Hemp Flower Essential Oil
Some Things Just Can't Be Replicated
Years ago, when I was working in the regulated cannabis industry in Oregon, I had a personal mission to recreate the aroma of fresh growing cannabis flowers using essential oils and absolutes. I tried really hard to be clever in my combinations as I mixed to mimic cannabis terpene profiles and similar aroma categories for a layered, realistic effect. Sadly, I was never successful in my mission and decided to make peace with the elusive nature of this incredibly nuanced aroma.
This was 2015 and no one was steam distilling cannabis for its essential oil. The focus was mostly on THC percentages, concentrated ethanol extracts and the perfect rosin method for dabs. Which was all well and good, but as an aromatherapist I was disappointed that this intensely aromatic plant was being overlooked for aromatherapy. I was captivated by the difficult to describe scent of a mature cannabis flower ready to be harvested and I was itching to formulate something new with it.
So, in 2021 when I opened and smelled a bottle of certified organic hemp essential oil from our friends at SunGold Botanicals I was ECSTATIC. They had done it, they captured the true-to-nature aroma! I immediately signed up for a regular supply and I know that it is adding a very special aromatic quality to Little Bird formulations.
SunGold might not be the only company offering a hemp essential oil now, but they ARE the only one distilling the essential oil from fresh, not dried, hemp flowers. My friends, this makes allll the difference. The aroma has complexity, intensity, freshness. I get citrus, pepper, pine, a little dried fruit, earthy grass - and I was amazed to pick up on some of those sugary notes that cannabis can often make. I didn't expect that in the essential oil. It was wonderfully nostalgic and instantly transported me back to living on our farm in Oregon.
Scent With Purpose
If you look at our hemp essential oil with GC/MS analysis there is a second story to be told. A handful of really beneficial terpenes (aka volatile aromatic compounds) are being expressed - and they are serving a functional purpose beyond just smelling great. I'm going to highlight the top three terpenes expressed in the hemp essential oil we use and share a bit about how we understand these compounds to behave.
- β-myrcene is the most prevalent terpene seen in cannabis and makes up 30% of the essential oil we use. It has demonstrated analgesic, sedative, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Myrcene synergizes the activities of other terpenes and compounds. It's like the cool friend who shows up and gets the party started. I think one of the most interesting findings is that myrcene has been shown to enhance transdermal absorption. This means that topical formulations that incorporate myrcene have a better chance of penetrating beneath the top layer of skin so that active ingredients might enter into circulation for a systemic effect.*
- Terpinolene, which is less commonly seen in sizable amounts within essential oils, makes up 15% of our hemp essential oil. Tea tree, rosemary and sage all have it to some degree, usually less than 5%. Terpinolene functions as an antioxidant and is antimicrobial and antifungal. It is used widely in cleaning products and is sometimes an additive for perfumes, soaps, and insect repellents. Topical use has been studied for elimination of the bacteria which contributes to acne. Aromatically it can have a deeply calming effect, especially when combined with linalool.*
- β-caryophyllene rounds out our list at 12% and it is easily one of my favorite terpenes. There is a ton of research on this compound due to it being classified as a dietary cannabinoid. It is a potent anti-inflammatory and the one terpene that is found consistently across all cannabis varieties. Generous amounts are also expressed in copaiba oleoresin and black pepper essential oil. What makes it special is that it engages with endocannabinoid receptors in our skin, specifically CB2. What happens next is a release of beta-endorphins (aka the happiness hormone) from keratinocytes. This triggers skin regeneration and influences how we perceive pain in that area. It may also be responsible for reducing redness and signaling a chain of events that leads to building collagen.*
Little Bird Sourcing Notes
Little Bird uses an artisanal, certified organic hemp essential oil from SunGold Botanicals. They are a certified organic and biodynamic farm in Oregon and we love supporting their work. They steam distill the essential oil in small batches from fresh hemp flowers using a copper still. Copper is an excellent conductor of heat, ensuring even distribution and is useful for keeping the potential for microbial contamination in check. Not to mention, they are beautiful works of art! We also use the resulting hydrosol from this process.
You will find hemp essential oil as a key ingredient in our Flower & Oil Hemp Booster.