home tests to check cbd oil for thc

Home Testing for THC Potency Is a Viable Option

As anyone with even rudimentary experience using cannabis can tell you, potency can vary. A lot. Sometimes that can be half the fun—learning just what effects a new strain will have and how strongly you’ll experience them.

But if you’re a medical marijuana patient, cannabinoid potency can be a very important factor in your therapy. Cannabis from an MMJ dispensary, if you have access to one, will often be laboratory tested. The results from these analyses can help guide a patient in selecting a strain with the right cannabinoid potency and ratio to give the desired effect.

If you’re growing your own herb, or getting it from a source that hasn’t tested it, there are options available for you to determine its potency. If you live in a state that has legal weed, there may be a commercial lab near you that performs potency, contamination and other tests on samples you provide to them. But lab tests can be costly, running about $40 or more for each potency analysis.

Options to do your own potency testing are available online, but do they work?

That’s what we wanted to find out, so with the help of San Diego cannabis testing facility PharmLabs, we put the tests to the test.

After reaching out to the manufacturers of several testing options, three agreed to provide their product and participate in our admittedly unscientific experiment. We’d like to thank these companies and PharmLabs for their invaluable assistance with this project.

To run our experiment, we performed the different tests as directed. We used samples of cannabis flower from batches tested for potency by PharmLabs with their gas chromatograph lab equipment.

Our goal was to compare the results we obtained from the home testing options for THC and CBD potency, with the lab results provided by PharmLabs, to see if they were consistent. All the manufacturers suggest running multiple tests on several samples from a batch and determining averages for the most precise results.

The first products we tried were Test 4 Detection Kits by CB Scientific. We tried individual tests for THC or CBD, there is a combination test available as well. These are very simple kits that only require a small pinch of herb, added to a container with a test fluid. After a good shake and a few minutes wait, the color of the sample is compared to the included reference chart. A color match determines a range of potency, rather than a precise number.

All the results we received from the CB Scientific products were consistent with the PharmLabs results. The potency ranges on the reference card top out at 20 percent THC and only 2.5 percent CBD, so if your sample is stronger, you won’t know by how much. But if you just want a good idea of the potency of the sample you’re working with, the ease of use makes the CB Scientific products a great option. They are priced at $30 for three tests.

If you are looking for results with greater precision, or an even lower cost per test, the other products we tried may better fit your needs.

Photo by A.J. Herrington

These two kits use a process called thin layer chromatography (TLC). The products we tried were Cannalyse 20/25 THC Test Kit by Cannalytics and the CTK Test Kit #1 from TLC Lab Supply. Although a more involved and technical process, more precise results can be obtained with the thin layer chromatography options. Although we was only looking at THC and CBD, about a half-dozen different cannabinoids will render on the plate.

To perform these tests, a 0.1 g sample of flower is mixed with a test fluid. Very small samples of the mixture are precisely measured and applied with a pipette or capillary tube to a specially coated glass plate. The plate is then placed in a jar, standing in additional test fluid. The fluid then wicks up the plate, carrying the cannabinoids with it. The individual properties of the cannabinoids cause them to be left in line, in a particular color and specific order, up the plate. Once the plate is dry, it is sprayed with a dye to reveal the colored spots. The size of the spots is compared to a template, which determines potency results in increments of one percentage point.

You might feel like you’re on CSI with this process, and as Roger Green from TLC Lab Supply noted, there is a definite “learning curve” that goes with performing thin layer chromatography. In fact, his company offers classes in three states to learn the procedure from a qualified professional.

Many variables, such as dryness of the sample and precise measurements, must be accounted for. After a few attempts with inconsistent results, we were able to perform tests with both kits that matched, within one percentage point, the numbers obtained by PharmLabs.

The TLC Lab Supply CTK Test Kit #1 is available for $160 and will test up to 25 samples. The Cannalyse 20/25 will also test up to 25 samples and costs about $150.

We only tested flower for our experiment, but all the products we tried can also be used for concentrates. The TLC options are appropriate for edibles, as well. CB Scientific offers a separate test for edibles at $40 for three tests.

After running the tests and comparing the experiments, we concluded that, with a little practice, home testing for cannabinoids can be done with a fair degree of accuracy.

