The genetic makeup of an individual cannabis plant — technically both an herb and a vegetable — can feature up to 200 different terpenes. Terpenes are the delicate molecules responsible for the sometimes pungent aroma of weed. All the rage in the burgeoning legal cannabis and hemp industries, terpenes offer much more than merely an enticing tickle of the olfactory sense: They’re the source of significant medicinal efficacy.
Collectively, terpenes offer three major types of efficacy for cannabis consumers and patients, including pain relief (helpful for patients with spasticity and joint pain), a reduction of systemic inflammation (valuable for those with conditions like arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia), and anti-cancer properties (especially for those undergoing traditional therapies, such as radiation and chemotherapy).
Most research regarding medical cannabis has revolved around cannabinoids, the cousins of terpenes that include cannabidiol (CBD) and the infamous psychoactive molecule that produces euphoria, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The Details of Terpenes
From an evolutionary perspective, terpenes have for millenia served the cannabis plant as protection from pests and predators. For modern lifestyle consumers of this trendy herb, these special molecules offer indulgence into the connoisseur side of cannabis (similar to wine culture).
Unlike the infamous cannabinoid THC, terpenes deliver no psychoactive effect. They do, however, play a critical role in the poorly named entourage effect, a theory of how terpenes and cannabinoids commingle to enhance medical efficacy in humans and mammals.
It is theorized that some terpenes play a role in amplifying or buffering the effects of cannabinoids like THC. One example is myrcene, the most common terpene in cannabis and one that increases the euphoric effects of THC while also delivering a sedative effect.
Many specific terpenes, such as myrcene and pinene, manifest as two similar variants in terms of their molecular structure and medicinal efficacy: Alpha and beta (i.e. α-pinene and β-myrcene). While the alpha and beta types are extremely similar, it should be noted that they feature slightly different bioavailability and efficacy.
Some Major Terpenes
Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) conveys a scent of black pepper, peppers, spice, and wood. It is unique in that it can be categorized as both a terpene and a cannabinoid. Like other molecules that target CB2 receptors of the human endocannabinoid system, this terpene is effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression. Because BPC features no binding affinity with CB1 receptors, it results in no psychoactive effect like that associated with THC.
BCP is produced by many plants other than cannabis, including black pepper, hops, and rosemary. Cannabis strains rich in BCP include Bubba Kush, DJ Short Blueberry, Girl Scout Cookies, Hash Plant, OG Kush, Pineapple Express, Super Sour Diesel, and Trainwreck.
This particular terpene is present in nearly all strains of the cannabis plant and is typically the most potent (as measured by volume). Also known as β-myrcene, it produces an earthy, musky scent—sometimes accompanied by fruity undertones of clove. Also found in hops, parsley, and wild thyme, myrcene’s major efficacy is a sedative effect (similar to linalool, another major terpene that characterizes indica strains and cultivars).
Myrcene stands out from other terpenes because its volume determines whether a particular example of cannabis is categorized as sativa or indica. Samples containing more than 0.5% myrcene feature a more sedative efficacy and are categorized as indica, while those comprised of less than 0.5% myrcene exhibit lower sedative effects, giving them the energizing and uplifting effect that is typically attributed to a sativa.
Another terpene that, like myrcene, determines if a particular strain or cultivar of cannabis exhibits an indica or sativa effect; in this case, the presence of limonene indicates an uplifting sativa. As hinted by its name, limonene is also found in citrus fruits (in the rinds) and is the second most common terpene in cannabis. It is unique in that it aids in the absorption of other terpenes through the skin and mucous membranes. Limonene is also good for those suffering anxiety or depression due to its calming and relaxing effect.
Limonene-rich strains include Durban Poison, Lemon Kush, Lemon Thai, Jack Herer, Jack the Ripper, OG Kush, Sour Diesel, Super Lemon Haze, and Super Silver Haze. Such strains deliver efficacy for those suffering from anxiety, depression, gallstones, heartburn, and even acid reflux. This terpene is an anticonvulsant, has been shown to destroy breast cancer cells in laboratory experiments, and is a powerful antimicrobial.
