Cannabis Testing Solutions: HPLC for potency and mycotoxine analysis

Carola Thiering, Shimadzu Europa GmbH, Duisburg, Germany (
Craig Young, Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, Columbia, Usa
Bob Clifford, Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, Columbia, Usa
Gesa Schad, Shimadzu Europa Gmbh, Duisburg, Germany

Cannabis contains more than 500 unique compounds, including over 80 chemical alkaloids known as cannabinoids. Numerous health benefits have been reported that are attributed to their pharmacological characteristics, which allow for use as medical treatment. They can affect physiological processes, such as inflammation, pain perception and seizures, which is a reason for the growing interest in “Medical Cannabis” [1,2]. In Europe, over 20 countries have legalized cannabis for medical use and more are expected to follow. The demand for analytical tools and cannabis testing is therefore growing.

Quantification of cannabinoids is essential for the accurate labeling of cannabis products, as they are the primary active components. The term “potency” is reserved for quantitation of the major cannabinoids, namely d9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), d9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN), of which only THC exhibits psychoactive effects.


Cannabis plant material contains THCA, the non-psychoactive, carboxylic acid form of THC which is the precursor and converted to THC upon heating. High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is the method of choice for quantification of cannabinoids in the presence of their acid form, as the high temperatures in gas chromatography (GC) will only allow for determination of total THC.


However, not only “potency” is a key factor in quality control of cannabis products, also the absence of hazardous compounds needs to be ensured. Mycotoxines are carcinogenic and mutagenic, causing serious harm to consumers, especially immuno-compromised medicinal cannabis users. Sensitive and selective detection of such contamination is necessary for consumer protection.


This work will present ready-to-use solutions for potency and mycotoxine analysis from sample preparation to results with HPLC and UV, fluorescence or mass spectrometric detection.


[1] Perry G. Fine, Mark J. Rosenfeld, Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, October 2013, Volume 4, Issue 4.


[2] Klein TW, Newton CA, Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007;601:395-413.

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