Cannabinoid and Terpene Profiles: Why They Matter

A cannabinoid or terpene profile test shows you which of these compounds are present in a cannabis product and in what amounts.

These tests highlight the general effects and flavours you can expect from a specific strain of cannabis. 

In particular, cannabinoid and terpene profiles show three key details: the levels of CBD and THC, minor cannabinoids, and terpenes.

Here’s how you can use this information to help your customers find the right cannabis product. 

THC and CBD

THC and CBD are typically the two most abundant cannabinoids, so knowing their amounts is the first step in figuring out how cannabis will affect your customer.

THC is the main cannabinoid that gets you high, whereas CBD is non-intoxicating.

At the most basic level, higher percentages of THC and CBD will produce more potent effects. However, you also have to consider the ratio between the two because they work in synergy, with CBD appearing to reduce the psychotropic effects of THC.1

High-THC, low-CBD strains are widely used for their potent recreational effects as well as pain relief, possibly because THC may reduce pain more effectively than its non-intoxicating cousin.2

Such strains are also a great option for supporting sleep thanks to THC’s sedative properties.3

On the other hand, strains high in CBD and low in THC, such as ACDC, are favoured by people looking for intoxication-free relief and are particularly suited for reducing anxiety because of CBD’s notable anxiolytic effects.4

CBD-rich strains are also preferred by individuals with low THC tolerance, who often experience anxiety and other unwanted side effects from regular, high-THC cannabis.

As a third option, the ratio of THC to CBD can also be closer to 1:1, as with Sativex, a cannabis-based pharmaceutical drug backed by multiple clinical studies.

Research suggests that this ratio is effective for chronic pain relief5 and other issues6, particularly by allowing patients to take larger amounts of THC before experiencing unwanted intoxication.

Cannabis with a THC: CBD ratio close to 1:1 may be ideal for people looking for the greatest symptom relief while minimizing THC’s psychoactive effects.

It’s also a good option for new cannabis users looking for uplifting and relaxing effects without an overwhelming high.

Minor Cannabinoids

While THC and CBD hold the lion’s share of the effects of cannabis, minor cannabinoids such as CBC, CBG, and CBN are important as well.

For example, there’s some evidence that CBN may enhance the sedative properties of THC, so strains high in CBN may be a good option for sleep.7

More importantly, studies suggest that minor cannabinoids contribute to the entourage effect — the synergistic interactions between all of the active components of cannabis.8

As such, having small quantities of multiple minor cannabinoids in a cannabis product can aid its overall effectiveness.

Dominant Terpenes

Last but not least, terpenes are largely responsible for the unique flavours of different cannabis strains and also contribute to their effects. Similar to cannabinoids, most terpenes have anti-inflammatory as well as many other beneficial properties.

Here’s a look at the most common cannabis terpenes, their aromas, and notable effects:

  • Myrcene is typically the most abundant terpene in cannabis and has an earthy, herbal aroma. It’s best known for its sedative properties and is theorized to contribute to the “couch-lock” effect of some cannabis strains.9
  • Another abundant terpene, caryophyllene has a woody, spicy aroma and can directly activate cannabinoid receptors, suggesting that it may have stronger anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects than other terpenes.10 It may also have anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) and antidepressant properties.11
  • Pinene has a fresh, pine-like smell and may act as a bronchodilator (open up airways) and potentially aid memory.12 13
  • Limonene has a citrus-like scent and has shown anxiolytic and antidepressant effects in research.14 15
  • Terpinolene has a more complex aroma that includes woody, herbal, and floral scents. It’s been shown to have sedative and antioxidant properties.16 17
  • Ocimene has a sweet, herbal aroma, and may have anti-inflammatory effects.18
  • Linalool has a floral scent and is most recognized for its anxiolytic, antidepressant, and sedative properties.19 20
  • Humulene has an earthy, hops-like smell and anti-inflammatory properties.21

Combined with the levels of THC, CBD, and minor cannabinoids, the terpene profile provides a helpful overview of the properties of a specific strain of cannabis.

Cannabinoids and Terpenes Testing: Know What You’re Getting

Knowing the phytocannabinoid and terpene profile of cannabis can help you match customers with the right product, both in terms of flavour and desired effects.

However, keep in mind that since cannabis contains so many active compounds that work synergistically, its effects can be complex. On top of that, cannabis affects everyone differently.

