Terpenes, TerpiMix and the second cannabis revolution
If legalisation was the first phase of the cannabis revolution, then the second could be led by terpenes and other lesser-studied components of the drug.
In a previously “unthinkable” move, the US exempted cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act in December, to facilitate more research into its medical potential.
A host of prestigious science institutions are gearing up to study cannabis terpenes - and their role in future treatments for conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s to substance abuse, and dental medicine to strokes.
For cannabis growers and producers, in-depth analysis of terpene content could also be key to expanding their businesses: by improving quality, and matching customers with exactly the right products for their recreational and medical requirements.
Cannabis terpenes: a hot research topic
Cannabis’ status as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act had long made it difficult to research its medicinal benefits. However, November’s unanimous decision by the US Senate to declassify marijuana changed the landscape dramatically. And President Biden’s final approval of the Senate legislation – known as the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act – decisively cut away the ‘red tape’ around cannabis research the following month.
This means that pent-up demand for federally-endorsed studies should soon be released. Eight prominent US research bodies – among them the national institutes for ageing, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and cancer – have already announced that they aim to promote mechanistic analysis of minor cannabinoids and cannabis terpenes. On terpenes specifically, the planned studies will seek to better understand their therapeutic pathways - as well as their potential applications in analgesia, Alzheimer’s disease, alcohol abuse, cancer care, dentistry, epilepsy, migraines, strokes, and substance abuse.
Greater terpene knowledge, better cannabis products
If we’re still a long way from understanding the therapeutic mechanisms of action behind terpenes, Analytical Cannabis says the cannabis industry is also “still scratching the surface” when it comes to discovering their potential commercial benefits. But it adds that “One thing … is abundantly clear: the future of cannabis is targeted, authentic, and data-driven health and wellness solutions.” More in-depth analysis of the roughly 150 cannabis terpenes currently identified will give producers the capacity to manufacture commercially viable products that create specific beneficial effects – such as anxiety relief or better sleep. There is already evidence that terpenes enhance pain relief, while terpenes and cannabidiol (CBD) have also shown potential for treating inflammatory conditions - including the potentially lethal cytokine storms triggered by Covid-19.
Medicinal markets aside, more detailed terpene analysis will also allow growers and manufacturers to construct new products that enhance customers’ pleasure in consuming recreational cannabis. A cannabis strain’s terpene profile also determines its flavour and aroma, and so manufacturers can use data to select the terpenes they want in their products, depending on their buyers’ preferences. Analysis can also allow them to customise terpene profiles for their goods, so that they reproduce the same scents and flavours every time, or produce the distinctive kinds of terpene combinations that often win prizes in cannabis competitions. Moreover, terpene analysis can also help meet growing consumer demand for fresh cannabis products, as mapping terpene levels over time allows growers to bring plants to market at their aromatic peak. Finally, the determination of terpene content is also an important part of producers’ quality testing protocols - for example, in providing robust allergen statements, since customers who are sensitive to certain foods and plants can also have adverse reactions to terpenes (e.g. lavender/linalool).
How terpene reference materials can help
Although the ‘bouquet’ of aromas that terpenes produce in cannabis is sometimes compared to that of a fine wine, cannabis producers need more than the equivalent of a sommelier’s nose to determine the exact terpene profile of their products. Leafly argues that variations in growing and curing techniques may produce dramatically different results from one harvest to another - meaning that laboratory analysis is vital in determining the type and quantity of terpenes that are present in a sample, as well as the efficacy and quality of a product made from those raw ingredients.
Although multiple analytical techniques can be adopted to qualify and quantity terpene content, headspace gas chromatography (HS-GC) coupled with a mass spectrometer is the most widely used, given that it can easily measure down to the parts per billion detection levels required by cannabis testing laboratories. Using reference materials as part of this process is also essential, because they help analytical chemists establish that desired terpenes are present and at the correct concentration – helping ensure customer satisfaction, as well as the potential effectiveness of medicinal products.
TerpiMix – a breakthrough in terpene analysis from Dr Ehrenstorfer
Dr Ehrenstorfer’s Smart Solutions portfolio of multi-analyte testing kits has already revolutionised laboratory analysis of pesticides, PFAS and human and veterinary drug residues.
Now we’re doing the same for terpenes.
Our new TerpiMix kit is the easiest and quickest way to screen 63 terpene analytes in cannabis products, and is equally useful for analysing terpenes in food.
A great leap forward from calibrating working standards for individual analytes, TerpiMix allows your lab to focus on what’s important: the analysis. As an ISO 17034-accredited product, it also gives you the peace of mind that comes with purchasing the highest possible quality.
In addition, because one of the biggest challenges in terpene analysis is separating out peaks from co-eluting compounds, we’ve stripped out 10 near-identical but unnecessary analytes – producing a wide-ranging, fit-for-purpose kit that enables optimal elution and clearly defined results.
We’ve done the same for our three new terpene mixtures – 652, 653, and 654 - that complement the new TerpiMix kit. All four new products have also been designed for optimal shelf life, and mixtures can be purchased either as a kit or individually.
Partnering with Dr Ehrenstorfer experience and quality
With five decades of experience in manufacturing quality reference materials, Dr Ehrenstorfer is the perfect partner and guide for laboratories operating in the US cannabis testing industry and beyond.
Our market-leading range of ISO 17034-accredited cannabis products – including a wide range of single solutions and mixtures for terpenes, in addition to TerpiMix - can guarantee labs confidence in their results and prevent dangerous goods from entering the marketplace. We also provide Certificates of Analysis with unparalleled levels of detail on characterisation, purity, traceability, uncertainty, and other key information.
As part of the LGC family, we can also offer your laboratory access to LGC AXIO Proficiency Testing’s cannabis scheme and our free CannLearn cannabis testing training app. You can also follow us on Linkedin for advice and insights on running your lab.