Looking beyond terpenes to explore the hidden flavour spectrum of cannabis

15 October 2023


ACS Omega

A newly-published paper describes how two-dimensional gas chromatography (GC×GC), coupled with the BenchTOF MS and ChromSpace software was used to uncover a host of new flavour and aroma compounds in cannabis. The discovery gives the burgeoning cannabis industry valuable new insight into what causes cannabis’ most compelling aromas and the entourage effect.

In collaboration with SepSolve Analytical, Markes International and 710 Labs, Abstrax Tech, a company that develops cannabis- and botanically-derived terpenes, evaluated both sensory and chemical data to show that the small group of terpenes currently considered to be the source of cannabis’ unique aroma, may in fact, be only partial contributors.

Until this latest discovery by Abstrax, it was thought that terpenes such as limonene and β-myrcene were primarily responsible for the characteristic scents of individual varieties. In fact, in the legal cannabis industry, cannabis varieties are generally classified and labelled according to the content of these key terpenes.

The research results, published in ACS Omega, show that several minor, non-terpenoid compounds – including skatole and n-propyl hexanoate – are key contributors to the overall perceived aroma. Additionally, a new class of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) containing the 3-mercaptohexyl functional group was found to be responsible for distinctive citrus aromas in certain varieties.

The paper – Minor, Non-Terpenoid Volatile Compounds Drive the Aroma Differences of Exotic Cannabis – demonstrates that the data acquired using this approach could lead to ramifications for the legal cannabis industry, in terms of product labelling updates, laboratory testing and quality indicators.

W. H. Oswald, T. R. Paryani, M. E. Sosa, M. A. Ojeda, M. R. Altenbernd, J. J. Grandy, N. S. Shafer, K. Ngo, J. R. Peat, B. G. Melshenker, I. Skelly, K. A. Koby, M. F. Z. Page, T. J. Martin. Minor, Non-Terpenoid Volatile Compounds Drive the Aroma Differences of Exotic Cannabis. ACS Omega. 2023.

Download paper: https://doi.org/10.1021/acsomega.3c04496

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