In this article from Issue 9 of the Analytix Reporter, a fast, high resolution GC/MS method for the analysis of 31 cannabis related terpenes is presented, using solvent extraction and dedicated certified reference material mixes, enabling a simple and efficient quality control.

Terpenes are a class of compounds responsible for the aroma and fragrance of the cannabis flower. Labeling of terpene content on cannabis products is important to many consumers in that different varieties exhibit very different and characteristic profiles. At the time of this article, no consensus test method exists for terpene testing. Currently there are two popular approaches – headspace or solvent extraction followed by GC analysis. Headspace analysis is a “cleaner” technique than solvent extraction in that nonvolatile matrix components will not be co-extracted with the terpenes. However, traditional headspace analysis can require special instrumentation in the form of a headspace analyzer. Headspace analysis by solid phase microextraction (SPME) offers similar advantages as traditional headspace analysis, often even more sensitivity, and it can be performed manually or with an appropriate autosampler.

Solvent extraction also does not require special instrumentation and has been used effectively to determine terpene profiles. In this work, we demonstrate a solvent extraction method in combination with certified reference materials and GC-MS analysis for the identification and quantitation of terpenes in hemp flower.

The GC method eluted the 31 targeted terpenes in under 17 minutes, with excellent peak shape and resolution. The GC-MS method showed excellent linearity for all analytes. In addition, retention time stability was evaluated.

The utility of a simple solvent extraction method in combination with GC-MS was demonstrated for the analysis of targeted terpenes in hemp flower, with identification of 29 terpenes. The use of certified reference materials in combination with MS spectra provided for proper identification in matrix, and the 20 m x 0.18 mm I.D. x 0.18 µm SLB®-5ms column provided a combination of both speed and efficiency for the analysis. While this method targeted 31 specific terpenes, it could be expanded to more by using additional CRMs.

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