The phytochemical diversity of Cannabis chemovars is not well understood, and many chemovars were created in informal breeding programs without records of parentage or the criteria for selection. Key criteria for selection sometimes included aroma notes and visual cues, which some breeders associated with pharmacological activity. We hypothesized that the process of selection for scents believed to be related to specific tetrahydrocannabinol levels has resulted in modified terpene biosynthesis in these chemovars. Thirty-two cannabinoids, 29 monoterpenes and 38 sesquiterpenes were measured in 33 chemovars from 5 licensed producers. A classification system based on cannabinoid content was used with targeted metabolomic tools to determine relationships in the phytochemistry. Three monoterpenes, limonene, β-myrcene, and α-pinene, and two sesquiterpenes, caryophyllene and humulene, were abundant in the majority of chemovars. Nine terpenes were present in tetrahydrocannabinol-dominant chemovars. Three monoterpenes and four sesquiterpenes were predominantly found in cannabidiol-containing chemovars. Low abundance terpenes may have been the aromatic cues identified by breeders. The medicinal activity of some of the terpenes is likely to contribute to the pharmacological effect of specific chemovars. Together, these data demonstrate the synergy of compounds in Cannabis chemovars and point to the need for additional research to understand the phytochemical complexity.
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York.