However, potency testing is only one service offered by professional laboratories. Contamination from pesticides, molds, bacteria and other foreign substances can be a serious concern. Patients with sensitivities or compromised immune systems might consider insisting on products that have passed contaminant tests as well.

But if all you’re looking for is data on potency to fine tune your garden or titrate your dose, home testing can be a viable and economical option.

THC, CBD, Cannabinoids, & Terpenes: The Importance of Cannabis Testing

Can you determine how much THC is present in your cannabis strain? Well, it is difficult to analyze the THC% in cannabis, unless you test the samples. If you are buying cannabis products from a certified medical dispensary, you can check the label to read the “Total THC” composition.

However, as there is no official industry standard for testing THC in Cannabis, different producers use different testing procedures and calculate the % of THC in different ways.

The best over-the-counter test kits for consumers consist of tCheck, CannaDx by MyDx, and HiGrade. They’re the best reviewed and top selling, but they each go about analyzing THC potency in different ways and each come with their own unique feature sets.

Why it is Important to Test THC Potency of Cannabis

The chemical makeup of marijuana for medical use must be precisely analyzed. The cannabinoid profile of cannabis is like a fingerprint, made up of more than 70 compounds, the ideal dosing of which can impact the patient’s treatment.

THC plays a key part in the psychoactive effects of cannabis and is also known to be an antioxidant. THC also appears to have some anti-inflammatory properties and helps reduce neuropathic pain.

Many considerations go into accurate THC testing. For example, when testing flowers, the moisture content can affect the reading.

Moisture content makes a difference when testing for potency in cannabis flowers because THC is measured as a percentage of the product’s total weight.

So if the sample is dried out, it will weigh less than a sample with more moisture. Both samples may contain the same amount of THC, but the test will indicate that dry cannabis is more potent by percentage.

CBD and THC Levels

Data related to cannabinoid potency measures the cannabinoid levels found in the cannabis products. The CBD and THC potency data are needed by producers. The levels of CBD and THC have to be known by the consumer so they are aware of how much to consume.

For instance, some cannabis patients might desire a marijuana strain that has a higher ratio of CBD: THC while recreational users might want the opposite.

In recent years, researchers have started to understand more about the connection between the cannabinoids in different strains of marijuana and the strain-specific effects experienced by consumers.

High levels of CBD helps calm anxiety, for example, while a large amount of THC does the opposite and can create agitation.

Researchers have also discovered that a 1 to 1 ratio of CBD to THC causes the CBD to cancel out the psychoactive effects of the THC. This is ideal for those who need THC for medicinal purposes but don’t want the high. Other cannabinoids have similarly interesting interactions.

This may be somewhat useful to recreational users who are searching for the ideal strain that will give them the perfect high, but its necessary information for those who use medical cannabis.

The right cannabinoids in the right proportions can provide pain relief, treat nausea, or even help with insomnia.

THC Testing Solutions Explained

Tests can be broken down into two main types: those for consumers to conduct at home and those for businesses to conduct at laboratories or on-site.

Consumers want solutions to be able to verify the quality of the product they purchase or grow themselves at home since access to large accredited labs is financially and logistically prohibitive.

For companies however, investing on on-site testing equipment or a lab is key, not only for regulatory compliance, but also in ensuring the integrity of the product, something critical in keeping satisfied return customers.

Best Consumer Tester Kits

Cannabis testing equipment is generally split into two primary categories: those for consumers/hobbyists who want to test their cannabis or edibles at home and then more robust testing solutions for laboratories and companies who are producing high volumes of THC-containing products.

Consumer kits generally have less refined testing functionality but higher testing speeds, giving THC potency often within seconds. These kits are usually designed to me portable so they can easily be stored in the kitchen or a drawer.

Laboratory quality test kits are usually stationary, designed to be on a chemist bench, and often provide much more detail including not just THC potency but specific quantities of other cannabinoids and terpenes.

Below are the top-selling consumer-oriented home test kits:

MyDx CannaDx

tCheck

HiGrade

THC, CBD, CBN + Terpenes

THC, Plant Health

Starting at $999.00

Starting at $299.99

Primary Benefits Home THC Test Kits

Until now, expensive lab testing was the only way to assure potency and quality. Recently, home testing kits that yield reliable results are available to consumers and small scale growers.

If your only concern is whether a substance contains THC, THC test kits are smaller, more straightforward, and more affordable than full-spectrum cannabinoid testing at a lab.

