Can the smell of cannabis cure us of illness?
Israel’s Eybna is one of few companies that studies the therapeutic potential of terpenes and other cannabis phytochemicals. They may even be antiviral.
Posted by Abigail Klein Leichman
Blueberry Cookies, Strawberry Diesel, Pineapple Express… these aren’t ice-cream flavors. They’re some of the many natural terpene formulations from Israeli company Eybna.
Terpenes are organic compounds that give distinct scents and tastes – as well as health benefits — to fruits, flowers and plants including cannabis.
Eybna is one of few companies anywhere that studies the therapeutic properties of terpenes and other cannabis phytochemicals.
Manufacturers in the cannabis space, especially in North America, use the company’s proprietary terpene-based formulations to enhance their products.
“Many companies want to build their brand around a signature aroma profile and/or experience that will build customer trust and loyalty. We provide consistent, reliable product formulations for these companies,” says CEO Nadav Eyal.
The added terpenes may enhance medical benefits too, as their potent interactions with other natural compounds play a dynamic role in the efficacy and quality of cannabis products.
If terpenes occur naturally in cannabis, why would manufacturers infuse their products with additional ones?
Eyal explains that terpenes are highly volatile and evaporate easily during the chemical process of extracting CBD and THC from cannabis – the cannabinoids used most frequently in products to treat anything from anxiety to epilepsy.
“We started receiving requests for our terpenes from companies looking to re-introduce the original cannabis aroma, flavor and chemical composition back into concentrates,” Eyal explains.
“In today’s market, as cannabis users are becoming more aware of the existence and benefits of terpenes, there is a strong correlation between the quantity of terpene profile in a product and its quality, also in the eyes of the end consumer.”
Built on pioneering Israeli research
Eybna terpene formulations can be customized for specific sensations or medical needs. Photo: courtesy
Based in central Israel, Eybna (Arabic for “the son of all of us”) was founded in 2014 in partnership with Seach Medical Group, a large Israeli medical cannabis grower and supplier.
Eybna’s research, following on groundbreaking early studies of Prof. Raphael Mechoulam, led to the discovery of the importance of terpenes as well as flavonoids and polyphenols.
“Cannabis is composed of over 1,000 ingredients. But most of the research is focused on only the main two cannabinoids, THC and CBD,” says Eyal.
“Different cannabis strains have different effects on patients, and certain groups of patients suffering from specific medical conditions tend to adapt similar strains to achieve relief and ease their symptoms,” he continues.
“Using different analytical chemistry methods, we try to figure out what compounds in these medical strains are responsible for the therapeutic benefit, and study the synergy between them.”
After analyzing many cannabis strains and collecting data on terpene combinations in medicinally potent strains, Eybna started isolating those unique ingredients from cannabis and other plants.
All the formulas it sells are derived from non-cannabis plants so that they are legal for global export.
“As terpenes are not unique to cannabis, we managed to produce the world’s first line of botanical-derived terpene formulations,” says Eyal.“They hold the highly accurate profile of specific cannabis strains but are produced from natural sources clean of any psychoactive or illegal substances.”
Custom and targeted formulations
The company’s first product line was launched in 2016, and its US subsidiary in California opened in 2018. Today, Eybna has clients in the United States, Canada, Europe and Latin America.
“Right now, Eybna’s ongoing research is conducted in collaboration with three universities in Israel, with top researchers in their fields,” says Eyal.
“Our secondary research into the aromas of cannabis was never done at this level before. We are using special equipment used in the food industry in collaboration with some of Israel’s leading food scientists and flavorists.”
Eybna offers pure terpenes and a “Palate” line that merges various terpenes, ketones and esters to deliver diverse sensations for tinctures and edibles. But custom and targeted formulations have become a large part of the business.
“At the beginning, the industry was interested more in generic, popular cannabis strain flavors. Now, as it matures, there are new markets full of consumers who never tried cannabis. They are looking for products that are specifically effective or targeting specific sensations,” Eyal explains.
“Therefore, we work with industry-leading brands to develop products exclusively for their needs and for specific medical indications, leveraging the data collected through our studies.”
One example is formulations categorized according to whether they might be more effective when taken at night or during the day. This, too, is based on proprietary research carried out under license from the Israeli Health Ministry.
“We’re using big data and sophisticated algorithms to collect large amounts of data, analyze and try to understand the medicinal qualities of different cannabis strains and their phytochemicals compositions. It’s not only a matter of smell and taste,” Eyal explains.
Terpene vs. virus
The Covid-19 outbreak has presented an opportunity for Eybna to investigate terpenes as an antiviral treatment, Eyal says.
Eybna is collaborating with fellow Israeli company CannaSoul Analytics to prove if Eybna’s novel NT-VRL terpene formulation, inhaled directly to increase bioavailability, can treat and prevent viral infections in high-risk and actively ill patients.
The project aims to optimize NT-VRL’s anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties utilizing pioneering research from Prof. David “Dedi” Meiri, head of the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Cannabinoid Research at the Technion-Israeli Institute of Technology and chairman and CSO of CannaSoul and its Myplant-Bio subsidiary.
Meiri said CannaSoul “will try to identify the plant’s own molecules that are capable of suppressing the immune response to the Covid-19 coronavirus, which causes inflammation and severe disease. Lowering the immune system response without suppressing it would provide a better [alternative] to steroids, which completely suppress the immune system.”