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Useful Tips For Cooking With Terpenes

Francis Cassidy
takking somethin out of the oven after cooking it with terpenes

Cooking with terpenes is a wonderful way to enhance your edibles, just cook with care.

As the primary constituents of essential oils, terpenes provide multiple therapeutic benefits. In nature, these help plants attract insects that pollinate and repel potential unwelcome predators. Terpenes provide a wide range of medicinal benefits along with wonderful flavors and aromas, for those who dabble with cannabis in the kitchen. Cooking with terpenes is fun and will help take that favorite dish to the next level.

Why Are Terpenes Important to Cooking?

Terpenes are everywhere in nature. As the primary constituents of plants and flowers, these are also abundant in cannabis. To date, more than one hundred terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant.

terpene laden cannabis plant

Scent aside, there’s something much more interesting going on with terpenes. The interactions that play out between terpenes and other plant compounds may be where the real value in cannabis lies. Commonly known as the entourage effect, it’s these synergies that help modulate the medicinal properties of cannabis.

Different cannabinoid and terpene combinations have unique effects on the body when consumed as a whole plant extract. Examples of such synergies include that of pinene, which may enhance memory and alertness. Linalool, dominant in many purple strains, may help with anti-anxiety. And the so-called ‘couch-lock‘ terpene, myrcene, helps ensure THC navigates the blood-brain barrier more efficiently.

The Benefits Of Paying Attention to Strain When Cooking With Terpenes

Many strains get their name from the dominant terpene. And it’s that potent scent and taste which can be harnessed into a recipe for a wonderful synergy of flavors. Cooking with terpenes is fun, but of course, you have to know what terpenes combine with what. Let’s take a look at the five principle terpenes and establish with which dishes they combine best.

Pinene

Pinene is what gives pine needles that distinctive smell. It’s known to provide benefits with regard to memory and alertness so there’s no reason not to include it in a recipe. It couples well with basil, parsley, rosemary or sage and makes a great addition to any vegetable soup or potato dish.

man in pine bush smelling terpenes

Linalool

With anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, linalool is a strong-smelling terpene that complements any earthy flavor with a hint of spice. It pairs especially well with lavender, mint, and coriander.

Limonene

Known for its ability to lower anxiety, strains high in limonene exhibit a strong citrus taste. Naturally found in high quantities in oranges and lemons, they often combine well in any recipe requiring the inclusion of citrus fruits.

Myrcene

Relaxing and calming, the presence of myrcene has that earthy scent that pairs wonderfully in dishes that have an interplay between sweet and savory flavors. Any recipe incorporating thyme, bay leaves, basil, or verbena will benefit greatly from the inclusion of a strain high in myrcene.

Caryophyllene

With an earthy and pungent taste, caryophyllene is best paired in savory dishes. Ideally combined with black pepper, oregano, basil, cloves or cinnamon, it can help add a distinctive flavor. As far as medicinal properties go, caryophyllene is known for reducing anxiety and depression, while also reducing bacterial growths and inflammation.

Adding Synthetic Terpenes To Enhance The Medicinal Effect

Many producers of concentrates, such as distillate oils, end up destroying much of the terpene content during the extraction process. As THC alone is nowhere near as useful as a full-plant extract, many get around this by adding terpenes back in after the fact.

cooking with terpenes involves plants

As adding too much will create an overpowering scent and taste, it’s always best to use these in moderation. Although this seems innocuous, it may in fact lead to significant palette, and even health, issues.

Cannabis researcher, Dr. Ethan Russo discussed the effects of adding terpenes in a study named “Taming THC”. He is a firm believer in utilizing the whole plant spectrum as nature intended as opposed to manipulating levels of individual compounds. He has spoken out against the act of adding terpenes back in after the fact. His fear is that unnaturally high levels of certain compounds can negate medicinal effects and become problematic to the patient.

Cooking with Terpenes — What to Avoid

When it comes to cooking with terpenes, we should do so with the intention of preserving the useful compounds. High temperatures are one sure way to destroy terpene content. Therefore, think slow roast rather than searing.

Those making edibles from flower will need to decarboxylate the cannabis first. It’s during this process where many people wave goodbye to a significant percentage of the terpene content. One trick is to place your cannabis flower in a glass jar before placing it in the oven. That way the terpenes stick to the walls and are thus contained. If decarboxylating cannabis, you’ll preserve a lot more of the terpenes if you do it at 200-250°F for thirty to forty minutes as opposed to 300°F+ for ten minutes.

woman cooking with terpenes

How To Preserve Terpenes

Cooking with terpenes isn’t possible if you can’t preserve them. Terpenes are one of the more delicate compounds in the cannabis plant and can be lost in different ways.

Terpenes have notoriously low boiling points, with some useful terpenes beginning to boil away at only 310°F. Preserving terpenes not only ensures a potent flavor and aroma, but it also helps ensure the potent medicinal properties of the cannabis plant can be more efficiently modulated.

Light exposure is another important consideration. Cannabis should be stored away from direct sunlight in a cool dark location where it’s properly sealed. Ensure humidity is kept under control and close to sixty percent. Mildew can easily form and thus destroy those all-important terpenes. And for those of us with an eye on the medicinal benefits provided by terpenes, that’s the last thing we want!

Francis Cassidy

Francis Cassidy is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics. With a particular focus on the cannabis industry, he aims to help ensure the smooth reintegration of cannabis back into global culture. When not writing, he's to be found exploring his new base in British Columbia, Canada. You can follow his other works including his photography on his blog thestrayphotographer.com

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