This major terpene features a floral scent similar to spice combined with spring flowers. Like myrcene, it possesses sedative properties of value to those who suffer stress-induced anxiety (100 million Americans are reported to suffer under the burden of social anxiety). From an efficacy perspective, linalool also serves as an analgesic and anti-epileptic, making it valuable for those with conditions such as neuropathy, postoperative pain, Dravet Syndrome, and epilepsy.
This terpene is frequently incorporated into perfumes and colognes due to its appealing aroma. In terms of efficacy, this major terpene possess antifungal, antiseptic, decongestant, and antibacterial properties. Ocimene-rich cannabis strains include Chernobyl, Elwyn, Golden Goat, Lemon Sour Diesel, OG Kush, Space Queen, and Strawberry Cough.
The α-pinene variant of this terpene conveys an odor of pine trees and turpentine. Pinene is one of the most common terpenes. For patients, this molecule delivers a systemic anti-inflammatory effect while simultaneously acting as a bronchodilator for those consuming it via inhalation (vaporization or smoking). Pinene, the most common terpene in the plant kingdom, is also found in basil, orange peel, parsley, pine, and rosemary.
This terpene offers aromas composed of floral, herbal, and piney scents. If present in sufficient quantities, it delivers a relaxing effect for many consumers. Like other terpenes and cannabinoids, terpineol offers significant medicinal efficacy for patients and lifestyle users, including acting as an antibacterial, anti-cancer, anti-fungal, antioxidant, and sedative.
Like most terpenes, terpineol is found in plants other than cannabis, including apples, conifers, cumin, lilacs, and even nutmeg. It is most common in cannabis strains such as Agent Orange, Dutch Treat, and Ghost Train.
This terpene is responsible for many of the floral aromatic aspects to the multitude of strains based on the Jack Herer cannabis variety. Terpinolene has been shown to exhibit antioxidant and anti-cancer effects in rat brain cells. Studies involving mice demonstrate that terpinolene delivers a sedative effect when inhaled.
Why Independent Third-Party Cannabis Testing Is Important
During cultivation, the cannabis plant acts like a sponge. It absorbs everything it is exposed to, from pesticides, nutrients, and heavy metals present in the soil. For these reasons, it is essential that reputable and reliable third-party labs carry out cannabis testing to assure safety and efficacy of the product.
Lab testing of cannabis products is an essential part of the regulated market’s supply chain. It detects offensive chemicals or contaminants that can lead to adverse health effects when consumed, while additionally providing cultivators and retailers with efficacious cannabinoid and terpene profiles of legal cannabis products.
In Canada’s regulated market, batch release quality control testing is required for potency and product safety, so it is necessary to measure substances like pesticides, mycotoxins, bacteria, and molds. Unfortunately, reports on potency and contaminants can vary from lab to lab, while recalls of contaminated products threaten consumer trust of legal products.
Sigma Analytical Services is a full-service pesticide, elemental, molecular, genetic, and pathogen analysis laboratory for cannabis, hemp, and cannabis-derived products. It delivers reliable science for cannabis products to the cannabis industry and cannabis consumers.
Cannabis Aficionado spoke with Ashton Abrahams, co-founder and COO of Sigma Analytical Services, to learn more about the importance of cannabis testing and Sigma’s strict processes.
Cannabis Aficionado: Tell me about your entrepreneurial journey to cannabis.
I’m a serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in starting and growing several successful ventures. In 2017, when Canada was in the process of legalizing cannabis, my partner and I saw an opportunity to focus on a different side of the new cannabis industry — ancillary testing and quality reassurance requirements. We knew there would be new products in the market, and they would all require testing. So, we started a testing lab that focused on cannabis and cannabis products, and this is how Sigma started.
