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What are terpenes?

Terpenes, the compounds in botanical plants that give it its pungent, distinctive smell, are extremely sensitive to temperature. Terpenes are the fragrant oils that give botanical plants their aromatic diversity, and are the main building block of plant resin (essential oil). Technically speaking, terpenes are a large class of hydrocarbons produced by plants, and are GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) by the FDA. Terpenes and terpenoids are often talked about interchangeably, however, when denatured by oxidation, or dried/cured, it is technically a terpenoid.

Terpenes are responsible for the pleasant, or not so pleasant, aromas of botanical plants, along with the psychological effects associated with those aromas. Terpenes also offer a range of therapeutic benefits and can produce a range of flavors and “tastes” in the dabbing experience. That’s why it’s so important to create a consistent and relatively low-heat environment as you’re warming your dab. Often, blowtorches heat dab nails up to as high as 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, which can destroy the terpenes and lend a burnt taste to the vapor. And if the nail is hot enough, the dab touched against it will release not vapor but actual smoke – and the effects of the concentrate are rendered useless.

Terpenes explain why it’s necessary to let your nail cool before you touch the concentrate to it. And, it makes heat-monitoring aids, like titanium atomizers, so appealing. With a slow-heating vaporizing device, you’ll never taste burnt concentrate on your tongue.

As botanical strains can vary greatly between sources, those with high concentrations of specific terpenes are known to be easier to identify than other strains. While there have been over 200 different types of terpenes found in varying concentrations of strains, there are only about 10 primary terpenes that most frequently occur in greater concentrations, and about 20 secondary terpenes occurring in lesser concentrations. There are many terpenes found in botanical plants, but some of the most common are Myrcene, Pinene, Limonene and Linalool.

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