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Cannabis Terpenes

Spicy, earthy, fruity, and skunky are all words used to describe some of the cannabis aromas. For some, cannabis reeks and assaults their nose, but for others these aromas intrigue and invite the individual to partake in its consumption. While the “skunky” aroma is caused by prenylated volatile sulfur compounds, the overall aroma profile is characterized by the terpenes in the plant. 

Terpenes are often used by plants as a defense against the physical world and attraction for pollinators. They are contained in the trichomes (hair-like, bulbous structures that cover the plant). Dr. Prabodh Satyal’s chiral research has found various cannabis contains mainly (+)-alpha-pinene [88-95%], (+) Camphene [55-70%], (+)-beta-pinene[83-87%], (-)-Limonene [83-93%], (+)-Linalool [67-95%], (-)-Borneol [62-84%], (+) Fenchol [90-95%], (-) trans-beta-caryophyllene [100%],  (+)trans-nerolidol [95-99%], and (-)Caryophyllene oxide [90-99%]. 

Terpenes are contained in the trichomes.

Like essential oil testing, we use the GC-MS to identify and quantitate common cannabis terpenes. Also like essential oils, cannabis products may also be adulterated with synthetic aroma chemicals or isolates. This is why testing remains essential for products on the market.


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