While browsing ZenLeaf’s fine cannabis wares, you might see a tab or chart detailing the laboratory test results for our products. They might look like so:
This may seem confusing. So far, there’s no industry-standard way of presenting such information, so every laboratory and every site might have its own system.
ZenLeaf makes an effort to maintain transparency and quality in our products. We keep our test results up to date by utilizing a third-party laboratory to deliver unbiased test results to you, our ZenLeaf members. It’s an ongoing process!
Here’s a handy guide to how the results were achieved, and what the chart abbreviations mean.
HPLC: High Performance Liquid Chromatography. This is a process in analytic chemistry, using a pressurized solvent to separate and analyze component chemicals in a mixture. HPLC is a standardized process, frequently used for manufacturing, research, legal and medical purposes. You can read about HPLC in more detail here.
In cannabis analysis, HPLC is used to separate and measure all the component cannabinoids and other chemicals that make up a sample of cannabis plant. There are many dozens of possible cannabinoids in any given sample, but they typically occur in trace amounts and aren’t yet fully understood. For practical purposes, most cannabis lab test results will detail between 5 and 10 of the major cannabinoids, including THC and CBD.
MAXIMUM THC: The total potency percentage of the THC, generated by a formula that combines the THC and THCa percentages.
Because THCa doesn’t quite render into THC at a perfect 1:1 ratio (see the THCa listing below), a formula is required for greatest accuracy. As established in the ‘Notes’ section below the chart, this formula as THCtotal = (%THCa) x 0.877 + (%THC). You can read about that formula here.
MAXIMUM CBD: See Maximum THC above. As we see, CBD occurs in much smaller amounts than THC, but is very powerful. The formula for maximum CBD is the same as for THC.
THC: Tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is the main psychoactive component of marijuana, responsible for the cognitive changes and ‘high’ of cannabis intake, as well as antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects. THC has a range of physical effects as well; it’s known as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea agent, appetite stimulant and more.
The vast majority of cannabis strains contain between 15% to 20% THC. Strains above 20% are considered very powerful.
THCa: Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. The difference between THC and THCa is a tricky one for the average consumer– a technical explanation is required. THCa is a cannabinoid that, when heated, turns into THC. However, both THCa and THC naturally occur in the cannabis plant at the same time, and their medicinal properties differ. The HPLC process (described above) that measures THC and THCa occurs at room temperature, so the existing THCa is not transformed into THC by the analysis. Thus, separate results are given for both.
THCV: Tetrahydrocannabivarin. THCV is a psychoactive cannabinoid similar in chemical structure to THC, but having quite different effects. Research on THCV is only in the early stages, but positive developments have been noted in the treatment of anxiety disorders, PTSD, diabetes and more. In contrast to THC and CBD, THCV is an appetite suppressant, and thus may have value in portion control and other treatments for weight loss. Read more about THCV here.
CBD: Cannabidiol. CBD is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, meaning it is not responsible for highs. CBD appears naturally in the human body (including in breast milk) and its physiological effects are the subject of major current research. Though it appears in much smaller amounts than THC, CBD is comparatively very powerful. CBD is known as an analgesic, anaesthetic and soporific, meaning it’s a common remedy for insomnia, muscle spasms, nausea, joint pain, and the physical side effects of chemotherapy. Though it’s not known for cognitive effects, CBD has some anti-anxiety and appetite-stimulating effects, and is a major cause of ‘the munchies’.
CBD research is still a growing field, with potential applications in the treatment of epilepsy, schizophrenia, eating disorders and numerous neurological syndromes. The highly-sought-after nature of CBD has spurred growers to cultivate numerous strains specifically to boost its presence. These strains are known, of course, as high-CBD strains.
The majority of cannabis strains contain between 0.12 and 5% CBD. 5% or higher CBD is considered therapeutic and has no recreational value, because the CBD mitigates the psychoactive effects of THC, neutralizing much of the high. High-CBD strains are considered rare and highly prized. Read more about CBD and high-CBD strains here.
CBDa: Cannabidiolic acid. Similar to THCa, CBDa is a cannabinoid which occurs with CBD in the cannabis plant, and also becomes CBD when heated. It is common to add the CBD and CBDa percentages together to get a total potency percentage, but as with THC and THCa, a more detailed formula is available for greater accuracy. CBD and CBDa have slightly different therapeutic effects. According to early studies, CBDa has potential anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. Read more about CBDa here.
CBN: Cannabinol. CBN is a cannabinoid that occurs from the natural breakdown of THC via exposure to heat and oxygen. Though CBN is far reduced in psychoactive potency from THC, it has a strong value in physical effects and may be the strongest soporific (sleep-inducing) cannabinoid known to us yet. Indica strains are often high in CBN, aiding their sleep-inducing and ‘body-high’ qualities. Read more about CBN here.
CBC: Cannabichromene. CBC is best known for amplifying the effects of THC, but it also has unique properties of its own. CBC is a source of encouraging research at present, with known pain-relief, sedative and anti-inflammatory properties. Modern research indicates that CBC promotes nerve and brain cell growth, and may also have palliative effects on intestinal disorders such as IBS and Crohn’s, though the mechanisms of that relief are not yet understood. Read more about CBC here.
CBG: Cannabigerol. CBG has no known psychoactive effects and, like CBD, is known to block or neutralize THC’s ‘high’ effects. CBG is typically found only in trace amounts in medical cannabis, but is the source of research due to its apparent promotion of nerve and brain cell growth. In other regards it is similar to CBD, with anti-depressant and anti-inflammatory effects. Read more about CBG here.
Moisture: When alive and growing, a cannabis plant is about 80% water. After proper drying, a percentage of dried cannabis bud will still contain significant moisture. The exact percentage will vary depending on the climate, the ambient humidity and the strain of cannabis, but is ideally between 6% to 12%. Ultimately, the moisture content will determine the freshness, longevity and palatability of the bud. Fungi and bacteria do not thrive below 15% moisture, but a moisture content of 5% or less will cause the cannabis to be physically brittle and unpleasant to consume. A happy medium is necessary for the best results. In the example case, the moisture result is excellent– a well-dried bud that will remain fresh and provide an enjoyable smoke.
As cannabis is sold by weight, some distributors will improperly dry their product or even artificially inflate the moisture content, often raising the percentage above 15% and making the bud susceptible to moulds, mildew, bacterial rot and insect contamination. We take care to make sure that this is not a factor in ZenLeaf products.
Test Date: Self-explanatory. The expiry of a test date equates to a ‘best before’ date of the bud itself, as bud will chemically change and lose potency over time. However, regardless of the indicated expiry date, ZenLeaf restocks frequently and does not sell old bud.
Test Type: The HPLC process is capable of analysing virtually any mix of cannabis products, including edibles and infusions. In the example case, we have tested the cannabis flower on its own.
Detection Limit: The absolute lowest amount of any chemical that can be detected, within a confidence limit of 0.01%. The HPLC process is highly accurate with a slim margin of error.
ABOUT THE LABS
ZenLeaf utilizes independent, third-party laboratories trusted by the local cannabis industry. Thus far, we have consulted Wagon Wheel Labs and Anandia Labs, both Vancouver-based private companies specializing in the analysis of cannabis products. These laboratories are not affiliated with ZenLeaf, and all test results are posted as-is, verifiable and without any alteration.