Potency Testing by HPLC

Cannabis contains more than 500 unique compounds, including over 80 chemical alkaloids known as cannabinoids. The sticky trichomes of the budding plant produce the highest concentrations. THC does not occur naturally in cannabisplants. THC-A is the natural, non-psychoactive, carboxylic acid form of THC. It is rapidly converted to THC upon smoking or heating. The premium products sold in medicinal cannabis dispensaries are typically those with high THC concentrations, however, it’s THC-A and the other non-psychoactive “CBx” cannabinoids, such as CBD that have been reported to reduce convulsions, inflammation, nausea and anxiety, and even eradicate tumors in some patients. CBN, only slightly psychoactive, is a degradation byproduct of THC and it is elevated when cannabis is poorly stored.

Potency Testing in hemp products by HPLC

CBD-rich oil has become increasingly popular and is administered via sublingual drops, gel capsules or as a topical ointment. The main source of CBD-rich oil is industrial hemp. While “cannabis” is the name of the plant itself, “marijuana”, in its correct use, refers only to the leaves and flowering portions of the plant that contain a wide array of cannabinoids, including more than 0.3% of the psychoactive compound THC. Hemp on the other hand describes the sterilized seeds, stems, stalks and roots of cannabis plants with no more than 0.3 % THC. CBD oil produced from these seeds and roots exhibits therapeutic benefits without the mind-altering “high” produced by THC.

QC testing for cannabinoids is essential for the accurate labeling of cannabis and hemp products. The term “potency” is normally reserved for the quantitation of the major cannabinoids, namely THCA, THC, CBD, and CBN.

HPLC has emerged as the gold standard for potency determinations, as separation and detection of the cannabinoids is done without causing any decomposition of the naturally abundant THCA.This acid form undergoes decarboxylation to THC under the influence of heat and light. Therefore GC determinations offer only a sum-parameter of THCA and THC. This application note describes the analysis of 11 cannabinoids in a simple 10 min HPLC-UV assay.

The Cannabis Analyzer for Potency captures the spirit of an Analyzer – a comprehensive package integrating instrument hardware, software, consumables, and analytical workflow. Includes a certified reference material (CRM) mixture of target compounds. Also includes a service package to cover preventive maintenance and warranty for three years, plus free technical support for the life of the product. The solution is ready to use after one day of installation and testing, and requires no time-consuming method development on the part of the analyst.

Turnkey HPLC Analyzer
Choice of 3 Proven HPLC Methods
3 Years Warranty & Preventive Maintenance

  • High Throughput HPLC Method Package – Designed for analysis of the 10 most commonly requested cannabinoids in under 8 minutes. This is the original method developed in collaboration with industry laboratories. (Does not include THCV.)
  • High Sensitivity HPLC Method Package – Adds THCV to the target analyte list, with an instrument cycle time of under 10 minutes. The short analysis time produces the sharpest chromatographic peaks for the best overall sensitivity.


  • High Resolution HPLC Method Package – Presents full baseline resolution for all 11 compounds and an analysis time under 30 minutes. This method is preferred for research purposes, or when additional compounds must be added to the analysis in response to new state regulatory requirements.

Contact us to request a quote for your HPLC unit.