We live in the age of information and just as we like to know the ingredients in that cereal we are eating, we also like to know the make-up of the cannabis we are consuming. It is critical that dispensaries utilize the most accurate and effective testing methods so that the consumer can not only be assured of their health and safety but also so that, if the consumer desires, they can understand the overall genetic makeup of any given strain.
Lab analysis allows us to pinpoint particular compounds and based on how prevalent they are, provide information on the qualities of a strain. The most interesting thing about cannabis and the compounds it contains is this. The combinations and synergies of the various compounds cause the plant to have continually different effects on a given consumer. Although a plant may be a particular genetic strain, it will have different impact on the consumer at any given time depending on the life cycle of each of the given compounds.
Simply put, cannabis is a complex plant and the more we understand about it the more we can continue to enjoy it. Let the research begin.
There are six things any good lab analyzes first.
Let’s look at each of these briefly and then delve deeper into the good stuff, cannabis compounds.
This is a critical analysis for a few reasons. First, we like to know the strength of what we are consuming. Second, the cannabinoid analysis tells us the potential medical benefits of a given plant. We know that delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) gets us high. But lesser known are the effects of other compounds like Tetrahydrocanabivarin (THCV), Cannabidivarin (CBDV), Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA), etc.
More on these compounds later but lab analysis allows us to measure each of these, assess the qualities of the plant, and more accurately prescribe or recommend a particular bud for a customer.
Much of the produce you buy in grocery stores now has organic options. In many cases this means no pesticides were used in the growth process. There is no organic sticker to put on cannabis but there is lab testing to let us know whether or not pesticides are in the plant.
Many cannabis cultivators utilize harmful insecticides or fungicides on their crops. No FDA guidelines have been established for safe amounts of any insecticide or fungicide on cannabis but we still like to know what we are inhaling.
One challenge the cannabis plant faces is that environments ideal for growing the plant are also ideal for growing yeasts, molds, and other forms of microorganisms. These contaminants have been found on samples of cannabis and can be very harmful to consumers.
Proper lab analysis can determine whether these microorganisms are present.
Viruses can infect cannabis and cause a reduction in yields. They infect all parts of the plant and can be transmitted to future generations through pollen and seed. Tobacco Mosaic Virus is very staunch and can infect nearby plants and contaminate surfaces. Variations of the Tobacco mosaic virus include tomato, hemp, cucumber, which can all infect the cannabis plant.
Testing for this virus assists not only the consumer but the cultivator, whose yields will improve.
If cannabinoids are the meat and potatoes then terpenes are the gravy. Terpenes appear in cannabis at varying ratios depending on strain, cultivation, environment, and degree of plant degradation. They significantly impact the overall effect of your particular strain from both a medicinal and physiological standpoint.
Terpenes work in concert with the various cannabinoids to create a stimulative combination unique to that particular plant that people refer to as the Entourage Effect. We count thirty-one measurable terpenes.
As the cannabis economy evolves, super-concentrated forms of cannabis (like hash oil, wax, shatter, crumble, etc.) will become more prevalent. The production of these concentrates involves utilizing organic solvents reduce the plant to concentrate. Although production involves a heating or vacuum process to purge the product of the solvent, it is possible for some to remain.
These chemical residues can severely negatively impact the health of the consumer, particularly when regularly ingested. Lab analysis confirms and ensures the concentrate is solvent-free.
Cannabinoids are the act on the main stage. They are best known and do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to the effects that you feel from cannabis. The cannabinoids are concentrated in glandular structures that collect on the flowers of the female plant called trichomes. These trichomes can be smoked or vaporized by applying heat. They can also be reduced down to a viscous concentrated solution using processing techniques.
There are more than 60 cannabinoid compounds. We will look at a few of the most common but it first helps to understand how these cannabinoids impact the brain.
In 1988 researchers discovered the cannabinoid receptor in the brain when they discovered the binding affinity of d-9-THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC) to particular receptors. Shortly after a 2nd cannabis receptor was discovered. These receptors are named CB1 and CB2.
CB1Rs are found at the terminals of the central and peripheral neurons and to some degree in other organs and tissue. CB2Rs are mostly express in immune cells, spleen and the gastrointestinal system, and to some extent in the brain and peripheral nervous system. Scientists are still discovering more cannabis receptors throughout the body. This is very exciting as the body of research grows.
