Cannabis 101

Understanding Cannabis Testing: A Guide to Cannabinoids and Terpenes

Published on October 9, 2014 · Last updated August 25, 2022

As the medical and recreational cannabis markets continue their steady climb toward legitimacy, the demand for lab-tested products climbs alongside it. Cannabis testing is the scientific process of measuring different chemicals and compounds in the product. They can measure beneficial constituents like cannabinoids and terpenes, or not-so-desirable contaminants such as pesticides, mold, and residual solvents.

Research is now showing that strains exhibit different compound profiles, unique “fingerprints” built by a specific composition of cannabinoids and terpenes. Below, get to know some of the compounds measured in cannabis testing, and learn more about why testing is important in this guide.


A list of major cannabinoids in cannabis and their effects

THC (∆9-Tetrahydrocannabinol)

  • Strongly psychoactive (induces a euphoric high)
  • Most cannabis strains are bred to contain a high THC content while other cannabinoids occur only in trace amounts
  • Demonstrates promise in treating pain, nausea, sleep and stress disorders, and appetite loss
  • Can cause anxiety and paranoia in some individuals
  • Boiling point: 315 °F (157 °C)

THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)

  • Strongly psychoactive (induces a euphoric high)
  • More strongly psychoactive than THC, but duration of effects is about half as long
  • Typically occurs in only trace amounts in cannabis
  • Pronounced energetic effects
  • Found to effectively counter anxiety, stress, and panic disorders without suppressing emotion
  • Reduces tremors associated with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological disorders
  • Diminishes appetite
  • Stimulates bone growth

CBD (Cannabidiol)

CBDV (Cannabidivarin)

  • Non-psychoactive (does not induce a euphoric high)
  • Demonstrates promise in treating seizures

CBG (Cannabigerol)

  • Non-psychoactive (does not induce a euphoric high)
  • Typically occurs in only trace amounts in cannabis
  • Found to stimulate brain cell and bone growth
  • Demonstrates promise as an anti-bacterial and anti-insomnia medicine

CBC (Cannabichromene)

  • Non-psychoactive (does not induce a euphoric high)
  • Typically occurs in only trace amounts in cannabis
  • Found to be about 10 times more effective than CBD in treating anxiety and stress
  • Anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties
  • Stimulates bone growth
  • Boiling point: 428 °F (220 °C)

CBN (Cannabinol)

  • Mildly to non-intoxicating (does not induce a euphoric high)
  • Typically occurs in only trace amounts in cannabis
  • Occurs as a result of THC degradation
  • Most sedating of all the cannabinoids
  • Demonstrates promise in treating insomnia, glaucoma, and pain
  • Boiling point: 365 °F (185 °C)


What are cannabis terpenes and what do they do?



  • Rich, spicy aroma
  • Also found in Thai basil, cloves, and black pepper
  • Anti-septic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Boiling point: 320 °F (160 °C)


  • Also found in mango, hops, bay leaves, lemongrass, and eucalyptus
  • Sedating, relaxing effects
  • Demonstrates promise in treating spasms, inflammation, pain, and insomnia
  • Reduces resistance across the blood-brain barrier which facilitates access of other chemicals
  • Enhances psychoactive effects of other compounds such as THC
  • Boiling point: 334 °F (168 °C)




  • Aroma similar to hops
  • Also found in hops and coriander
  • Anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Diminishes appetite
  • Boiling point: 388 °F (198 °C)



  • Unlike most terpenes, Phytol’s aroma is very subtle
  • Also found in aged green tea
  • A result of chlorophyll breakdown
  • Sleep aid
  • Boiling point: 400 °F (204 °C)

Photo credit: Ariel and Gajman via Photopin cc

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Bailey Rahn
Bailey Rahn
Bailey is a senior content manager at Leafly, specializing in strains and health. She's spent 7+ years researching cannabis products, spreading patients’ stories, and exploring healthy ways of integrating cannabis into daily life.
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