Investigating Cannabis with GCxGC-TOFMS

Cannabis, and its use for medical or recreational purposes, has been a hot topic in both the political and social realms in recent years. From a medical standpoint, these chemicals may help treat a number of illness and symptoms, such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, anxiety, and cancer through ingestion, inhalation, or topical application. Cannabis is a complex mixture made up specifically of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other chemicals related to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The relationship between terpenes and cannabinoids, and how they work together to create a therapeutic experience is termed the “Entourage Effect”.

PEGASUS_BT_4D_OPERATOR_LOADING_L-PAL-090440-editedAnalyzing the total composition of cannabis is an important aspect of determining its potency and medical effectiveness. The terpenes in its chemical makeup are what give cannabis its aromatic and flavor profile, and as True Terpenes describes, “It is the terpenes in cannabis which modulate (modify or control) the effect that the cannabinoids in each sample will have on the user, this is why strains of cannabis effect each user uniquely. For example, if you have 2 different types of cannabis and both have 15% THC, but one gives you energetic effects and one gives you sedative effects, this is largely due to the different terpene profiles.” Therefore, better understanding the chemical framework of cannabis can aid in determining how certain strains may work.

GC-MS and GCxGC-TOFMS have the analytical power to investigate the complex chemical makeup of cannabis, and recently our applications team presented on these abilities in a poster presentation titled “Fingerprinting the Terpene Profiles of Various Cannabis Strains using GC and GCxGC with High Performance TOFMS”. The objective of this poster was to exhibit the implementation of enhanced GCxGC with our new Pegasus BT 4D for the separation of cannabis terpenes, and how the instrument's powerful processing software was able to quickly and confidently identify terpenes and other cannabis compounds. 

terpenesDistillates from 23 cannabis strains and over 40 terpene standards were prepared and analyzed using the Pegasus BT 4D. The inclusion of GCxGC-TOFMS was able to take what was unknown within a standard GC-TOFMS analysis to known compound identifications through greater sensitivity and deconvolution. The ChromaTOF® brand software of the Pegasus BT 4D also aided in the compound identification with tools such as Two-Dimensional Target Analyte Finding (TAF), spectral similarity searches of large, well-established databases, mass Δ determination, and retention index filtering. As David Alonso, LECO Separation Science Application Chemist and poster author, explains, "There is a lack of consistency between hybrid cannabis product descriptions and their actual composition. It is clear that a shift from very general and often vague cultivar cannabis descriptors to robust chemical classification is a necessary step to establish rigorous quality control practices for the production of cannabis products. The Pegasus BT 4D is an ideal tool for the comprehensive characterization of cannabis." 

You can check out the poster in its entirety via the link below, which will go into further detail on the sample preparation, instrument parameters, results, and the statistical analysis. 

Fingerprinting the Terpene Profiles of Various Cannabis Strains using GC and GCxGC with High Performance TOFMS