A cannabinoid analysis is used to determine the individual contents of cannabinoids (including CBD, CBG, CBN, and THC) in the product to be tested. Especially the testing of the content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is of utmost importance, as it is legally limited to a maximum of 0.3% in many European countries. Accordingly, it is of utmost importance that the cannabinoids of the hemp products, especially THC, are conscientiously analysed and remain within the legal limits. The analysis of cannabidiol (CBD) is also particularly important for many customers. Especially in the case of CBD oils, the exact content plays an important role because, in the end, this is what the product is advertised with, and consumers naturally expect that advertising and product match.
There are various methods to determine the quantity and quality of cannabinoids in the hemp plant. For the analysis of quantity, Gas Chromatography (GC) is very often used. The term chromatography describes the process of separating a mixture of substances by different distribution of its individual components between a stationary and a mobile phase. This type of analysis is usually completed in less than 10 minutes and at up to 300°C. Experience has shown that one-dimensional gas chromatography (GC) does not provide sufficient resolution for the analysis of complex cannabinoid mixtures. Two-dimensional gas chromatography (GC x GC) has proven to be more advantageous in comparison, as it reveals more sample constituents. In addition, GC x GC provides a preference that greatly facilitates the identification of analyses.
Another method of analysis is the use of High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). Because HPLC works at much lower temperatures, it can detect THC and THCA as individual peaks. The high temperature in GC leads to decarboxylation of the acid forms of the cannabinoids and therefore only detects the free form. It usually takes a bit longer to perform a potency analysis using HPLC.