We Need To Stop Marketing Cannabis As Indica Over Sativa


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Cannabis cultivars are available in a full range of flavor and therapeutic profiles. Some strains smell of fresh citrus and provide energizing effects, others evoke the fragrance and soothing properties of lavender.

And all thanks to terpenes.

Terpenes, or “terps” in colloquial terms, have a massive influence on cannabis, and in our view, they are underutilized marketing tools that can give brands a competitive edge.

But too often brands, and those who sell cannabis, separate cannabis into two categories: Indicas and Sativas. It’s an old factory way of thinking that we need to take out.

Terpenes are the real differentiator. Here is an overview of hemp and cannabis terpenes, their effects, and why terpene testing is imperative for marketing cannabis and hemp.

Related: How Terpenes Could Revolutionize The Cannabis Industry As We Know It

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are fragrant oils in plants. Their purpose is to attract pollinators or repel hungry predators. Essentially, terps are a plant’s built-in defense system. Terpenes are not exclusive to cannabis; they are present in all types of plants, from fragrant flowers to hearty vegetables.

Researchers have recognized more than 100 terpenes in cannabis, although some are only present in trace amounts. Each terpene works with cannabinoids and flavonoids to form a strain’s unique identity. Terpenes also work in tandem with cannabinoids like THC and CBD to enhance therapeutic properties and minimize adverse effects. This synergistic process is described as the “entourage effect”.

Unique Cannabis Benefits of Terpenes

Studies have shown that terpenes work with the full spectrum of plant compounds to produce the distinct effects of each cultivar. Because just like cannabinoids, terpenes can cross the blood-brain barrier. Some of the most common cannabis terpenes include:

  • Myrcene: Earthy fragrance with calming and sedative effects. It can sometimes boost mood in small amounts.
  • Limonene: Citrus fragrance with antioxidant properties. Also found in citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons.
  • Linalool: Floral fragrance with relaxing and soothing effects. Also found in essential oils, such as lavender.
  • Caryophyllene: Woody fragrance, also present in black pepper. Unique because it can bind to the CB2 receptormeaning it acts like a cannabinoid.
  • Αlpha-humulene: Earthy and spicy fragrance with anti-inflammatory properties. It is present in the hops of beer.
  • Pinene: Pine smell. It acts as a bronchodilator to relax the muscles of the lungs, widening the airways. Also found in pine trees and spices like rosemary and basil.

Research shows that terpenes are essential to overall cannabis profiles (aka chemovars), but misconceptions about Indica and Sativa strains continue to dominate the conversation. Unfortunately, simplifying cannabis into these two broad categories is wrong and hinders a brand’s ability to differentiate its products from the crowded marketplace. So, let’s zoom in on the problem.

The Indica vs. Sativa Problem

At one time, Indica and Sativa referred to distinct cannabis plants from different regions. Today, most strains are hybrids between the two, but brands continue the story that all Indicas are sedating while all Sativas are energizing.

A study 2021 concluded that the Indica-Sativa scale did not match the genetic similarities of the plants. Instead, researchers found that Sativa strains were just as closely related to Indica strains as to other Sativas – and vice versa. The study also found that cannabis strains with the same name bore more genetic resemblance to different strains than each other.

The same study found that terpene content was more indicative of a strain’s overall genetic profile. Therein lies the key to successful cannabis marketing.

Why market terpenes rather than strains

As the industry wakes up to the Sativa-Indica myth, consumers are starting to wake up and smell the terpenes. Now is the time for brands to prioritize these synergistic compounds in lab testing and marketing efforts.

1. Competitive advantage

Today, product names like OG Kush dominate the cannabis marketing landscape. Yet, strains are insufficient to indicate the specific effects of a product and to make every OG Kush look like one of a hundred similar products.

On the other hand, terpenes allow cannabis companies to creatively market the unique function of their product rather than relying on outdated, standardized naming conventions. So instead of just another Grandaddy Purple, a company could name their cultivar “Lavender Evening Bliss with a Pine Fresh Pop.” Additionally, on its front label, the brand could highlight the strain’s three most potent terpenes and cannabinoids and their precise concentrations. Here’s a strategy to stand out from the crowd.

2. Customer loyalty

Educating customers about a product’s potential effects based on its terpene and cannabinoid profiles will undoubtedly inspire a more loyal following. Why? With terpene education, customers have the tools to choose the product that best suits their goals and desired results. For example, consumers might learn that they prefer a combination of myrcene and linalool before going to bed or pinene and limonene for an uplifting boost. Then, once they’ve identified their favorite blends, they’ll be asking for more.

3. Credibility

Marketing gimmicks based on strain names and cartoonish neon artwork don’t hold much appeal for modern hemp and cannabis consumers, especially those new to space. Brands that focus on clean packaging and terpene education seem much more credible to the contemporary consumer. Additionally, marketing by terpene and cannabinoid profiles shows that a brand is a thought leader who values ​​cannabis research and wants to increase industry awareness.

4. Better R&D

Does a high-THC, low-CBD product containing myrcene sell better than a product with a dominant limonene profile? By testing and marketing strains based on their terpene profiles, brands can better identify why certain items are more popular than others. Brands can then use this information to understand what their customers prefer and tailor development to those preferences. The result could lead to a highly personalized product line with incredible sell-through rates.

But first, preserve the terpenes

Before a brand can incorporate terpenes into their cannabis marketing strategy, it is crucial to properly store and test terpenes. Unfortunately, since terpenes are heat and light sensitive, most evaporate during standard “low and slow” drying and curing processes. In reality, a study found that a week of drying at room temperature resulted in a net loss of about 31% in terpene content.

Some growers use alternative drying methods, such as low heat drying or freeze-drying, to preserve the terpenes. save the terps recommends storing flowers in a relative humidity (RH) of 55-65% to reduce evaporation.

After drying and curing, brands also need to think about how to preserve terpenes in post-production. For example, manufacturers may use low temperature extraction methods. Others might infuse their products with terpenes from plant sources other than cannabis to create more personalized blends after processing.

Regardless of the preservation method, brands should confirm the terpene concentration by power testing and profiling to accurately label and market their products.

It’s time to put an end to the Sativa-Indica classification system. Terpene profiles can provide a more accurate classification system for cannabis and a more consistent consumption experience. By testing terpenes and sharing this information with consumers, a brand can differentiate itself and lead the way in the cannabis industry.

ACS Laboratory tests for 38 terpenes, including myrcene, linalool, limonene and pinene. The ACS lab also tests for residual metals, solvents, pesticides and other potentially harmful materials, verifying the safety of cannabis products for the end consumer..


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