The body has its own endocannabinoid system that regulates ongoing releases of a number of systems that impact various functions and reactions within the body. When THC binds with the receptors CB1R and CB2R some of these functions are inhibited, which leads to the sensation of being high. There is also documented research of how THC affects to other systems of the body.
This is an example of the interaction of just one compound, THC. There are more than 60 compounds found in cannabis and not only does each have its own impact on the body systems, but when the compounds work together, variations in the effects occur.
The body of research continues to grow and give us a more robust understanding of cannabis and its effects on the body and mind. The plant is unique in many ways and we look forward to We suggest you conduct additional research if the medical side interests you.
Here are some of the most common compounds.
THCA is the main compound found in cannabis. It does not have psychoactive properties so it does not provide the “high” sensation. THCA degrades to THC when heat is applied by a process called decarboxylation. THCA has anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and anti-proliferative properties.
THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects cannabis is known for. It binds with the CB1 and CB2 receptors to induce these effects. THC is the most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis.
CBDA is created by the plant and is a precursor to the very powerful CBD compound. CBDA has its own benefits as an anti-inflammatory. With heat, CBDA degrades to CBD.
CBD is as prevalent as THC in many strains of cannabis. It is an interesting compound because it acts as an antagonist at both CB1 and CB2 receptors similar to the way THC behaves yet it has a low binding affinity for both. CBD-specific receptors have not yet been identified but its behavior suggests there may be other receptors in the body that regulate CBD.
CBN is the product of degraded THC and is mildly psychoactive. A fresh plant usually contains very little CBN. When THC degrades to CBN it has a sedative effect and helps enhance the effects of THC.
CBG is non-psychoactive and has antibacterial effects. Some benefits include the retardation of bacterial growth, anti-inflammatory qualities, inhibition of tumor and cancer cells, and promotion of bone growth.
Serves as an analgesic and has anti-inflammatory properties. CBC also inhibits the growth of tumor cells and cancer cells and promotes bone growth. The effects of CBC appear to function through non-cannabinoid receptor pathways. CBC is mostly found in tropical strains.
THCV is one of the less prevalent cannabinoids but is interesting because its structure is very similar to THC. However, its effects are very different. THCV causes suppression of appetite, promotes bone growth, and reduces the severity of panic attacks.
CBDV is close in structure to CBD like THCV in to THC. Recent research shows promise in epilepsy management.
When you enjoy the fragrance of the cannabis plant you are smelling the terpenes. These terpenes are instrumental in facilitating the physiological and psychoactive properties of cannabis. There is a synergistic and antagonistic relationship between cannabinoids and terpenoids that gives each strain of cannabis its own unique quality.
Over the past decades cannabis has been bred through hybridization to maximize yields and potency without much concern for other factors. Now that the body of cannabis research is broadening and we are beginning to understand the numerous health benefits from other compounds in the plant, breeders are beginning to grow to achieve more equal ratios.
The effects of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids are modulated by terpenes. Here is a list of the most common terpenes found.
Terpenes are important to plants. They deter insects and protect from environmental stresses, among other things. They also serve as foundational molecules to other compounds such as THC.
is the name for a pair of organic compounds with similar structure and similar chemical properties. The phellandrenes are used in fragrances and have an odor described as peppery-minty and slightly citrusy. They also have antidepressive effects.
aromas include sweet, pine, cedar, woodsy, and pungent. It has been used to dry out mucus.
is the name for a group of hyrdocarbons with similar molecular formulas. They are used in the food industry and in perfumes. They also have strong antioxidant properties.
is used in perfumery and has shown to have antibacterial properties.
oxidizes to a camphor so it has a menthol aroma and also is bitter and pungent. It is indicated for opening airways. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
is the primary component of the essential oil extracted from chamomile. It has anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties
is derived from the breakdown of chlorophyll. It has very little odor and is used as a precursor in the formation of both vitamins E and K. Phytol is found in aged green tea and is used in treatment of insomnia.
is found in the essential oil obtained from nutmeg and is a major constituent of carrot seed oil. It has been shown to have analgesic and antioxidant properties.
There are various other secondary terpenes found in cannabis that exhibit a varying array of aromas, flavors, and health properties. While many people focus on the cannabinoids THC and CBD, the reality is that terpenes serve just as important a role in the quality and characteristics of a particular strain or plant.
As the research continues to grow Hytiva will continue to provide you with the latest information on the benefits and developments related to cannabis.