At Terpene Belt Farms, we are driven to be the best cannabis oil producer ever, and being the best at anything requires a motive that goes beyond economic benefit. Our corporate curiosity into all things cannabis leads us down many different paths; some bear fruit and some are dead ends. We have found others that share the same curiosities and have aligned our efforts to discover new and insightful data about our industry.
Recently, we have found the team at Veda Scientific to be of the curious mindset. Fortunately for us, they have put their money where their curiosities lie and made an investment into becoming the foremost experts on advanced analysis of cannabis essential oil. Their technology allows for the identification of up to 500 compounds that are known to exist within cannabis.
As we dove into understanding the composition of our own oils, it became clear that we should validate commonly held beliefs about why our oils are “better” than botanical recreations. One of the obvious preconceived notions is that our Fresh Never Frozen® oils have more chemical diversity than botanical blends. Another belief is that many of the compounds found in cannabis are not available in isolate form. We needed to stop living in a world of assumptions and move to master our understanding of the differences between us and the incumbent competition.
Here’s what we learned:
- Fresh Never Frozen® has more compounds than Botanical
- Fresh Never Frozen® has rare and unique compounds not found in Botanical
- Fresh Never Frozen® has 100x more ester content than Botanicals we tested
- Botanical isolates are not pure
Summary of Experiment
It was time to let the data speak for itself. So we set out to perform a blind analysis of 3 botanical “Tahoe OG” terpene blends and a comparable “Tahoe OG” from our Fresh Never Frozen® product line to bring the differences to light. The results we uncovered were not what we had expected, but before we move to the result, here are some details on the setup of the experiment.
Laboratory: Veda Scientific
Submission: Blind with vendor ID obfuscated
Samples Key: (a) Botanical Vendor A, (b) Botanical Vendor B, (c) Botanical Vendor C, (d) Terpene Belt Farms
“Results were processed by conducting a dynamic background correction (DBC) and integrating the signals from the mass spec using a deconvolution algorithm with a minimum ion count of 2000 for peaks having a minimum height and area of 10000. Library search was included using the NIST 17 database. Analysis of results included categorization of each identified peak into different classes of molecules and calculating the number of peaks and peak area percentages in each class, as well as comparing the peaks retention times with the Restek and Spex standards for a more reliable identification.”
Peak & Compound Count: Our initial review of the peak count showed no clear winner. We immediately began to question the sampling method. “Did we send a duplicate? How are there two oils with approximately 1350 peaks?” Our beliefs about diversity were shattered. We then moved to review the count of identified compounds and to our relief there was a clear winner. This put our doubts around sampling to rest. We decided at this point in our review to turn to the sample ID key to help us identify which sample was from TBF. To our delight, the TBF sample was clearly the most diverse with 331 identified compounds. We were still quite shocked at the number of identified compounds found in the botanical blends. Our takeaway here was (a) the sensitivity of 2D-GC picked up the impurities of the botanical isolates used in the blends and (b) the impurities introduce an unintentional non-native “mystery soup” of unknown source.
Terpene Analysis: When a cannabis quality assurance lab tests for terpenes, they are most likely using a standard mix by SPEX which includes 21 of the most common terpenes. These common terpene names have been absorbed into cannabis culture over time, though we think of these as foundational compounds that create a canvas for higher impact compounds to brighten. All 4 samples contained each of the 21 compounds, so no takeaway there. When we dove into the relative peak area the difference between Fresh Never Frozen® Essential Oil and Botanical recreations became apparent in earnest for the first time in our review. The TBF oil had a common terpene concentration of just 64% which was between 20 and 30 percentage points less than the pack. That means TBF’s remaining 36% was composed of compounds that are not available from non-cannabis sources. Our takeaway here is that cannabis produces unique and rare compounds that are not available from non-cannabis sources.
Monoterpene Analysis: Monoterpenes are the commonly referenced group of volatile terpenes, which are more easily converted to vapor. Because of this, monoterpenes tend to contribute more to the aromatic properties of a given cannabis strain. This analysis shows the relative peak area composition of just monoterpenes. To make room for less common terpenes, we expect to see a lower monoterpene concentration in TBF oil.
Sesquiterpene Analysis: Sesquiterpenes are bulkier than monoterpenes and tend to be less fragile, holding up more reliably during the cannabis drying and curing process. This analysis shows the relative peak area composition of just sesquiterpenes. The unique sesqui terpenes found in cannabis pair well with the lighter compounds. Many of today’s popular breeding trends are pushing for increased sesquiterpene concentrations to create more full bodied cannabis. TBF Oil here is showing higher compound counts and relative peak area.
Diterpene Analysis: This was a very telling piece of analysis. The presence of diterpenes are indicative of degradation through polymerization or remain as a relic of synthetic conversions. We always expect to see some amount of degridants in every oil regardless of source or extraction method. Our takeaway here is that the relative peak area of up to 2.24% in the botanical group is a clear demonstration of the impurities of their inputs.
Ester Analysis: Esters are quickly becoming the star of the show in cannabis flavor and fragrance. The flavors and fragrances they produce are of extreme intensity. A small amount of esters can overpower the sesquiterpene and monoterpene compounds in any oil. These compounds are extremely light and volatile, boiling off at room temperature. High impact compounds of this nature exist within the volatilome, an area that is not only responsible for fruity notes but skunky notes as well. The power of Fresh Never Frozen Essential Oil shined bright in this critical area. TBF oil had 8-15x the number of identified esters with a peak area of nearly 1%.