Terpenes (general)

Terpene Contents Differ in Flowers and Supercritical Co2 Extract

co2 extracts
Written by Cara Wietstock

Research shows that supercritical CO2 extract could drastically change the chemotype of the start materials.

From how to best extract them to their best use medicinally; terpenes have been the topic of conversation for everyone from the consumer to the research analyst. This fall, Dr. Michelle Sexton conducted a comparative study [1] of the cannabinoid and terpene content in both cannabinoid flowers and supercritical CO2 extract. Their findings support the idea that the current nomenclature and consumer labeling habits do not help the consumer find the product that they’re looking for.

The quantification of seven cannabinoids analysts in the project used a validated high-performance liquid chromatography/diode array detector methodology. To identify which of 42 terpenes were in each sample they utilized internal gas chromatography-mass spectrometry method. What they found was shocking. Between the flower and the extract, the terpenoid and cannabinoid contents were significantly different.

Cannabinoid potency in extracts increased by factors of 4.0 for cannabidiol and 3.2 for Δ-9 tetrahydrocannabinol when compared to the flower used for start materials. The study also found that monoterpenes were lost in the extraction process. Ketone, monoterpene alcohols, sesquiterpenes all showed an increase in the supercritical CO2 extract as compared to the results from the original dried, cured cannabis flowers.

These changes show that products of supercritical CO2 extraction methods may have a drastically different chemotype as compared to the cannabis flowers they were extracted from. Since recent research also shows that terpenes could be responsible for what we perceive as Indica and Sativa effects, Dr. Sexton’s research implies that the effects of strains could vary greatly from flower to CO2 extract. Despite this, terpene content is rarely listed on cannabis products. Furthermore, many companies opt out of testing for terpene profiles altogether.

This means that cannabis and relevant downstream products need to be classified beyond convoluted strain names and THC/CBD content if we want the patient and consumer to be able to identify and purchase the right products for their needs. Change like this starts with the consumer. We must tell the local processor, cultivator, budtender, etc. that we want products with terpene content and minor cannabinoid content labeled alongside THC and CBD. 


About the author

Cara Wietstock

Cara began working in the retail cannabis industry of San Francisco, CA in 2011 and continued in that sector for years. In 2015 she dedicated herself to writing full-time. Her passion for the written word and deep respect for the healing properties of the plant have brought her to Terpenes and Testing magazine. She now helps keep us on the cutting edge of scientific cannabis discovery as the Editor-in-Chief of the print publication.

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