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Understanding Cannabis Testing: A Guide to Cannabinoids and Terpenes

October 9, 2014

As the medical and recreational cannabis markets continue their steady climb toward legitimacy, the demand for lab-tested products climbs alongside it. Cannabis testing is the scientific process of measuring different chemicals and compounds in the product. They can measure beneficial constituents like cannabinoids and terpenes, or not-so-desirable contaminants such as pesticides, mold, and residual solvents.

Research is now showing that strains exhibit different compound profiles, unique “fingerprints” built by a specific composition of cannabinoids and terpenes. Below, get to know some of the compounds measured in cannabis testing, and learn more about why testing is important in this guide.



A list of major cannabinoids in cannabis and their effects

THC (∆9-Tetrahydrocannabinol)

  • Strongly psychoactive (induces a euphoric high)
  • Most cannabis strains are bred to contain a high THC content while other cannabinoids occur only in trace amounts
  • Demonstrates promise in treating pain, nausea, sleep and stress disorders, and appetite loss
  • Can cause anxiety and paranoia in some individuals
  • Boiling point: 315 °F (157 °C)

THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)

  • Strongly psychoactive (induces a euphoric high)
  • More strongly psychoactive than THC, but duration of effects is about half as long
  • Typically occurs in only trace amounts in cannabis
  • Pronounced energetic effects
  • Found to effectively counter anxiety, stress, and panic disorders without suppressing emotion
  • Reduces tremors associated with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological disorders
  • Diminishes appetite
  • Stimulates bone growth

CBD (Cannabidiol)

CBDV (Cannabidivarin)

  • Non-psychoactive (does not induce a euphoric high)
  • Demonstrates promise in treating seizures

CBG (Cannabigerol)

  • Non-psychoactive (does not induce a euphoric high)
  • Typically occurs in only trace amounts in cannabis
  • Found to stimulate brain cell and bone growth
  • Demonstrates promise as an anti-bacterial and anti-insomnia medicine

CBC (Cannabichromene)

  • Non-psychoactive (does not induce a euphoric high)
  • Typically occurs in only trace amounts in cannabis
  • Found to be about 10 times more effective than CBD in treating anxiety and stress
  • Anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties
  • Stimulates bone growth
  • Boiling point: 428 °F (220 °C)

CBN (Cannabinol)

  • Mildly to non-intoxicating (does not induce a euphoric high)
  • Typically occurs in only trace amounts in cannabis
  • Occurs as a result of THC degradation
  • Most sedating of all the cannabinoids
  • Demonstrates promise in treating insomnia, glaucoma, and pain
  • Boiling point: 365 °F (185 °C)



What are cannabis terpenes and what do they do?



  • Rich, spicy aroma
  • Also found in Thai basil, cloves, and black pepper
  • Anti-septic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Boiling point: 320 °F (160 °C)


  • Also found in mango, hops, bay leaves, lemongrass, and eucalyptus
  • Sedating, relaxing effects
  • Demonstrates promise in treating spasms, inflammation, pain, and insomnia
  • Reduces resistance across the blood-brain barrier which facilitates access of other chemicals
  • Enhances psychoactive effects of other compounds such as THC
  • Boiling point: 334 °F (168 °C)




  • Aroma similar to hops
  • Also found in hops and coriander
  • Anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Diminishes appetite
  • Boiling point: 388 °F (198 °C)



  • Unlike most terpenes, Phytol’s aroma is very subtle
  • Also found in aged green tea
  • A result of chlorophyll breakdown
  • Sleep aid
  • Boiling point: 400 °F (204 °C)

Photo credit: Ariel and Gajman via Photopin cc

  • Excellent article & great information! As the industry grows & consumers realize that THC levels don’t matter much & that there are so many factors going into how strains affect each person (that we currently try to define as black & white, Sativa is this, Indica is that) this article will get more reads.

  • E.L. Bl/Du

    I cannot find anywhere what is considered a high level of CBD in a plant. Can you print this information somewhere? We have seed that were tested 2 yrs ago w/ 16%THC and ?CBD, we can’t remember but the lady in the lab wanted some due to its extremely high level. I was trying to remember what is considered high levels of CBD when looking at strains, and can’t find that info anywhere. If I’m reading the circle above in this article then 0.26%cbd would be considered high? IT shows a range from 0.1-0.3%

    • Werm

      The highest CBD flower we have at this dispensary in IL is around 17% CBD and less than 1% THC, ends up at a 19:1 ratio. For reference.

      • E.L. Bl/Du

        TY that helps as a reference point. I think ours must have been 26 or 2.6, I know it was a great medical strain. I would love to cross with a faster flowering plant, the Chocolate Trip take 13 weeks to flower, not good for outdoors here. Thanks for your reply, I am starting to get it now.

  • Jeremy Rossi

    I would recommend having a more in-depth video on terpenes since they are becoming just as important as THC. These videos are super helpful and I would love to see a longer video on the different types of terpenes and their effects.

  • Jortiz3

    Care to cite any sources about these effects listed under each compound?

  • The Global cannabis testing market has been valued at $809 million for the year 2016 and is estimated to generate a revenue of about $2112 million by the year 2025. At a CAGR of 11.4% in 2017-2025
    Read More:

  • hendelar

    Informative article, fascinating subject.
    With so much apparent benefit it’s easy to understand why companies holding expensive and lucrative patents would resist weed / cannabinoid research.