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Beyond Potency: The 6 Most Important Hemp and Cannabis Tests

The future of hemp and cannabis relies on the industry's dedication to quality, education, and inspiring consumer trust. To meet these goals, companies must go beyond potency testing.

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In Florida last year, nearly 15 percent of hemp crops failed due to poor performance. The plants didn't grow properly for reasons most farmers still can't pinpoint because they never tested samples along the way. Yet every wasted acre added up to significant losses in profits and resources. What if hemp growers had a way to prevent such disasters? What if they took the opportunity to test the soil and plants before harvest?

Hemp processors, brands, and retailers face their own unique challenges and opportunities in bringing products to market. Most companies focus so intently on testing for CBD and THC potency that they forget about the hundreds of therapeutic compounds their products contain. Even worse, some have no idea their products may possess harmful manufacturing byproducts that could make their customers sick.

Suppose hemp growers, producers, and sellers want a consistent premium product but don't have a Certificate of Analysis (COA) to prove it. How can they be sure the results match the expectations? How can they justify a higher market value? More importantly, how can they expect the end-user to trust in the quality of their product? The future of hemp and cannabis relies on the industry's dedication to quality, education, and inspiring consumer trust. Companies can only achieve those milestones by looking beyond minimum compliance standards. They must go beyond potency testing.

Here are six essential hemp and cannabis tests beyond potency.

Related: Do You Know What's In Your Weed?

Pre-harvest testing

To ensure the hemp is safe and effective for sale, farmers must start testing before the seed hits the ground and throughout the plant's entire lifecycle. If farmers test for contaminants and micronutrients, they can correct errors before wasting time and money on a faulty harvest.

Even in organic farms, as hemp plants grow, they absorb compounds from soil that could contain heavy metals and other chemical agents. As a result, plants can become contaminated with toxic materials, including lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury, which is linked to kidney failure, vomiting, low blood pressure, and seizures. If farmers test early and detect a problem, they have a chance to enact measures to treat and clean the soil.

Testing plants for micronutrients before harvest is also vital because it determines whether the soil or water is healthy enough to ensure an optimal yield. Micronutrients are nourishing compounds found in trace amounts in plant tissue that play an essential role in development and growth. Without the right amount of these nutrients, plants will not grow effectively.

Residual solvents testing

Residual solvents are volatile organic chemicals like butane, ethanol, heptane, and propane used to extract terpenes and cannabinoids from the plant material. They are vital to the process of creating customer favorites like vapes, tinctures, and edibles. But solvents can be dangerous at high levels if left unchecked. Unfortunately, they're not always so easy to remove from the solution before production.

Residual solvent testing identifies the presence of these potentially harmful compounds, along with impurities and other trace residues. It's a crucial way to assess the manufacturing process's efficiency and ensure that products are safe for consumption. In Florida, all hemp producers are must conduct residual solvent testing, but some companies slip through the cracks. Regardless of the specific requirements, trustworthy brands must put customer health first by testing every batch for residual solvents.

Shelf life and stability testing

When someone purchases a medication, they expect the label to show the shelf life and recommended storage conditions. Customers seeking cannabis, especially for therapeutic purposes, expect to find the same information. More and more, consumers understand that natural hemp and cannabis extracts can change over time and under certain conditions. Factors like light, temperature changes, and oxygen exposure can lead to a degradation of quality and loss of cannabinoids.

Stability and shelf-life testing allow labs to scientifically analyze a product's longevity and chemical integrity through a series of research trials that expose it to different environmental conditions. Manufacturers can do shelf-life tests on various cannabis products to show the precise environmental conditions affecting potency, color, odor, and moisture.

Many brands don't realize it, but hemp extract labels must include the month and year of expiration. This date can be determined by the manufacturer as long as the potency remains the same throughout the product's entire life cycle. But the only foolproof way to quantify a product's longevity is through third-party shelf-life and stability testing.

Terpene profiling

Terpenes are compounds produced in the trichomes of the cannabis plant that are responsible for providing its distinctive flavor and aroma. Terpenes also work as essential medicinal hydrocarbon building blocks that influence the overall therapeutic effects. Characterizing terpenes and their synergy with cannabinoids is vital in identifying the best products for customers to find symptom relief. But companies can't make assumptions about terpene profiles based on strain alone.

Terpene profiles change from plant to plant-based on different factors like soil type, climate, and whether the product is a flower or an extract. So, regardless of the strain, the terpene profile is only evident after it's been tested. Knowing a products' terpene profile is essential because many cannabis consumers look to the whole plant and full-spectrum extracts to relieve their symptoms. A terpene profile test will allow companies to highlight compounds other than cannabinoids in their marketing, allowing them to educate customers about why they should try the products and the benefits they will receive.

Flavonoid profiling

As brands explore the benefits of terpenes and cannabinoids, they must also consider flavonoids. Flavonoids are phytonutrients responsible for plants' bright pigments. They are found throughout cannabis plants, along with most fruits and vegetables. Researchers have also shown that Flavonoids exhibit therapeutic properties through synergizing with hemp's full spectrum of compounds.

Like terpenes and cannabinoids, flavonoids bind with receptors in the body to exhibit antioxidant and anti-aging effects. Uniquely, flavonoids also bind to opioid receptors, which contributes to significant pain-relieving properties. Two flavonoids, cannflavin A and cannflavin B, have been shown to be up to 30 times more powerful aspirin! This is a unique benefit consumers can't get from cannabinoids and terpenes alone and a potent marketing tool for brands.

Vitamin E acetate testing

Vitamin E Acetate is a fat-soluble liquid, and some shady companies have used it as a thickening agent to enhance THC vape cartridges artificially. Unfortunately, the vitamin E Acetate found in some vapes can cause a severe lung condition known as vaping-related lung disease (EVALI). While vitamin E Acetate isn't harmful when ingested, research shows that it interferes with normal lung function when inhaled.

Responsible manufacturers never use vitamin E Acetate to cut products, but brands and consumers rely on COAs to prove that fact. Testing products for vitamin E Acetate brings customers peace of mind that they're ingesting a clean product.

Bottom line

Farmers need to analyze their soil and seeds throughout the growth cycle to guarantee a successful yield. Extractors, brands, and retailers need to test for harmful residuals, cutting agents, and shelf life to ensure the safest, cleanest product. And everyone in the industry needs to expand their knowledge beyond THC and CBD potency to help market the vast therapeutic potential of this miraculous plant. It's time to elevate the industry to new heights of awareness.