What sets Sigma apart from other testing labs?
We want to ensure products available in this new market are efficacious and safe, and ensure the levels of both remain consistent. Sigma is the only GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certified, cannabis-focused lab in Canada and the only cannabis-focused lab with cross-continental operations. We developed and validated our methods back in 2018 and 2019, so we are the frontrunner in Cannabis 2.0 product testing and are set up to test a comprehensive list of cannabis products — including flower, edibles, beverages, and topicals.
Sigma also has validated methods for quantifying and testing 16 cannabinoids and 43 terpenes — one of the highest in the market — and our analytical and microbiology tests are compliant with Health Canada, EU, and US Pharmacopeia.
Additionally, Sigma was awarded the Best Cannabis Lab/Testing Facility in Canada at the Grow Up 2019 awards.
What need does Sigma fill in the global cannabis industry?
Sigma brings reliable science that is already available in food and pharma to the cannabis industry, its products, and consumers.
Cannabis, food, and pharma share certain quality requirements. However, there is a big difference: in terms of quality assurance, food and pharma have decades of testing experience, while cannabis is a new industry, and the science is still being developed.
What kind of samples do you test?
We have developed and validated testing methods for many different types of cannabis products, from traditional dried flower and oils to Cannabis 2.0 products , such as concentrates, beverages, edibles, and topicals. From a testing standpoint, each and every one of these products is different and can have a different matrix. In turn, we develop a testing method for each one.
What should customers be looking for to see reassurance that a product’s been tested?
Make sure their products are purchased through legal channels. It’s the regulatory bodies’ responsibility to make sure the products launched in the market are not just tested, but tested specifically by qualified labs.
Moldy cannabis is a problem in legal markets and there are numerous reports of Health Canada product recalls after customers discovered moldy flower. Can you talk to us about how you test for these pathogens?
From day one, instead of using the traditional culture-based method, Sigma has tested for mould and all microbial contamination using a newer technology called qPCR (quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction). When we first started it in late 2018, nobody was familiar with it in the cannabis industry, so we had to take time to explain to our clients that it was a better, more reliable, and faster process. In the last six months, however, we have seen a huge shift in attitude. Not only have the cannabis producers accepted qPCR, but more cannabis labs are starting to use the technology to test for microbial contaminations.
What are some of the most exciting developments in cannabis testing?
Using qPCR for microbial contamination is very new for the cannabis industry. We’re happy and excited about it because we see the benefits and we hope the whole cannabis industry embraces it.
Secondly, the challenges of formulating, developing, and testing new products. The developments in the past six months have been really promising.
Thirdly, discovering more about the cannabis plant and what ends up in cannabis products is really an exciting development. As we progress, we are sure to learn more about the effects of cannabinoids and terpenes.
What’s your pinnacle vision of cannabis testing?
There are two sides to it. There is a regulatory side, and there is the testing side. On the regulatory side, it’s about what needs to be tested, and how it needs to be tested.
A very important part of the quality assurance initiative for cannabis is ensuring the testing sample is representative of that batch. There are different factors in place. Is that batch homogeneous or not? Are the characteristics consistent or not? Cannabis is a plant. It’s an agricultural product. It’s not something that’s coming out of a machine, so we cannot expect all of the plants to have exactly the same characteristics. I believe one key is to limit the size of the batch. Other jurisdictions have clearly defined regulations. For example, in California, it clearly states that each batch cannot be larger than fifty pounds. In the Canadian regulations, there is no definition at all.
Secondly, labs need to get more serious. Some labs are testing cannabis products with outdated instruments or unvalidated methods, meaning their results cannot be truly accurate or reliable. Cannabis labs cannot use a 15-year-old second-hand instrument and expect to get the same results as pharmaceutical labs that use the best, most advanced instruments. Some people might think that testing cannabis products is not as important as pharmaceutical products, but it is just as important.
