There is a number of different reasons as to why it’s a good idea to test your cannabis oil. From wanting to know the cannabinoid and terpene content, to seeing if any solvent, or any other contaminate has been left in your oil. There are different types of tests which can be carried out with varying degrees of accuracy.
In this blog I aim to cover a few of these and also reasons why cannabis oil testing is a good thing.
In countries like the UK, where cannabis is illegal, it’s a minefield to know if you are getting what you have paid for. With prohibition it’s hard to even find a place to get testing done on your oils at all. When people turn to oil it’s normally because they are very ill so the best quality and right cannabinoid profile are vital. All industry standard tests use different types of chromatography which is a laboratory technique for the separation of mixtures and liquids. I will be discussing 3 in this blog.
The best and most reliable type of testing is HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography). This gives the % of cannabinoids contained within the cannabis oil extract. Usually on average, around 6 of the most common cannabinoids are tested for. This type of testing is carried out in a laboratory. Please refer PIC 2 showing an example of a report with results from an HPLC machine.
This is the type of testing you really want as it’s the most accurate and gives the most precise quantities. It is the chosen method used by those in the cannabis industry.
This company based in Holland carries out one of the most comprehensive reports I’ve seen, all at a reasonable price with subsidised rates for people making their own oil to ease symptoms, wanting to test their oil.
If you look at the results you can see different sections. The first being the cannabinoids eg THC, CBD, THCA, CBDA, THCV, CBG, CBC, CBL, CBN, these are what you want in your oil. Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds found within the cannabis plant which have therapeutic properties, along with the terpenes and flavonoids. The synergy between the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids effect how they work within our endocannabinoid systems.
A lot of cannabis plants grown in the UK on the recreational market are high in THC. This is great for a lot of symptoms and conditions. However, with some cancers which are hormone driven, there is evidence that they could respond better to oils with more CBD and minimal to 0% THC. With access to this type of testing, oil can be made with this in mind and patients could check their own response rates to different oil profiles. Due to the fact there have been no clinical trials to date on this subject, all evidence we gather can only ever be anecdotal although it is compelling.
The more testing, carried out and recording what eases what symptoms and side effects which may occur like becoming too high, vomiting, dizzy etc. can be addressed. The report also shows all the terpenes which are still in the oil. This oil has a lot left in the extract. If you look at each terpene in the table you can also see some of the therapeutic effects associated with terpenes.
The oil has to be heated for 2 reasons the first is to remove the solvent. The 3 main solvents used are grain alcohol, isoipropanol and acetone all of them make good solvent and have plus’s and negatives. CO2 is also used and is by far the cleanest way to extract oil, this involves expensive equipment. They are all non toxic at low levels but need removing from your oil especially when immunity is down. The main solvents used to extract the cannabinoids etc from the plant material isopropanol, acetone and high strength grain alcohol, have realitivly high toxicity levels meaning you would need a high dose to cause harm. Human exposure studies /daily oral intake of low doses (2.6 or 6.4mg/Kg body weight) of isopropanol alcohol by groups of 8 men for 6 weeks had no effect on blood cells, serum or urine and produced no subjective systems ( refer 1). Isopropanol is more toxic then ethanol (refer 2). This analysis is very useful especially for when making oil for the first time, as you want to remove all your solvent and this test shows this. Other contaminates this analysis shows if any nutrients, leaching from the soil or the water are left in the oil.
The second is to decarboxylate your oil, which is basically removing the acid from THCA so it becomes THC which then turns CBN. The reason we do this is THC has been shown through scientific research to kill cancer cells, and to stop pain to name but a few things. (refer 3) New properties of this plant and the cannabinoids are being discovered everyday.
Another type of testing is gas chromatography (GC), again this is done under laboratory conditions but is not recommended for cannabis oil as it uses heat this heat can effect your results for the reasons mentioned above. When the heat is added during the test it can turn some THCA into THC then CBN so you will not know whether you decarboxylated your oil for long enough or too long as accurately as HPLC. If you did leave any solvent in your oil this could also be effected by the heat.
Home kits like the one on the right the Alpha Cat, can give a good idea of cannabinoid content. These little kits can identify 6 cannabinoids. The CAT Alpha is probably one of the best for home use available on the market. This kit uses thin layer chromatography (TLC). To use this kit you will also need digital weighing scale test must be carried out in a well ventilated area. These are not as reliable HPLC but are good enough for home testing, which cannabinoids are present in oil.
To make sure in such an uncertain field the oil is what is required, it’s worth investing in knowing what is contained within extracted oils. This has advantages as knowing the cannabinoid profiles of oils, best symptoms. It also show which terpnes are presents whith also effect the way the cabnabinoids work. If there has been any contaminates in your oil which could be removed by simply heating for longer. All your THCA has converted into THC or if you want an oil for sleep CBN. It expands on the anecdotal information and improves the quality of oils and quantity required.
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1. Monographs on the Evaluation of the
Carcinogenic Risk of Chemicals to Humans. Geneva: World Health
Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer,
1972-PRESENT. (Multivolume work). http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/index.php p. V15 235
2. SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS/ … /Isopropyl and n-propyl/ alcohols are about twice as toxic as ethanol; the fatal dose by ingestion is 250 mL. … The principal manifestation of acute isopropyl or n-propyl poison is CNS depression. Symptoms and signs: (From inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption) … persistent nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, hematemesis, refractory … /CNS depression/, areflexia, depressed respirations, and oliguria followed by diuresis. Deep coma has resulted from sponging with isopropyl alcohol. Generalized tenderness, induration, and edema of muscles may occur. … Prolonged contact with the skin can cause corrosion.
, R.H. Handbook of Poisoning. 12th ed. Norwalk, CT: Appleton and Lange, 1987., p. 178]