Terpene Analysis – What You Need To Know

Terpene analysis is the process of determining the concentration and abundance of terpenes in cannabis products. Terpenes are volatile compounds that are responsible for providing the aroma and flavor of cannabis, as well as interacting with cannabinoids to create a desired effect. This type of analysis is essential for distinguishing top-shelf cannabis flower from lower-quality product, as well as understanding the potential medical benefits of consuming cannabis-containing edibles or concentrates.

Key Takeaways

  • Terpenes are volatile compounds responsible for providing aroma and flavor in cannabis, as well as interacting with cannabinoids to create the Entourage Effect.
  • Different terpenes have different benefits and influence the nature of the high one experiences when consuming cannabis. • Terpene analysis is an important tool for tracking and quality control in the legal cannabis industry, providing detailed testing that identifies and quantifies terpenes with precision.
  • There are several different types of terpene analysis, each with their own costs and benefits.
  • Terpenes are highly volatile compounds that can easily degrade when exposed to environmental factors such as oxygen, heat, humidity, and light—which means they must be handled with care in order to preserve their content and maximize the entourage effect.

The Entourage Effect & Therapeutic Benefits

entourage effect

The most important thing to know about terpene analysis is that they are responsible for providing the aroma and flavor in cannabis, as well as interacting with cannabinoids to create a desired effect known as the Entourage Effect. This phenomenon occurs when terpenes work together with cannabinoids such as THC and CBD to produce a greater therapeutic effect than when cannabinoids are used alone.

Recent research supports this theory and has found evidence demonstrating that terpenes can mimic the effects of cannabinoids and enhance their activity when combined, without an increase in negative side effects or toxicity levels when heated at higher temperatures.

Different Terpenes Have Different Benefits

Different terpenes have different benefits and influence the nature of the high one experiences when consuming cannabis. For example, Indica strains are known to provide a sedative and body high that promotes feelings of relaxation and sleep-aid, while Sativa based strains often provide more cerebral experiences such as euphoria and upliftment. Hybrid strains are a combination of the two parent plants and offer a range of effects. The individual consumer can decide which strain best suits their needs based on its terpene content or profile.

For example, combining linalool with THC can help counter poor memory effects, while combining pinene and CBG could be beneficial to patients with conditions like MRSA. Additionally, consuming CBD-rich terpene extracts has been shown to benefit more than CBD-isolate. Combining certain terpenes with specific cannabinoids has been linked to improved mood when inhaled as well as providing tailored experiences for users depending on their desired outcome.

Benefits of Terpene Analysis

Terpene analysis is an important tool for tracking and quality control in the legal cannabis industry. This analysis helps brands to demonstrate product quality and safety to consumers by providing detailed testing that identifies and quantifies terpenes with precision. This information can also be used to determine the levels of each target terpene present in the sample, which can help to determine the efficacy of a product.

Additionally, research has demonstrated that terpenes mimic cannabinoids and produce similar pain-relieving effects, which can contribute to the ‘entourage effect’ of cannabis products. As such, terpene profiling can be used to optimize products for medicinal use as well as other therapeutic purposes.

Types Of Terpene Analysis

You can skip this section if you aren’t that interested in the scientific and technical details of how terpene analysis works. The most important thing to know is that there are several different types and they have different costs and benefits.

Headspace SPME-GS/MS

The most common method used to analyze terpenes is headspace solid-phase microextraction (HS-SPME) coupled with gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). This technique involves spiking cannabis samples with a terpene cocktail, and then volatile compounds are extracted with an HS-SPME technique on the GERSTEL MultiPurpose Autosampler. The terpenes in the sample are then detected and analyzed. This method is useful for detecting different terpenes in cannabis samples and can be used to predict how a product will affect its user.

Gas Chromatography (GC)

Another method of terpene profiling is gas chromatography (GC). This method helps analysts determine the levels of each target terpene present in the sample by bringing them into a gaseous state and analyzing their relative masses and concentrations. The results from the analysis can then be used to demonstrate product quality and safety to consumers, as well as provide insight into potential pain-relieving effects of Cannabis sativa.

Accelerated Solvent Extraction (ASE)

Accelerated solvent extraction (ASE) is another common technique used in terpene analysis. ASE can be combined with sample introduction techniques such as Headspace-Syringe (HS-Syringe), HS-Solid Phase Microextraction Arrow (HS-SPME Arrow), Direct Immersion-SPME Arrow (DI-SPME Arrow), and Liquid Injection-Syringe (LI-Syringe). Of these, the LI-Syringe approach has been deemed the most straightforward and robust method.

This method has terpene working ranges of 0.04–5.12 μg/mL and r2 values of 0.988–0.996 with an average of 0.993. It also has limit of quantitation values of 0.017–0.129 μg/mL with an average of 0.047, analytical precisions of 2.58–9.64% RSD with an average of 1.56, overall ASE-LI-Syringe-GC-MS method precisions of 1.73–14.6% RSD with an average of 4.97, and % recoveries of 84.6–98.9% with an average of 90.2 for the 23 terpenes tested in a sample workflow environment with evaluation of advantages/limitations and opportunities for future work.

Steam Distillation

Terpene analysis can also be performed by steam distillation, which extracts a sample from the plant material through a process known as steam distillation that carries the terpenes away from the plant material into a collection vessel where it is then separated and analyzed using chromatographic techniques such as gas chromatography (GC) or liquid chromatography (LC). GC is typically used to measure volatile terpenes while LC is used to analyze non-volatile compounds. Once the terpenes are separated, they can be further analyzed with mass spectrometry (MS) for identification and quantification – providing information about the amount and type present in a sample which can then be used to target health & wellness solutions within the industry .