Cannabis has a very complex matrix which requires complex testing methods. Not all labs have good enough or validated methods. However, I’m optimistic that it’s a matter of years, maybe between five to ten, for cannabis testing to get there.
How is Sigma helping to foster the growth of a responsible and safe legal cannabis industry?
I think everyone active in the cannabis industry has a responsibility to make sure they are doing a good job and providing safe and efficacious products to the consumer. That’s because, if the consumer is not happy with what they’re getting from us, it will translate into unhappiness with the whole legalized framework.
Finally, what’s next for Sigma?
We are going through some expansion at our headquarters in Toronto and we’re about to acquire a lab in British Columbia, which will be our second lab in Canada. Additionally, we have a joint venture in Colombia and are setting up the first GMP certified cannabis lab in South America.
We are also becoming more involved with helping develop formulations for new products, and testing them, especially for the producers that follow GMP requirements either in pursuit of higher quality or for international cannabis markets.
We also recently received our GMP clearance from the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (“TGA”). The approval designates Sigma as an approved testing laboratory for Canadian companies to introduce their products into the Australian cannabis market.
Pink Lemonade: This Sparkling Strain Is Both Pretty & Potent
The frosted pink buds of Pink Lemonade might dazzle the beholder with glittering layer of golden trichomes, but this gorgeous flower isn’t all looks.
Dusted with a glittering layer of golden trichomes, the Pink Lemonade strain is endowed with a mystical appearance that embodies everything curious, attractive, and intriguing about cannabis flowers. Tightly bound calyxes dazzle with a bouquet of pink, violet, and sage coloration.
Cracking open one of these flowers emits a comfortable herbal aroma. A burst of crispness teases the nose, somewhat akin to the tart fizz in a carbonated cherry drink. This dessert-like aroma nicely compliments a definite happy hour high. Calm, relaxed, and downright chill, Pink Lemonade is a true afternoon delight.
The Pink Lemonade High
Put on some chill beats and pour yourself a nice drink. This plant is smooth, easy, and well-rounded. If inhaling Pink Lemonade feels like the first meaningful breath you’ve taken all day, you might be pleasantly surprised as a subtle relaxation works its way along the limbs and through the muscles.
There’s no doubt about it–this plant is a go-to strain for mellowing out. While often described as thoughtful and creative, the herb is better suited to leisure activities than it is serious concentration.
While solo consumers may enjoy putting on some Netflix after a little of this plant, it’s peaceful and contented nature is ideal for social gatherings. Spending time with friends may always be fun, but it’s easy to sit back enjoy a pleasant conversation after a few tastes of Pink Lemonade.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that cannabis affects everyone differently. The herb tends to be a mood enhancer rather than an instant remedy for happiness. If you are in an easygoing and relaxed environment, expect even more mellow after enjoying a little bud. If you’ve been having a bad day, strains like Pink Lemonade may provide relief by softening negative emotions and making them more tolerable.
Pink Lemonade Strain Background
Today’s cannabis market is truly a craft one. To say that the lack of federal recognition of the herb is problematic is an understatement. However, one benefit of state-by-state legalization is the development of truly local, expertly crafted products.
Pink Lemonade is a superb example of such a flower. There are many renditions of Pink Lemonade out there, yet the particular version pictured is a cross between two contemporary hybrids, Lemon Cheesecake and Huckleberry Soda.
Each parent strain is exceptional in its own right. Lemon Cheesecake is a sativa-dominant flower with a sour cream aroma and substantial THC production. Huckleberry Soda is a craft hybrid from Annunkanki Genetics, an intriguing cross between two hybrids, Black Cherry Soda and Huckleberry Hound.
Pink Lemonade Strain Benefits
As a craft flower, Pink Lemonade was arguably bred more for enjoyment than serious medical potential. It’s frosted pink buds dazzle the beholder, showcasing the fact that this plant is truly a treat. However, this gorgeous flower isn’t all looks.