As such, the information you get from the cannabinoid and terpene profiles should be used as a general guideline rather than a conclusive guide.

Check out our Producer Connect database to find cannabis strains with the cannabinoid and terpene profiles your customers are looking for.

1 Niesink, Raymond JM, and Margriet W. van Laar. “Does cannabidiol protect against adverse psychological effects of THC?.” Frontiers in psychiatry 4 (2013): 130

2 Mlost, Jakub, Marta Bryk, and Katarzyna Starowicz. “Cannabidiol for Pain Treatment: Focus on Pharmacology and Mechanism of Action.” International journal of molecular sciences 21.22 (2020): 8870.

3 Nicholson, Anthony N., et al. “Effect of Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on nocturnal sleep and early-morning behavior in young adults.” Journal of clinical psychopharmacology 24.3 (2004): 305-313.

4 Blessing, Esther M., et al. “Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders.” Neurotherapeutics 12.4 (2015): 825-836.

5 Johnson, Jeremy R., et al. “Multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of THC: CBD extract and THC extract in patients with intractable cancer-related pain.” Journal of pain and symptom management 39.2 (2010): 167-179.

6 Collin, C., et al. “A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of Sativex, in subjects with symptoms of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis.” Neurological research 32.5 (2010): 451-459.

7 Karniol, Isac G., et al. “Effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinol in man.” Pharmacology 13.6 (1975): 502-512.

8 Russo, Ethan B. “The case for the entourage effect and conventional breeding of clinical cannabis: no “strain,” no gain.” Frontiers in plant science 9 (2019): 1969.

9 Russo, Ethan B. “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid‐terpenoid entourage effects.” British journal of pharmacology 163.7 (2011): 1344-1364.

10 Klauke, A-L., et al. “The cannabinoid CB2 receptor-selective phytocannabinoid beta-caryophyllene exerts analgesic effects in mouse models of inflammatory and neuropathic pain.” European Neuropsychopharmacology 24.4 (2014): 608-620.

11 Bahi, Amine, et al. “β-Caryophyllene, a CB2 receptor agonist produces multiple behavioral changes relevant to anxiety and depression in mice.” Physiology & behavior 135 (2014): 119-124.

12 Zhao, Yunqi, et al. “α-Pinene inhibits human prostate cancer growth in a mouse xenograft model.” Chemotherapy 63.1 (2018): 1-7.

13 Perry, Nicolette SL, et al. “In‐vitro inhibition of human erythrocyte acetylcholinesterase by Salvia lavandulaefolia essential oil and constituent terpenes.” Journal of pharmacy and pharmacology 52.7 (2000): 895-902.

14 Piccinelli, Ana Claudia, et al. “Antihyperalgesic and antidepressive actions of (R)-(+)-limonene, α-phellandrene, and essential oil from Schinus terebinthifolius fruits in a neuropathic pain model.” Nutritional neuroscience 18.5 (2015): 217-224.

15 Lima, Naiana GPB, et al. “Anxiolytic-like activity and GC–MS analysis of (R)-(+)-limonene fragrance, a natural compound found in foods and plants.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 103.3 (2013): 450-454.

16 Ito, Ken, and Michiho Ito. “The sedative effect of inhaled terpinolene in mice and its structure–activity relationships.” Journal of natural medicines 67.4 (2013): 833-837.

17 Aydin, Elanur, Hasan Türkez, and Şener Taşdemir. “Anticancer and antioxidant properties of terpinolene in rat brain cells.” Archives of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology 64.3 (2013): 415-424.

18 Kim, Min-Jin, et al. “Chemical composition and anti-inflammation activity of essential oils from Citrus unshiu flower.” Natural Product Communications 9.5 (2014): 1934578X1400900538.

19 Pereira, Irina, et al. “Linalool bioactive properties and potential applicability in drug delivery systems.” Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 171 (2018): 566-578.

20 de Moura Linck, Viviane, et al. “Inhaled linalool-induced sedation in mice.” Phytomedicine 16.4 (2009): 303-307.

21 Rogerio, Alexandre P., et al. “Preventive and therapeutic anti‐inflammatory properties of the sesquiterpene α‐humulene in experimental airways allergic inflammation.” British journal of pharmacology 158.4 (2009): 1074-1087.

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