By adding a small sample and waiting a few minutes, you can quickly find out if a substance is packing a psychoactive punch or has a zero THC level.

Cannabis and THC test kit manufacturers like MyDx, tCheck, and HiGrade work to make it easier for legal recreational cannabis users to test products to achieve the kind of high they enjoy, as well as enabling medical users to pick strains that best suit the kind of symptom relief they need most.

If all you’re looking for is data on potency to fine-tune your garden or titrate your dose, home testing can be a viable and economical option.

Although each kit is different, the process often involves taking a small amount of your chosen strain (usually 1 gram) and applying a test fluid. You then apply the mixture to a glass plate and put it in a container with another test fluid.

These fluids separate cannabinoids from your weed and carry them up the plate, with different cannabinoids showing in different colors. You then apply a dye to reveal these spots and read the results.

It might sound a little tricky, and realistically it is. In some cases, you might need to take multiple tests to get an accurate reading.

Best Commercial THC & CBD Testing Solutions

The more scientific way to go about home testing is to find a thin layer chromatography (TLC) test. These tests require precise measuring and multiple steps to get the result, but the result will let you know your sample’s THC content to a single percentage point.

Below are some of the most popular THC testing equipment and laboratory supply vendors that specialize in various types of cannabis testing.

Maker of portable, instant-results test equipment. Core products include a the Profiler II for quick, accurate potency testing, ToxDetective for testing for pesticides/fungicides or other dangerous chemicals, and The Beacon, a desktop application for dispensary potency testing.

Visit Conquer Scientific

Sells a wide variety of laboratory equipment including high-end chromatography testing equipment, extraction equipment, THC potency testing equipment and hemp analyzers.

Maker of Lightlab 3, a completely portable test station in a rugged, bright orange suitcase. This is a great solution for those who value mobility or have dispersed grow operations.

Visit Orange Photonics

Another maker of portable, instant-results test equipment. Core products include a the Profiler II for quick, accurate potency testing, ToxDetective for testing for pesticides/fungicides or other dangerous chemicals, and The Beacon, a desktop application for dispensary potency testing.

Visit Sage Analytics

Purveyor of test strips, pipets, microcaps, and everything else you need for sample collection to send off to a laboratory or your in-house testing team.

Purpl PRO is the flagship product offering by Purpl Scientific, and the first affordable, accurate, portable potency measurement device for the industry. It is a combination of a “laboratory bench” device the size of a hockey puck and a mobile app that allows users to run the system through a smartphone

Visit Purpl Scientific

How Do Professional Labs Measure THC and CBD Levels?

There is a variety of ways to measure THC and CBD concentrations. The most common technique is called High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). HPLC can separate and quantify a mixture of chemicals in a liquid solution.

In HPLC, a sample is collected from cannabis flowers mixed with a solvent such as ethanol. The solution is then pumped at high pressure through a tube. The tube contains a material that attracts some molecules in the sample based on their chemical properties.

At the end of the column is a detector. Compounds that are attracted to the material inside the tube will travel slower and reach the detector later.

HPLC detectors typically measure UV light absorbance, which can be associated with specific molecules. When the molecules reach the detector, their relative abundance is measured.

Because different cannabinoids, like THC and CBD, travel at different speeds through the column, they will be detected at different times, allowing for characterization of the sample.

The desire to identify additional cannabinoids has led to wider use of two more sophisticated chromatographic techniques, Ultra Performance Chromatography (UPC) and Supercritical Fluid Chromatography (SFC).

Compared to HPLC, UPC has the advantage of a higher separation efficiency, which results in better resolution, and shorter analysis times. SFC has all of the advantages of UPC, combined with much easier sample preparation.

Portable devices are also being used for potency tests. Fourier Transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) can provide quick and easy potency spot tests for THC, THCa, CBD, and CBDa in dried cannabis buds and processed oils.

Although not as sensitive as chromatography, FTIR can analyze whole flowers for potency, terpenes, and moisture content. Because the technique is not a primary method, standard samples are needed with known concentrations determined by other techniques, such as GC or HPLC.

However, potency testing is only one service offered by professional laboratories. Contamination from pesticides, molds, bacteria, and other foreign substances can be a serious concern.