The flower produces upwards of 25 percent THC. This means that the plant may be useful to those who benefit from high-THC therapies. Those interested in making a full-extract oil, hash, or other forms of concentrates may also enjoy experimenting with this sugary herb.
This plant is not too energizing nor is it overly sedative. However, those hoping for a little extra help falling asleep at night may find the flower helpful. The relaxed flower may also be beneficial for anxious individuals in search of a social lubricant.
However, the high-THC content in Pink Lemonade can inspire the opposite effect in some people. Bottom line: if you are prone to social anxiety or often respond poorly to THC, this potent flower is likely not the best choice.
Everything You Need to Know If You’re New to Dabbing
Dabbing is an ideal ingestion method best for those that have a high tolerance to cannabis or patients that need a quick, controlled dose of cannabis.
Dabbing is an ideal ingestion method best for those that have a high tolerance to cannabis or for medical users that need a quick, concentrated and controlled dose of cannabis. However, it can be confusing, even for long-time pot smokers. In fact, unless you’ve done it, seen it, or read up on it, dabbing can be a total mystery.
Dabbing is a relatively new way to consume cannabis and it is has become very popular in recent years despite rumors that it is dangerous. It is a highly concentrated experience, with THC at levels much more elevated than most regular flower you would encounter in a joint. For patients, dabbing can be a very effective way to dose because the effects hit the user very quickly and can typically be measured more easily. For those with a high tolerance for cannabis, dabbing can be a way of feeling the effects of pot with more potency.
Before you can get into dabbing, you need to know a little about cannabis concentrates and extracts. Shatter, budder, wax, crumble, pull and snap, and hash oil are a few of the most popular types of cannabis concentrates and extracts. Extracts and concentrates are named so because they are products of a process where THC and other cannabinoids are extracted from the flower. Sometimes, during the extraction process, a solvent (like alcohol or butane) can be used and other times a solvent is not used. Either way, the final product is a smaller, stickier package that packs a powerful punch.
The Dabbing Process
Keep in mind that nails and domes can get incredibly hot. Like, RED hot, literally. Do not underestimate the heat that can occur — be cautious to prevent any burns.
First, you will need something to dab. We have heard the recommendation more than once to keep away from alcohol-based extracts when dabbing. Consult your budtender about this one, or just skip alcohol based-extracts — your call. There are a lot of concentrates and extracts to choose from, enjoy the hunt for your perfect pick.
Next you need something to dab out of. You can purchase a dab rig or just convert an existing glass water pipe with glass dab attachments. You are also going to need a titanium, ceramic, quartz or electronic nail that fits the glass dab attachment you are using. A typical nail is going to require the use of a dome in order to trap the vapor before it dissipates into the air. A dome can be as simple as a glass piece that fits over the reservoir where the extract or concentrate is vaporizing.
Get your dabber ready. A dabber is a tool that is ceramic, metal, glass, that is used to place the dab, or concentrate/extract, on the super-hot nail.
Lastly, unless you are using an electronic nail or e-mail, you will need a mini torch. Some less patient dabbers will use a full-on, propane-fueled torch in order to more quickly heat their nails — experiment at your own risk. In case the dab is a little overwhelming for you and your body, the safest place for you to be is sitting down to avoid any falls.
Turn on your e-nail OR use your torch to heat your nail until it is red-hot. Allow it cool for at least 10 seconds (for titanium) and up to 45 seconds if you are using ceramic or quartz nail.
Once cooled, use your dabber to place your concentrated dab on the nail. Place the dome over the nail as you inhale. Then, exhale. Victory!
If you weren’t already sitting down, you probably will be now!
Take these words of advice to heart — start small. If you haven’t tried dabbing at all before, don’t make your very first dab a large one. You won’t regret taking a small dab, but you might regret taking one that is too big. Always ask your budtender any questions you have about your purchase and if the product you are buying is the best thing you can buy for dabbing, vaporizing, smoking, etc.
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