When I was studying Ashtanga yoga in the shalas of Florida, Ayurveda constantly came up. The ancient practice of balance is a lifestyle that includes meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, and natural healing.
Because of the link between Ayurveda and Ashtanga, it’s quite common to see American yoga shalas selling essential oils and products containing them.
So when I noticed these same essential oils and concoctions popping up in vape pens as I traveled to various cannabis conferences, I was instantly intrigued.
Essential Oils in Alternative Medicine and Beyond
Essential oils aren’t unique to Ayurveda; they’ve been linked to homeopathy, naturopathy, herbalism, and other forms of alternative medicine, though the oils themselves aren’t responsible for the hippies that typically promote them.
Ayurvedic medicine doesn’t simply contain herbal mixtures either. Toxic chemicals and metals are often used in these alternative treatments, and the practice is dismissed by the majority of the Western medical community as pseudoscience.
When essential oils are extracted from plants, the terpenes and oxygenated compounds are condensed and everything else is removed.s
Coconut oil and olive oil are two essential oils widely used in cooking in the west, but they’re far from the only essential oils. Every plant has an essential oil. In fact, many beauty and hygiene products contain essential oils (though not all).
Product labels mentioning “natural” flavors, smells, and other ingredients are typically talking about essential oils, whereas artificial flavors are commonly synthesized from chemicals derived from insects.
These naturally occurring oils are therapeutic simply because they’re natural. It’s the difference between cheese and American cheese.
Essential Cannabis Oil
Cannabis concentrates, extracts, honey, wax, shatter, etc. are all forms of essential cannabis oil. After speaking with essential oil extractors at the Marijuana Business Conference and Cannabis Business Congress, I learned the extraction process isn’t too different for each plant.
Though most people are familiar with hash oil made from solvents like butane, alcohol, and CO2 (making them more like absolutes than essential oils), many solventless cannabis solutions are on the market.
The problem for the cannabis industry is the winterization process of extraction removes fat and condenses the remaining molecules to the point that the extract isn’t viscous enough to be soaked into a typical vape pen wick.
While oil industry experts are working on this, most retail dispensaries and black market cannabis vape is diluted with vegetable glycerin and/or propylene glycol.
Glycerins and glycols are often shunned in favor of coconut oil by cannabis connoisseurs and the mmj community. It wasn’t long before the usage of organic coconut essential oil became the standard in legal recreational states as well.
The problem is for every health-conscious person looking for pure oil, there’s a handful of green rushers selling artificially flavored glycerins as “pure.”
It’s not that glycerin (and more specifically vegetable glycerin) is necessarily bad, but you want to know what’s going into your body. Being told something is pure only to find out its cut with vegetable glycerin and/or coconut oil isn’t ok.
All About the Terpenes
Over the past couple decades, cannabis research managed to progress, despite the countless obstacles created by its criminal status. Thanks to testing labs like Steep Hill Labs, we now know more about terpenes, terpenoids and cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant than ever before.
THC and CBD are among the cannabinoids unique to the cannabis plant, but the terpenes aren’t unique to cannabis.
Terpene profiles are the key to turning Ayurvedic, holistic, alternative, Eastern medicine, hippie “potions” into natural and organic medicines for people that may be as effective as modern medicine.
For example lavender and cannabis indica are known to calm anxiety. Mixing these essential oils creates an extraordinary terpene profile for therapeutic usage.
Lavender contains a terpene called linalool, a common ingredient in perfumes and floral-scented products. Check out Chandler Burr’s book, “Emperor of Scent” to learn more about common ingredients in perfumes and scented products, including whale vomit.
Linalool is also found in cannabis, citrus, mint, and cinnamon. It’s the terpene responsible for calming anxiety, stress, and even epileptic convulsions.
Therapeutic and homepathic remedies focused on linalool and CBD create a synergetic mixture that can treat a variety of symptoms experienced by patients with both mental and physical illnesses.
Even pairings of cannabinoids provide different benefits. a dose with high THC and CBG will have a different effect than one with high THCA and CBC. Fine tuning these terpenes and terpenoids is the key to marijuana as a medicine.
So, while Ayurveda and other methods of alternative medicine may seem like psuedoscience quakery only practiced by the delusional and insane, it’s actually the backbone of the natural flavor and scent industries.
We may not all try to cure cancer with crystals, but we do all use some kind of deodorant, soap, surface cleaner, disinfectant, cologne, and other products that contain recipes derived from these same herbal healing methods.
And if you’re looking to be a vape connoisseur, bone up on terpenes and essential oils.
Brian Penny is a former business analyst and operations manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has appeared in High Times, Fast Company, Huffington Post, and Hardcore Droid.