Chemically, terpenes are organic compounds made up of isoprene molecules (also known as isoprene units H2CC(Me)CHCH2 ), a 5 carbon atom building block containing a double bond. While the terms, terpenes and terpenoids are often used interchangeably, terpenoids are a class of phytochemicals derived from terpenes which have additional functional groups, often including oxygen or cyclic structures.
Terpenes have two or more isoprene units as their common structural feature. They are classified according to the number of isoprene units they contain. Many terpenes are extremely volatile and easily oxidized, and as such, do not store well. The fewer the number of bonds (and isoprene units) the easier the terpene volatalizes, or “boils off”.
Examples of terpene chemical structure
Types of terpenes:
Monoterpenes contain two isoprene units. These are the most abundant type of terpenoids in cannabis, and they contain all but one of the “primary” terpenes. Common monoterpenes include Limonene, Myrcene, Pinene, Ocimene, Terpinolene, and Linalool.
Sesquiterpenes contain three isoprene units (“sesqui-” means “one and a half”). Sesquiterpenes common in cannabis include β-Caryophellene, α-Bisabolol, Humulene, Valencene, Nerolidol, Caryophyllene Oxide, and Gauiol.
Diterpenes contain four isoprene units. Phytol is a common Diterpene and is a breakdown product of chlorophyll and tocopherol.
Why does terpene analysis matter?
Terpene analysis is beneficial for patients, providers, and breeders alike.
- Understanding terpenes is essential to helping consumers identify the right strain for their desired effect.
- Terpene analysis allows collectives and budtenders to better understand the strains potential and recommend varieties that best suits the consumer needs.
- Through understanding terpenes, breeders can selectively modulate the terpene ratios of their strains, in order to maximize desired benefits.
Read more about terpenes
Testing and reporting
SC Labs Terpenoid Testing Solution
With an expansive test menu that targets 40 terpenoids, fast turnaround times, and an integrated reporting portal, the SC Labs Terpenoid Testing Solution provides cultivators and processors a reliable tool to make informed decisions about product quality and consistency. The advanced test solution features gas chromatography-flame ionized detection (GC-FID) equipment and test methods—offering definitive, quantitative results.
Cannabis & Terpenes: An Olfactory Odyssey
Josh Wurzer, SC Labs President and Co-founder
Alec Dixon, SC Labs Director of Client Relations and Co-founder