How to Preserve Terpenes in Your Cannabis Oil Extraction

When it comes to extraction, terpene preservation can make or break the quality of the final product and success of a manufacturer. The challenge, as any manufacturer knows, is that terpenes degrade quickly, even at low temperatures. However, since these aromatic and flavorful terpenes are also a sign of quality, they’re important for boosting customer satisfaction and putting an extraction brand on the map. Moreover, terpenes may offer additional therapeutic effects that improve the overall consumer experience.

To preserve terpenes during extraction, manufacturers must refine their systems and methodology to ensure the maximum amount of terpenes are preserved during production runs. This guide describes how manufacturers can protect the terpene content of their extract to produce the best smelling and tasting extract possible.

How to Preserve Terpenes in Your Cannabis Oil Extraction

Environmental factors that degrade terpenes

The compounds found in cannabis plants begin to degrade from the moment of harvest. Terpenes, in particular, are the first to go when exposed to the outside environment without protection. Factors such as temperature, heat, and light all play a role in degrading these volatile compounds, which include myrcene, beta caryophyllene, and limonene, to name a few. The following environmental factors play a role in this process:

  • Temperature: Terpenes have low boiling points, so exposing cannabis flower or extracts to high enough temperatures for a prolonged period will significantly increase the rate of terpene degradation. Freeze dry cannabis flower and properly store extracts at cool temperatures to preserve maximum terpenes.

  • Humidity: Moisture is one of the most common enemies of cannabis as it causes degradation of terpenes and further increases the risk of contaminants such as mold and mildew. Manufacturers should always keep their products in an environment that is not too humid but not too dry either – as this can cause cannabis to lose potency and flavor. Generally, relative humidity levels within the 55-65% range ensure the ideal preservation of terpenes.

  • Light: Exposure to UV light, whether natural or artificial, is a sure-fire way to speed up the process of terpene degradation. Most cannabis manufacturers recommend keeping your extracts in the dark to protect them from the dangers of sunlight and artificial light.

  • Oxygen: Cannabis degrades much more rapidly when exposed to high amounts of oxygen. Keeping extracts in airtight containers helps prevent flower and extracts from oxidizing and losing terpene and cannabinoid potency.

In general, cannabis manufacturers must understand both the laboratory and environmental factors that degrade beneficial terpenes. Deep knowledge of the factors that play into preservation will help manufacturers create extracts rich in terpenes and their beneficial therapeutic effects for their consumers.

Environmental factors that degrade terpenes

How to preserve terpenes in cannabis oil

Learning how to preserve terpenes in your cannabis oil requires careful control of each of these environmental factors. Below, we’ve created a step-by-step list of how extractors can preserve terpene content within their products.

1.   Store cannabis biomass properly

Storing cannabis biomass properly is the first step that manufacturers can take to preserve terpene content in cannabis oil. Freeze drying and vacuum sealing your biomass until it’s ready for extraction can help prevent the degradation of the buds and the risk of contaminants. Taking these steps and storing biomass in a cool, dark, dry environment can keep it as fresh as possible before it is used in a production run.

Holland Green Science proudly designs and manufactures freeze dryers that not only help protect biomass, but also cut down drying and processing times. Our Xiros Mikro Freeze Dryer is designed to run 24/7 to prevent downtime and allow for quick cycles.The freeze dryer comes standard with nine shelves and a market leading ice-capacity for larger batches or longer defrosting cycles. The Xiros Mikro also has a touchscreen with user programmable recipes and customizable steps for various cycles.

2.   Choose the right extraction method

Choosing the right extraction method can make or break the success of a manufacturer. While many cannabis companies rely on ethanol extraction, this process often results in a significant loss of terpenes due to volatilization. Typically, the following extraction methods are referred to as the best in terms of terpene preservation:

  • Hydrocarbon: Because hydrocarbon has such a low boiling point, it is the ideal solvent for preserving cannabis flavor, aroma, and terpenes while leaving behind unwanted compounds. Hydrocarbon extraction also provides faster processing times and lower startup costs regarding equipment.

  • Supercritical CO2: CO2, or carbon dioxide extraction, is excellent for preserving terpenes because the process does not require heat. Generally, supercritical CO2 extraction is a great option for delicate plant compounds and can be used to pull specific cannabinoids while dissolving many unwanted contaminants.

  • Ice Water Hash: Ice water hash is a solventless method of extraction known for its ability to preserve terpene content. Made by using near-freezing water to separate the resin-packed trichomes from cannabis biomass, ice water extraction is a great way to maintain cannabinoids and reduce the need for post-processing steps.

