A new ESI-LC/MS approach for comprehensive metabolic profiling of phytocannabinoids in Cannabis

Sci Rep. 2018 Sep 24;8(1):14280. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-32651-4.


Most clinical studies of Cannabis today focus on the contents of two phytocannabinoids: (-)-Δ9-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), regardless of the fact that the plant contains over 100 additional phytocannabinoids whose therapeutic effects and interplay have not yet been fully elucidated. This narrow view of a complex Cannabis plant is insufficient to comprehend the medicinal and pharmacological effects of the whole plant. In this study we suggest a new ESI-LC/MS/MS approach to identify phytocannabinoids from 10 different subclasses, and comprehensively profile the identified compounds in diverse medical Cannabis plants. Overall, 94 phytocannabinoids were identified and used for profiling 36 of the most commonly used Cannabis plants prescribed to patients in Israel. In order to demonstrate the importance of comprehensive phytocannabinoid analysis before and throughout medical Cannabis clinical trials, treatments, or experiments, we evaluated the anticonvulsant effects of several equally high-CBD Cannabis extracts (50% w/w). We found that despite the similarity in CBD contents, not all Cannabis extracts produced the same effects. This study's approach for phytocannabinoid profiling can enable researchers and physicians to analyze the effects of specific Cannabis compositions and is therefore critical when performing biological, medical and pharmacological-based research using Cannabis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cannabidiol / chemistry
  • Cannabinoids / chemistry
  • Cannabinoids / genetics*
  • Cannabis / chemistry
  • Cannabis / genetics*
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Hallucinogens / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Medical Marijuana / chemistry
  • Medical Marijuana / therapeutic use
  • Metabolome / genetics*
  • Metabolomics*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / genetics
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Cannabinoids
  • Hallucinogens
  • Medical Marijuana
  • Plant Extracts
  • Cannabidiol