The Fundamentals of Cooking with Cannabis Terpenes

Cooking with Terpenes and Cannabis, learn the fundamentals

Cannabis-based restaurants are opening up shop, and fast. Here's how you can add cannabis to your kitchen. Image Credit: By Pixel-Shot on Shutterstock

Have you ever wondered what creates the fragrance of herbs, fruits, vegetables, and flowers? What about the distinct odors and flavors from different cannabis strains? The answer is terpenes, a diverse array of organic compounds found in plants that are responsible for the way they smell and taste, and — in many cases — their aromatherapeutic benefits.

For example, lavender contains a terpene called linalool that promotes relaxation and helps to reduce anxiety and stress. Citrus and peppermint contain limonene found to relieve heartburn, boost metabolism and help increase focus. Sage and conifers contain pinene, a distinct pine fragrance which can increase memory retention and alertness. Beta-caryophyllene is another great terpene found in black pepper, oregano, and cannabis — which can help to reduce inflammation and pain.

There are hundreds of terpenes in nature. Their main job is to repel predatory insects and help pollination by attracting insects. More than 100 unique cannabis terpenes have been identified across strains of the cannabis plant. This gives them their unique smells and flavors — along with the ability to produce different moods and health benefits. Terpenes, CBD (cannabidiol), THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and other cannabinoids can work together for therapeutic results — thanks to what’s known as the “entourage effect”.

Now we know what terpenes role is — creating flavor, aroma and taste — we can begin cooking with cannabis terpenes (just as we do with any other herbs and flavorings) to create delicious dishes.

Cannabis Cooking and Dosage: It’s Not Easy

Cooking with cannabis is the easy part. It’s the delayed reaction to edibles that people usually struggle with — especially when it comes to desserts. This means there are dos and don’ts for cooking with cannabis — the biggies being dosage and portion control — which could mean the difference between being able to enjoy food containing cannabis terpenes with enjoyable effects, versus having an uncomfortable psychoactive experience.

The math of cannabis and THC dosing in your cooking can be messy. The quality of cannabis is where it all starts, and unless you have the right equipment, it’s difficult to find the exact measurements. Portioning can be tricky and should be based on the dose you want to get from one serving. For example, if you are making 100mg cookies and only want a 10mg experience, you can only eat one-tenth of the cookie. So, making 10mg single cookies would be best — but then again, who only eats one! The best advice when you start out cooking with cannabis is that less is more. Test how you feel and question the experience. Was it enjoyable or overbearing? Too much or too little? In any case, be sure to adjust accordingly.

To be safe as you start out, we recommend using a dosage calculator.

The Best Cannabis-Infused Ingredients to Cook With

The most common ingredients are cannabis-infused butter (commonly called cannabutter) and cannabis-infused oils (coconut oil and olive oil have best results). Use the exact ingredients specified — solid or liquid fat, as they melt and burn at different temperatures. Both can be bought, but they’re also fairly easy to make at home.

Mix the dry cannabis into the fat or liquid and slowly heat. This process extracts the cannabinoids from the plant — which should be strained afterward — leaving the infused oil or butter, free of any plant material. You can then substitute the fat and oil 1:1 in any recipe. When it comes to your pots and pans, keep your ‘pot pans’ to use solely for cooking with cannabis to avoid cross-contamination.

The content on cannabisMD is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Nicola Bridges
Nicola Bridges
Nicola Bridges is an award-winning writer and editor who’s covered health, wellness, and women’s lifestyle for the past two decades. The former editorial director for and editor in chief of Working Mother, she is currently a regular contributor to Parade Magazine and The Fine Line where she writes about trends in modern health.

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