Read our latest blog post on Ice Water Hash HERE!

3.   Keep temperatures low during extraction

Because temperature plays a huge role in terpene degradation, maintaining low temperatures during cannabis extraction is essential to ensuring the quality of your final products.

Cannabis extractors should be aware of the boiling point of various terpenes to ensure that they are preserving terpenes in their cannabis oil extraction. Below are some of the boiling points of common terpenes found in cannabis:

  • Myrcene: One of the most common compounds found in cannabis, myrcene reaches its boiling point and will dissipate completely at a temperature of roughly 165ºC (330ºF).

  • Beta-Caryophyllene: With a much lower boiling point than other common terpenes, beta-caryophyllene dissipates at a temperature of just 118.89ºC (246ºF).

  • Limonene: Boiling off at temperatures over 176.667°C (350°F), limonene is one of the most commonly found terpenes in cannabis. Limonene has been extensively studied as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

  • Pinene: Commonly known as the primary terpene in pine and spruce trees, pinene begins to reach its boiling point at about 155°C (312°F).

  • Humulene: Humulene has a relatively low boiling point of 106°C (222.8°F), making it one of the hardest monoterpenes to preserve.

  • Terpinolene: Known mainly for its ability to fight bacteria and fungi, terpinolene has a boiling point of 186°C (366.8°F).

  • Linalool: With the highest boiling point of the listed terpenes, linalool begins to boil off at a temperature of about 198ºC (388.4ºF).

These boiling points are essential for cannabis extractors and consumers who wish to experience specific effects and retain the natural flavors of a particular strain of cannabis. In general, extractors should use the listed solvents that support low-temperature extraction to avoid excessive degradation of terpenes.

4.   Store extract properly after manufacturing

Without proper storage, products run the risk of degradation. Because heat and light damage terpene content, manufacturers should be sure to store products in a cool, dark, dry place in an airtight container following extraction.

It’s also important to remember that different product types benefit from different manufacturing methods. For example, many manufacturers rely on medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil when creating tincture products because of its preservation properties. An Italian study published in the journal Molecules found that terpenes in MCT formulations remained stable during shelf life. However, in olive oil, a significant decrease was observed after 15 and 30 days.

Further, like most cannabis extract, vape cartridges are sensitive to light. After filling cartridges, manufacturers should be sure to quickly seal and store vape products in a cool, dark place. Some manufacturers recommend keeping your vape cartridges upright in their original packaging when not in use to prolong shelf life.

While terpene degradation caused by improper storage may not be visible to the naked eye, ensuring that your products are correctly stored is one of the best ways to prevent deterioration and ensure customer satisfaction.

How to preserve terpenes in cannabis oil

Adding terpenes to extract after manufacturing

Did you know that terpenes can be extracted from cannabis or other plants and added back into extracts after production runs? Some manufacturers use this process to mimic the cultivar’s natural flavor, while others leverage terpenes found in other plants to create entirely new flavors.

While this doesn’t necessarily play a role in preserving terpenes during extraction, it does help create terpene profiles suited to your customer's needs. For example, linalool, a common terpene also found in lavender, is often used to add a floral scent and calming effects to extract products.

There are a few benefits to adding terpenes to extracts after manufacturing:

  • The entourage effect: The entourage effect is the idea that cannabinoids and terpenes complement each other when used in conjunction. By adding terpenes to extract after manufacturing, manufacturers can pick and choose which aspects they wish to combine to achieve specific therapeutic effects.

  • Improved taste: Many manufacturers add terpenes to products after extraction to enhance flavor and aroma. Terpenes such as limonene, for example, feature the citrusy flavor for which it is named. Different combinations of terpenes can also create unique flavor profiles that allow manufacturers to develop branded products to suit their customers’ tastes.

  • Targeted results: Following extraction, adding terpenes to extracts allows manufacturers to create individual terpene profiles and achieve specific effects. Because myrcene has sedative effects, for example, it is often added to products manufactured to support restful sleep.

While adding terpenes to an extract after production can be useful, some manufacturers feel that adding non-cannabis terpenes is unnatural. It is important that manufacturers understand that a little bit goes a long way when adding terpenes to cannabis extracts. Add too much and you run the risk of overpowering the smell and taste of the original buds.

Building a reputation the right way

Generally, the quality of cannabis extracts are a direct result of the methods, equipment, and solvents used to produce them. At Holland Green Science, we know that the proper equipment can go a long way in preserving terpenes in your cannabis oil extraction. For any new or seasoned extraction teams looking to improve their practices with a supplier of top quality equipment and consultative team with decades of experience, contact Holland Green Science today for more information.

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