Defining Natural In a World of Greenwashing

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La Croix’s “natural essence” shares a common factor with cannabis flower – TERPENES.

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Topic of Debate: “Natural Essence”

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At the beginning of this month, LaCroix and its self-proclaimed “cult following” were thrown into a frenzy when a “class action lawsuit (was) filed in Cook County against LaCroix’s parent company National Beverage Corporation”. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Lenora Rice and “all those injured by the popular sparkling water brand’s false claims to be “all natural” and “100% natural”. These claims sparked controversy when it became apparent that certain ingredients comprising the “natural essence” of LaCroix were found to have applications in harmful products. The Food and Drug Administration has identified certain synthetic ingredients, which happen to be present in LaCroix beverages. One such ingredient, Linalool, has conjured much debate surrounding LaCroix due to its presence in cockroach insecticide. However, Nick A. Caporella, CEO of LaCroix parent company Natural Beverages has rebutted these dangerous claims directly via his understanding that linalool is utilized in context to distract the cockroaches from the smell of poison (rather than inducing dangerous effects). Additional ingredients sparking controversy include limonene and linalool propionate. According to PubChem, however, the only documented toxic effects of linalool on humans is mild skin and eye irritation. PubChem also reports that linalyl (linalool) propionate as a food additive and ingredient presents no safety concern at current levels of intake when used as a flavoring agent.

So what exactly is all the fuss about? The Food and Drug Administration has declared “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic  (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food. In addition, the FDA states they “did not consider whether the term “natural” should describe any nutritional or other health benefit”. So where does LaCroix fit into all this? Well, according to their website the “natural flavors” in their sparkling waters is derived “from the natural essence oils extracted from the named fruit used in each of (the) LaCroix flavors. There are no sugars or artificial ingredients contained in, nor added to, these extracted flavors.”

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The “natural flavors” in (LaCroix’s) sparkling waters is derived “from the natural essence oils extracted from the named fruit used in each of (the) LaCroix flavors.

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Terpenes In Question

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According to PubChem, Limonene is a major component of the oil extracted from citrus peels with potential chemopreventive and antitumor activities. Essentially, this means that the “natural essence” of citrus exudes an oil known as limonene. In cannabis flower, this oil is referred to as a terpene. The kidney toxicity referred to in the class action lawsuit against LaCroix refers to a study in which the toxicity (known as hyaline droplet nephropathy) is deemed rat-specific.

In terms of the therapeutic benefits of limonene, its presence in cannabis strains tends to elevate mood and provide stress relief. It has been utilized in products aimed at alleviating symptoms of anxiety, depression, inflammation, pain, and cancer. Commonly found in strains such as Super Lemon Haze and Jack Herer. Discover more strains with high limonene profiles with Leafly.

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Linalool is debatably the primary ingredient sturring concern around LaCroix’s ingredients. It has garnered attention as a result of its presence in the ingredients list for cockroach insecticides. The purpose for linalool in cockroach insecticide is due to its ability to be an effective, reversible inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase, which terminates nerve impulse by catalyzing the hydrolysis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholinesterase is a key enzyme in the insect nervous system, which linalool has shown to be an effective, reversible inhibitor of. In layman’s terms, linalool maintains a neurotoxic effect on certain insects, thereby inhibiting the ability of the neurotransmitters to respond effectively and causing a block in nerve impulses. According to the FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, both limonene and linalool have been deemed “synthetic flavoring substances and adjuvants that are generally recognized as safe”.

Linalool can be found in a bountiful amount of fruits and plants. The essential oil of linalool is extracted for its floral, yet slightly spicy aroma often utilized in air fresheners and household cleaners. There are over 200 species of plants which produce linalool including Lamiaceae (mints, scented herbs), Lauraceae (laurels, cinnamon, rosewood), and Rutaceae (citrus fruits). The most common linalool producing plant is Lavender. Linalool essential oils are prized for their relaxing and semi-sedating effects. The relaxing effects of linalool attribute to its ability to ease anxiety and the effects of psychosis. MedicalJane reports that linalool has immune boosting properties, can reduce lung inflammation, and can restore cognitive and emotional function – adding to its potential to aid in Alzheimer’s treatment.

Cannabis strains high in linalool include Lavender, Master Kush, and Granddaddy Purple. Explore the potential therapeutic benefits of linalool with the help of Leafly’s terpene breakdown.

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Linalool (Linalyl) Propionate

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A 2012 study utilized hydrodistillation to extract 25 volatile compounds from Nagami kumquats. Of the extracted compounds, the primary ones obtained were d-limonene (41.64 %), β-myrcene (16.54 %), linalyl propionate (9.55 %). These compounds successfully produced antiproliferative effects on human prostate cancer (LNCaP) cells. Linalyl propionate is commonly found in ginger, lavender, and sage. It is commonly used as a flavoring agent in foods and poses no safety concern.

Linalyl propionate maintains a floral aroma and a herbal flavor profile. Therapeutic benefits of linalyl propionate include anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anxiolytic effects. This particular compound has yet to be discovered amongst the cannabis plant but shares its lineage with the linalool terpene.

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Synergistic Effect Of Terpenes With Cannabis

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The potential for medicinal value to be derived from the cannabis plant is amplified once isolated cannabinoids are reintroduced to one another, allowing for an entourage effect (or synergetic effect) to take place. In the mid-1970’s, various peer-reviewed journals were published, identifying extensive components of the Cannabis sativa plant. The hydrocarbons (now known as terpenes) were acknowledged to be present in abundance and responsible for the odor of the plant. When cultivating cannabis, variances can arise even amongst the same genetics due to regional differences, seasonal weather, and human interaction. This is the primary reason for the discrepancy in flavor and potency amongst cultivators of the same cannabis strain. The resin containing terpenes can be increased via stressing of the cannabis plant. A 1950’s report from the UN Bulletin of Narcotics states that resin secretion is “a defensive reaction of the plant against high temperature and lack of moisture in the atmosphere”. This explains why dry and arid environments such as Afghanistan and Morocco are able to produce such aromatic cannabis and hashish as compared to Northern European where the same hemp variety produces non-existent levels of resin.

The plant produces these natural terpenes as a protective measure against insects. While they do possess toxicity towards their intended predators, terpenes actually maintain therapeutic benefits when consumed in controlled amounts by humans. Cannabis consumers can utilize the expression, “The Nose Knows” to guide their purchase decision – certain strains comprise a specific terpene profile and may work more effectively for certain individuals and the ailments they possess. Upon achieving an understanding of which terpenes work best for your body, consumers and patients can seek out products and strains with high percentages of specific terpenes.

In a 2011 publication, Ethan Russo alludes to various studies in which the synergistic effect of terpenes and cannabinoids has been continuously acknowledged. Anti-acne properties of limonene were investigated and solidified in a 2008 study on Korean citrus in which limonene was a primary ingredient and displayed anti-inflammatory capabilities. Pinene, whose presence can be found in tea-tree oil, has also been proven to assist in the treatment of acne. In reference to mental illness, the synergistic effect of terpenes and cannabis may potentially deliver great strides in the treatment of depression and addiction.

Certainly, more information and scientific research are required to confirm the medical benefits of these terpenes as they work synergistically with cannabis. In addition, further research is necessary in order to gain a well-rounded understanding of the endocannabinoid system and how variances in an individual’s ECS might play a role in their response to certain terpenes. But for now, try indulging in an aromatherapy meditation session next time you toke up and attempt to hone in on how certain aromas can evoke different feelings of awareness. You may be surprised to find your senses awoken.

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