Preserving Terpene Content

protecting and preserving your terpenes

It is also important to note that terpenes are highly volatile compounds that can easily degrade when exposed to environmental factors such as oxygen, heat, humidity, and light—which means they must be handled with care in order to preserve their content and maximize the entourage effect.

Additionally, different terpenes have different boiling points; some will begin to evaporate at temperatures as low as 70°F while others may not begin to degrade until around 100°F. Knowing these boiling points can help preserve their content accordingly.


Lastly, many cannabis products provide their terpene profiles on their labels or packaging descriptions so consumers can make informed choices about which products are best for them based on their desired effects or health benefits associated with certain compounds in a strain or extract product type.

How Does Terpene Analysis Help with Tracking and Quality Control?

Terpene analysis helps with tracking and quality control in the cannabis industry by providing data-driven insight into vendors, yields, and cannabinoids.

This data can be used to make educated business decisions when working with new vendors, as well as identify discrepancies between claims made by vendors and actual results. It can also help farmers work towards consistency in their crops and provide them with feedback from previous years on successful practices.

Using Terpene Analysis for Personal Use

Terpene analysis is extremely helpful when it comes to tracking and quality control in the world of cannabis science. Terpenes are found in essential oils of all plants and can play a major role in how our bodies interact with particular cannabis strains. Researchers have identified more than 140 terpenoids in cannabis, which include terpenes, diterpenes and sesquiterpenes.


By analyzing the concentration of particular terpenes from strain to strain, we can get a better understanding of how these strains may interact with us individually and can allow us to better curate the experience we’re looking for. Moreover, research published in The Journal of Natural Products suggests that certain combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes may be beneficial for specific treatments such as acne therapies, antiseptic agents, social anxiety disorder treatment and sleeping disorder treatment.

Furthermore, lighting strategies such as subcanopy lighting and varied light spectra at different developmental stages can also help maximize the production of terpenes and other plant secondary metabolites (PSMs). All this helps with tracking and quality control in terms of ensuring that the right combination of terpenes is being produced for the desired effect.

Terpene Analysis for Edibles & Concentrates

Terpene analysis can help with tracking and quality control by providing a detailed description of a particular product or batch, and accurately predicting how it will affect the user. This is especially important for cannabis-based edibles or concentrates because of the tremendous variability between products or batches which can lead to over or under dosing or undesired side effects.

Terpene analysis using headspace solid phase microextraction (HS-SPME) & gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) can detect minute quantities of various molecules in a sample such as α-pinene R-(+)-Limonene & Linalool. This technique has been used to analyze terpenes in cannabis samples & help accurately label them so users know exactly what they are consuming since there isn’t federal oversight currently monitoring quality or safety of edibles or concentrates this type of analysis helped ensure consumers get right amount active ingredients & contaminants such as heavy metals & pesticides remain within safe limits.

How Do Terpenes Vary Between Different Products, Strains, and Brands?

The terpene profile of a product can vary greatly between different products, strains, and brands. The combination of terpenes and cannabinoids together can have a significant effect on how the body reacts to cannabis. For example, Strain Genie suggests an overall ratio and terpene profile based on genotype, with specific strains or products offered for each activity category depending on the desired effects. The terpene content or profile of a strain is just as important as the cannabinoids when it comes to varying products, strains, and brands.

Studies have shown that there is considerable variation in the concentration and abundance of THC and terpenes in cannabis edibles and orally consumable products, creating a set of challenges for product makers and consumers alike. This may lead to over- or under-dosing, resulting in undesired side effects or lack of medical benefit. To combat this variability, analytical systems utilizing headspace solid-phase microextraction (HS-SPME) and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) are used to detect specific terpenes such as α-pinene, R-(+)-Limonene, and Linalool in cannabis samples. This can provide a more accurate description of a product or batch and help predict how it will affect a user.

Conclusion

Terpene analysis is an essential tool for tracking and quality control in the legal cannabis industry. It helps brands to demonstrate product quality and safety to consumers by providing detailed testing that identifies and quantifies terpenes with precision. Additionally, research has demonstrated that terpenes mimic cannabinoids and produce similar pain-relieving effects, which can contribute to the ‘entourage effect’ of cannabis products.

Different terpenes have different benefits and influence the nature of the high one experiences when consuming cannabis, so understanding their composition can help users tailor their experience for desired outcomes. By utilizing terpene analysis, we can get a better understanding of how cannabis strains may interact with us individually and curate our experience accordingly. With this knowledge, we can make informed decisions about which products are best for us based on their desired effects or health benefits associated with certain compounds in a strain or extract product type.

Katie Devoe

Katie Devoe

Katie Devoe is an entrepreneur, educator, and cannabis thought leader. She has been a guest speaker at numerous conferences and developed the CannaCertified cannabis education platform.

• Cannabis and Hemp Enthusiast
• One of the first female business owners in the hemp and cannabis industry
• Co-founder of one of the largest and most established CBD manufacturers in the country
• Spent the past decade leading brands in the hemp and cannabis industry
• Developed a certification program
Connect with Katie on LinkedIn

Get a quote from Katie on your product idea today!

Katie Devoe

Katie Devoe

Katie Devoe is an entrepreneur, educator, and cannabis thought leader. She has been a guest speaker at numerous conferences and developed the CannaCertified cannabis education platform.

• Cannabis and Hemp Enthusiast
• One of the first female business owners in the hemp and cannabis industry
• Co-founder of one of the largest and most established CBD manufacturers in the country
• Spent the past decade leading brands in the hemp and cannabis industry
• Developed a certification program
Connect with Katie on LinkedIn

Get a quote from Katie on your product idea today!

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