Terpene Potency Testing: Why and What to Test For
In this post:
- Why test for terpenes?
- Alpha-Pinene & Beta-Pinene
- Terpene Testing
Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons that naturally occur in hemp, cannabis and other plants. Terpenes fend off harmful predators and lure helpful pollinators to ensure optimal growth while delivering the plant’s unique flavor and aroma. In hemp and cannabis, terpenes also synergize with cannabinoids like THC and CBD to make up the plant’s entire therapeutic profile.
This is known as the “entourage effect;” which means that cannabinoids and terpenes interact to intensify each other’s benefits and counteract potential side effects. While they are largely beneficial, terpenes may also exhibit toxic and irritating effects at when infused in extractions at unusually high concentrations. That’s why it’s important to know precisely what your product contains.
At ACS Laboratory, we test hemp and cannabis flowers and extracts for 38 terpenes to help determine the flavor, safety and best usage.
Why Test for Terpenes?
Regardless of the strain you harvest, it’s impossible to know what the product’s final terpene profile will be until you submit it for testing. Terpenes exist both in hemp and cannabis plants but their potency can change from plant to plant based on factors such as climate, soil type and age of the crop. Moreover terpene profiles may differ depending on whether they are present in flower or an extract.
Terpenes that are present in flower may yield more predictable potency results. However when cannabis is heated through the extraction process, the final product often demonstrates a significant reduction in terpenes, leading to an end-product that lacks the whole-plant phytochemical profile.
Since the whole plant profile may be what your customers needs to relieve their symptoms, you’ll want to know precisely what your finished product or flower contains. This will allow you to highlight the terpenes on your marketing materials and educate customers about why they should try your product or avoid it based on potential allergies. While cannabis contains approximately 100 identifiable terpenes, some of the most potent agents are myrcene, limonene, caryophyllene, linalool and pinene.
Here we highlight the unique benefits, flavors and potential risks that each one can contribute.
Myrcene is the most prevalent terpene in cannabis products. Oftentimes more than 65% of a single strains’ terpene makeup, consists solely of myrcene. It can also be found in high concentrations in mangoes, hops, lemongrass and thyme; which explains the slightly tangy and earthy smell it provides.
Myrcene is associated with relaxation qualities and anti-inflammatory effects, which can support someone suffering from conditions such as sleep deprivation and pain. Finally, myrcene naturally synergises with THC and CBD, allowing the body to more easily absorb these important cannabinoids.
Even though myrcene is the most common terpene in cannabis plants, it may not be 100% safe at high concentrations. For example, California included beta-myrcene on its Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer. While many argue that Prop 65 is too stringent and doesn’t account for the difference between isolated chemicals and natural components, it is still important to be aware of this warning.
Therefore, it’s important to test for beta-myrcene to determine your plant’s safety and compliance.
Limonene is the second most abundant terpene in cannabis. Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges are also rich in this terpene as well as plants like mint, rosemary and juniper. Limonene is said to elevate moods and has been used for people with stress, depression and anxiety, all while providing a citrusy flavor that’s strong but refreshing.
Limonene is known to have antifungal and antibacterial properties, which is why it can also be found in household cleaning products.
While limonene is extraordinarily beneficial, there a minor dangers associated with high concentrations of this citrus-scented terpene. Firstly, allergies to limonene are common. Additionally when limonene is exposed to sun or air, it can oxidize and become very irritating to the eyes, skin and respiratory system. Generally this is more of a danger to those who work with extractions rather than to consumers who ingest them, but it's still important to understand when testing your strain.
Caryophyllene is a unique terpene in that it also acts like a cannabinoid. Not only does caryophyllene deliver aromatic, flavorful and anti-inflammatory effects, it also binds to receptors in the body to yield more direct medicinal benefits. Caryophyllene can be found in black pepper and cinnamon, which explains its spicy, peppery scent.
Caryophyllene strains of cannabis can help alleviate pain, reduce stress and help those with anxiety. It is also known for its anti-cancer properties. Moreover several studies on caryophyllene has shown its capacity to exhibit neuroprotective effects. Approved by the FDA for use in food and supplements, caryophyllene is considered a safe substance that you’ll want to consider marketing to your customers.
If you’ve ever enjoyed the calming, soothing aroma of lavender, you’ve experienced the terpene Linalool. When linalool interacts with cannabinoids, it creates strains that are known for stress-relief and soothing relaxation. Studies have also considered linalool to be an analgesic, meaning it can support pain reduction.
Finally, linalool is known for anti-inflammatory qualities.
Similar to limonene, linalool is extraordinarily beneficial and not generally known as a toxic agent. However, linool can also cause minor allergic reactions and may also become irritating to the skin and eyes and high concentrations above 57%. It’s important to determine your strains extract linalool profile so that you can keep customers informed.
Alpha-Pinene & Beta-Pinene
Pinene as the name suggests provides the wonderful scent of pine needles. It is also one of the most prominent terpenes in the natural world. The primary difference between alpha-pinene and beta-pinene is the aroma they give off; alpha is more known for the pine scent while beta is the pleasant scent given off by plants like rosemary or parsley. Pinene is considered a bronchodilator, which means it helps open airways and can benefit people who have respiratory illnesses like asthma.
Pinene has also been shown to increase energy and boost cognition by counteracting short term memory deficit caused by THC. Finally, pinene has known anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to enhance its medicinal value.
Testing With ACS Laboratory
To determine your cannabis product’s precise terpene profile, you’ll want to work with ACS Laboratory--an ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accredited facility known for our award winning accuracy. We maintain the highest quality standards and work with customers to guarantee the safety and quality of their finished product. In addition to terpene testing, we also test for cannabinoid potency as well as potential toxins and much more.