The Science Behind Terpene Preservation in Cannabis Extraction

The Science Behind Terpene Preservation in Cannabis Extraction

Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in cannabis that play a significant role in the plant’s flavor, aroma, and therapeutic properties. Preserving terpenes during extraction is essential for producing high-quality cannabis products with a full range of effects. Different extraction methods, such as hydrocarbon and supercritical CO2 extractions, have varying impacts on terpene preservation. In this article, we will explore the science behind terpene preservation in cannabis extraction, including the boiling points and molecular weights of individual terpenes, as well as the effects of environmental factors and extraction techniques on terpene loss. We will also examine the importance of terpene standards and terpene profiling in ensuring consistent and high-quality cannabis products. By understanding the significance of terpenes in cannabis, extraction methods, and terpene preservation techniques, cannabis businesses can produce exceptional products that meet the needs of consumers and patients.

The Science Behind Terpene Preservation 

The molecular structure of terpenes plays a crucial role in their preservation during cannabis extraction. Terpenes are volatile compounds that can be easily lost due to their low boiling points, which range from 150°C to 180°C. This means that any extraction process that involves temperatures higher than the boiling point of a specific terpene can lead to terpene loss.

Several factors can impact terpene preservation during extraction, including temperature, pressure, and environmental factors such as humidity and light. For instance, exposure to heat, light, and oxygen can cause terpene degradation, resulting in the loss of their desirable aroma and flavor.

There are various techniques that cannabis extractors can use to preserve terpenes. One popular method is low-temperature extraction, which involves using low temperatures to extract terpenes and other compounds from the cannabis plant. This method minimizes the loss of terpenes and other delicate compounds by using temperatures lower than their boiling points. Steam distillation is another technique that is commonly used to extract terpenes. It involves heating the cannabis material to release steam, which carries the terpenes and other compounds. Freeze-drying is also a popular method, as it involves removing water from the cannabis material without using heat, which can cause terpene loss.

Extraction Methods for Terpene Preservation 

Extraction methods are critical in preserving terpenes in cannabis. The choice of method affects the yield, quality, and potency of the final product. Hydrocarbon extractions, such as butane and propane, are popular for their high yield, potency, and terpene preservation. However, they require careful control of temperature and pressure to avoid extracting chlorophyll and other unwanted compounds. Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction is another popular method that uses carbon dioxide as a solvent to extract cannabinoids and terpenes. It is a safe and efficient method that produces high-quality extracts with minimal impact on terpene preservation. Solvent extraction, on the other hand, uses ethanol or other solvents to extract cannabinoids and terpenes. This method can be cost-effective, but it can also extract undesirable compounds and reduce terpene preservation. The choice of extraction method ultimately depends on the desired end product and the resources available.

Terpenes Profiling and Extraction

Terpene profiling is an essential process in the cannabis industry, providing insights into the chemical makeup of different strains of cannabis and helping to ensure the consistency of products. Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry are commonly used methods for terpene extraction and profiling, providing high accuracy and sensitivity in identifying individual terpenes and their concentration in cannabis extracts. Gas chromatography uses a sample injection system to separate and detect the different components of cannabis extracts, while mass spectrometry measures the mass-to-charge ratio of ions to identify individual compounds. These techniques help researchers and producers understand the complex chemistry of cannabis and the role of terpenes in its flavor, aroma, and therapeutic properties. By carefully controlling the extraction process and preserving terpenes, it is possible to create high-quality cannabis extracts with optimal terpene profiles.

Augmentation and Preservation of Terpenes

Terpenes play a significant role in the entourage effect, the synergy between cannabinoids and terpenes that enhances the therapeutic properties of cannabis. The preservation and augmentation of terpenes are therefore crucial to ensure the quality and consistency of cannabis products.

One way to preserve terpenes is through the use of environmental controls, such as maintaining specific temperature and humidity levels during the curing process. Low-temperature storage can also help preserve terpenes, as they are highly volatile and can degrade quickly under high heat.

In addition to preservation, augmentation of terpenes can also be achieved through various techniques. One way is by using a specific strain of cannabis known for its high terpene content. Another method is to add terpene standards, which are commercially available blends of terpenes that can be used to augment or standardize the terpene content of cannabis extracts.

The entourage effect is not only relevant for recreational cannabis users but also for medicinal cannabis patients. Terpenes have been found to enhance the therapeutic properties of cannabinoids, and thus preserving and augmenting terpenes is essential for creating high-quality medicinal cannabis products.

Overall, the preservation and augmentation of terpenes are critical for the production of consistent and high-quality cannabis products that provide both recreational and medicinal benefits. Environmental controls, low-temperature storage, and the use of specific strains or terpene standards are all techniques that can help achieve these goals.

Extraction Equipment and Techniques

The equipment used in cannabis extraction plays a crucial role in determining the quality and purity of the final product. There are several different types of equipment used in the cannabis industry, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Rotary evaporators are commonly used to extract terpenes and other volatile compounds from cannabis. These machines use heat and a vacuum to evaporate and collect the compounds, resulting in a highly concentrated extract. Vacuum ovens are another common piece of equipment used in cannabis extraction. These ovens use heat and a vacuum to purge solvents from the extract, leaving behind a clean and pure product.

Rosin presses are becoming increasingly popular in the cannabis industry as they offer a solventless method of extraction. These machines use heat and pressure to extract the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant material, resulting in a high-quality extract.

Using high-quality extraction equipment is crucial in preserving the terpenes and cannabinoids in the extract. Inferior equipment can lead to subpar extracts that lack the desired flavor, aroma, and therapeutic effects. Properly maintained equipment and careful attention to temperature and pressure control during the extraction process can help ensure a high-quality extract with maximum terpene preservation.

There are several different techniques used in the cannabis industry for extraction, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Accelerated solvent extraction is a popular method that uses high pressure and temperature to extract the compounds from the plant material. This method is efficient and can produce a high yield, but it can also degrade the quality of the extract. Low-temperature extraction, on the other hand, uses cold temperatures to extract the compounds, which can help preserve their quality and potency.

Quality Control and Safety Considerations

Ensuring quality control and safety is of paramount importance in the cannabis extraction industry. Quality control methods help to ensure consistency, reliability, and purity of the final product, while safety considerations help to protect both workers and consumers.

One important aspect of quality control is the use of control samples to verify that the results obtained during analysis are accurate and precise. This helps to ensure that the product is consistently meeting the desired specifications. In addition, the cannabis industry is subject to global regulations, and adherence to these regulations is important to ensure the safety and legality of the product.

Several methods are used for quality control and safety considerations, including gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. These methods allow for the identification and quantification of the different components in the cannabis extract, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and residual solvents.

It is also crucial to follow safety protocols and ethical considerations in the cannabis extraction industry. Workers should be provided with proper training, personal protective equipment, and appropriate ventilation systems to protect them from potential hazards. In addition, ethical considerations, such as the responsible sourcing of cannabis and the proper disposal of hazardous waste, should be taken into account to ensure the sustainability of the industry.


In conclusion, terpene preservation is crucial in cannabis extraction due to its impact on the final product’s flavor, aroma, and therapeutic properties. The different extraction methods, techniques, and equipment used in the cannabis industry have varying effects on terpene preservation, making it important to choose the best methods and equipment to preserve the terpenes. Additionally, terpene profiling and augmentation, as well as quality control and safety considerations, are essential to ensure consistent and safe cannabis products. Continued research and innovation in the cannabis industry will help improve extraction methods and preserve the medicinal properties of cannabis for the benefit of all.

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