounds found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. They’re also in plant products like wine, tea, and chocolate. Though they aren’t considered to be as strong as cannabinoids, flavonoids can impact the flavor profiles of foods and cannabis strains. Researchers have discovered nearly 6,000 different types of flavonoids in nature, with many of them being unique to specific plants. Cannabis plants specifically have several flavonoids that are found nowhere else in nature, known as cannaflavins.
While terpenes are often attributed as the main source of the flavors and aromas of cannabis, flavonoids also play an important role in providing the distinguishing qualities between strain varieties. It is believed that while terpenes help “create” the different flavors and odors, they are only possible through the synergistic qualities that terpenes and flavonoids share. Flavonoids also affect the pigmentation of cannabis, just as they do with other plants and flowers. For instance, when you come across a deep purple cannabis strain, it is due to flavonoids known as anthoxanthins or anthocyanins.
All Together Now!
Cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids all have their unique benefits for the cannabis plant, but most of the time they work best together. This is why even a lot of cannabis-related products that extract cannabinoids from the rest of the compounds found in the cannabis plant will still often have terpenes and flavonoids added back to the mix after the fact: bringing them together plays a big role in getting the many special flavors and fragrances you get with cannabis!