Cannabis - from cultivar to chemovar


A. Hazekamp, R&D Department, Bedrocan BV, P.O. Box 2009 Veendam, the Netherlands. E-mail:


The medicinal use of Cannabis is increasing as countries worldwide are setting up official programs to provide patients with access to safe sources of medicinal-grade Cannabis. An important question that remains to be answered is which of the many varieties of Cannabis should be made available for medicinal use. Drug varieties of Cannabis are commonly distinguished through the use of popular names, with a major distinction being made between Indica and Sativa types. Although more than 700 different cultivars have already been described, it is unclear whether such classification reflects any relevant differences in chemical composition. Some attempts have been made to classify Cannabis varieties based on chemical composition, but they have mainly been useful for forensic applications, distinguishing drug varieties, with high THC content, from the non-drug hemp varieties. The biologically active terpenoids have not been included in these approaches. For a clearer understanding of the medicinal properties of the Cannabis plant, a better classification system, based on a range of potentially active constituents, is needed. The cannabinoids and terpenoids, present in high concentrations in Cannabis flowers, are the main candidates. In this study, we compared cultivars obtained from multiple sources. Based on the analysis of 28 major compounds present in these samples, followed by principal component analysis (PCA) of the quantitative data, we were able to identify the Cannabis constituents that defined the samples into distinct chemovar groups. The study indicates the usefulness of a PCA approach for chemotaxonomic classification of Cannabis varieties. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.