Patients with sensitivities or compromised immune systems might consider insisting on products that have passed contaminant tests as well.

How to Choose a Good Test Lab?

Currently, there are many testing laboratories around the world, but they differ in one critical aspect: accreditation. Although the laboratory can be accredited, it cannot offer an accredited THC test. The highest quality test you can get (globally) is an accredited lab with a THC certified test.

For America, the accreditation to verify for your lab of choice would be ANAB, which stands for the ANSI National Accreditation Board (and ANSI stands for American National Standards Institute)

If you’re in Canada things are a little more clear cut, as you can just visit the Government of Canada website and view an active list of government licensed testing labs.

If you are outside of the U.S or Canada you can do a specific search for your countries accreditation body and government regulatory agencies to ascertain which labs are legit.

When finally choosing a laboratory, your options are:

  • Accredited laboratory + THC accredited test (highest quality; laboratory and THC accredited; the most accurate CBD and THC test; used by the police; full regulatory compliance)
  • Accredited laboratory, but not certified THC test (medium quality; the laboratory is accredited, but THC test is not; modest accuracy; partial agreement)
  • Unaccredited laboratory test and THC test (poor quality and efficiency; neither laboratory test nor THC test; limited regulatory compliance)

Understanding Testing Variables for Consumers

Final THC levels depend on consumption method. This needs to be taken into account with testing. Understanding how your product is going to be consumed by shoppers is critical in understanding how best to measure THC, CBD and their respective derivatives.

Decarboxylation of THCA to THC starts occurring at around 180°C. As you increase the temperature from there, other magical compounds like terpenes (that work together in concert) will begin to vaporize, each at a different temperature.

At even higher temperatures, you’ll start to get combustion. This will affect not only levels of THC and other cannabinoids, but also terpenes. Moreover, combustion can produce byproducts that may be hazardous to your health.

There isn’t an exact, magic number for the temperature at which cannabis flowers start to combust, but the temperature range of most commercial electric vaporizers should be below this threshold.

Traditional smoking methods that directly ignite flowers are a different story. The temperature of a typical lighter flame will be well over 1,000°C, which would be expected to cause degradation of THC into CBN and some destruction of terpenes.

Cannabis Testing Standardization

According to Confidence Analytics, a state-certified laboratory in Washington, “there are no strong regulations in place about how cannabis chemicals are measured.

However, HPLC has emerged as the dominant technique for measuring cannabinoids.” In other industries, there are specific guidelines on testing methods and settings for laboratory equipment.

This lack of regulation can lead to discrepancies in potency data and inaccurate cannabinoid data. If proper testing practices are in place at each laboratory, reported potency data should be similar across the board.

A wide variety of testing should be completed to ensure the safety and quality of cannabis products. Distinct testing methods are used to collect data on terpenes, contamination, and residual solvent levels. Consistent and accurate testing is important for industry transparency and consumer safety.

Unfortunately, there have been controversy surrounding potency testing methods, with suspected inflation of THC concentration in some cases. Therefore, the industry needs to push for a general standard for cannabis testing to ensure accurate potency reporting.

HerbCEO Conclusion

Ultimately most testing needs fall into two categories. First is the regulatory and safety category driven by local and state governments to ensure the safety of products being sold both medically and recreationally.

Accurately communicating the amount of THC a certain product has at a dispensary for example is important for ensuring the integrity of both the brand and the industry as a whole.

Clearly communicating compound levels is also critical in gaining trust with the larger public, who because of years of negative stigmatization, already may view the cannabis industry with a skeptical eye.

After medical and recreational and regulatory testing comes the second big category, which is DIY or “home testing”.

With more states decriminalizing but not yet fully legalizing retail sales of cannabis, home growing for personal consumption has been growing in recent years.

Using accredited national testing laboratories for small home-grown personal yields is cost prohibitive and can take a long time. Furthermore, with the rise in popularity of more refined forms of cannabis, such as THC syrups, the need for accurate home testing products is more important than ever.

The emergence of ever increasingly sophisticated home testing kits is a great advancement for both the medical and recreational industry as it allows home growers and recreational hobbyists to more accurately understand the potency of their cannabis products.

So, if you’re wondering just how strong those brownies are you baked with that magic butter, or you’re wondering just how much THC your super secret closet-grow bud is, now you know how to find out!