A row of sungrown hemp with the text "Is Sungrown Hemp More Potent?"

It’s amazing how many different cannabinoids the hemp plant produces in its short, but prolific lifespan. As of now, we know of more than 100 cannabinoids and over 400 other plant-based (phyto-) chemicals that hemp produces. What we didn’t know was how different environmental factors affected cannabinoid production, that is, until now. 

In the rest of this post, we’ll summarize a 2023 study about environmental factors like light and soil and how they relate to hemp flower potency. We’ll touch on a few points like, 

  • Is sungrown hemp more potent than indoor?
  • Can the plant’s light source affect the user’s entourage effect?
  • Do external factors affect terpene production?

What Is Sungrown Hemp? 

Sungrown hemp is a subcategory of outdoor hemp and one that germinates, reaches maturity, and fully flowers in sunlight. It’s exposed to beneficial bacteria via the soil and is more resilient to molds and pest pressures.

Is Sungrown Hemp More Potent Than Indoor?

In a study published in January 2023 called Comparison of the Cannabinoid and Terpene Profiles in Commercial Cannabis from Natural and Artificial Cultivation, researchers wondered how different environmental conditions like light, soil, and available nutrients affected flower potency and terpene production. Their findings were quite surprising. 

The Groundbreaking Study 

Researchers first acquired genetically similar cannabis samples of the same cultivars from commercial growers and (with help from professional growers) brought all the plants to maturity, some indoor and some outdoor under the sun.  

While the indoor plants were grown in a proprietary growth medium under artificial lights, the sun-grown plants were grown in a mixture of soil and compost under full sunlight. 

To compare sungrown hemp vs. indoor hemp, researchers prepared triplicates of trimmed cured flowers and the extract from ground buds from their respective plants. The redundancy of samples helped to minimize any testing variance. 

A maturing Lifter hemp plant from Sunset Lake CBD 2022.
CBD-dominant hemp flower

Sungrown Hemp Vs. Indoor Cannabinoid Production

First up is flower potency which can also be thought of as cannabinoid concentration, or the weight of the flower that is cannabinoid(s). Because hemp products are marketed for their potency, it’s important to know how the growing method influences the flower’s potency all else being the same. 

Researchers found that sun-grown hemp expresses more unusual cannabinoids than indoor hemp. While we don’t know much about how these unusual cannabinoids affect us, we do know that they lend themselves to the entourage effect

The revelations about potency don’t end there though. Indoor hemp, contrary to the belief that it’s the most potent form of hemp, contains significantly greater oxidized and degraded cannabinoids than sun-grown hemp. 

What Does Oxidized & Degraded Mean?

Degraded and oxidized cannabinoids can act differently when consumed. Take THC for example: When THC oxidizes and degrades, it turns into CBN (short for cannabinol) which is thought to have a much more sedating effect than THC.

Read more: Can Cannabinoids Go Bad? Understanding Cannabinoid Oxidation

Sungrown Hemp Vs. Indoor Terpene Production

Cannabinoids shouldn’t be one’s only concern when looking to purchase hemp products. Terpenes, which give hemp and cannabis its distinct scent, also play a big role in raw hemp’s therapeutic properties.

Researchers took samples from both the sungrown cannabis and the indoor cannabis to study the effect of direct sunlight and soil on the plants’s terpene production. Their findings only reinforced what sungrown farmers have been saying for years: Sungrown hemp produces more terpenes. 

Researchers not only confirmed this theory but found that sungrown hemp also contained a more varied, robust terpene profile, especially when it came to sesquiterpenes (C15H24 ) which are defined by their three isoprene units. 

More Unique Terpenes

Just like cannabinoids, terpene production is important when determining hemp flower’s potential therapeutic value. Because terpenes have anti-inflammatory, broncho-dilating, and antioxidant properties among others their presence is important to both medicinal and recreational users.  

Read more: Understanding The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

Who Conducted This Study?

Several independent chemists from Columbia University carried out this study without external funding from any cannabis companies. Molecules Journal published this study in early 2023 after the authors declared no conflict of interest. 

Why (We Believe) Sungrown Has The Advantage

We here at Sunset Lake CBD think that indoor, outdoor, and sungrown hemp all has their place in the growing marketplaces. As far as we’re concerned, regardless of potency, sungrown hemp is the highest quality and better for our environment.  

Not only is sungrown, as we’ve just read, more robust and effective via the entourage effect, than indoor flower, sungrown hemp is:

  • More energy-efficient
  • Better at sequestering carbon than indoor hemp
  • More affordable to produce


  1. Zandkarimi, Fereshteh et al. “Comparison of the Cannabinoid and Terpene Profiles in Commercial Cannabis from Natural and Artificial Cultivation.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 28,2 833. 13 Jan. 2023, doi:10.3390/molecules28020833