Will the quality of my CBD extract change over time?
Written by: Dr. Jonny Lisano, Ph.D.
If you currently use CBD products, a question that may have crossed your mind (or maybe not!), is what is the shelf life of these products? Can the content of your CBD hemp extract really change over time? With the approval of the 2018 Farm Bill in the United States, there has been a boom of cultivation, sale, and consumption of cannabidiol (CBD) products derived from industrial hemp, but these products are not subject to regulation for their content and quality by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a consumer, you must take it upon yourself to understand the quality and stability of these products over time. We’re here to help you with that.
First, let us review the main active components in hemp extracts. Cannabinoids, like CBD and small amounts of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), are the most well-known active ingredients in hemp. Terpenes are the other active ingredients that have been receiving attention as of late. We know cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system within the human body to produce their effects, but what purpose do the terpenes serve? In the cannabis plant, terpenes are believed to act as a defense system, deterring predators by producing an undesirable bitter taste (Russo & Marcu 2017). However, recently there is growing evidence that these terpene compounds can produce physiological effects in humans as well (Gallily et al. 2018).
Does the content of the cannabinoids and terpenes change over time? The short answer to this question is yes. Just like any other biological substance we consume, hemp and cannabis extracts change over time, but what specifically is changing and what are some of the key factors driving these changes?
What is changing in these products?
THC: We know THC isn’t the major cannabinoid we are concerned with when it comes to hemp extracts, but it is still important to discuss, especially if you use other cannabis products higher in THC. The THC molecule is relatively unstable and has the propensity to react with other elements leading to THC breakdown if not properly stored. A 2012 study found that the THC concentration in oil steadily decreased over time. Over a four-year period, a loss of 84-90% of its initial THC content occurred, losing on average 21-23% of its THC content per year (Trofin et al. 2012). Depending on how you feel about THC, this may be either a desirable or undesirable trait of long-term storage of cannabis products. But what about CBD, the main cannabinoid we are concerned about with hemp extracts?
CBD: Similar to THC, the CBD content in oil changes over time. In products containing 15-16% CBD, it was observed that 11% of the initial CBD was lost over the first year, with an average loss of 2.76% of total CBD every three months (Trofin et al. 2012). However, unlike THC which decreased 84-90% of its initial content over 4-years, CBD only lost 40% of its initial content over that same 4-year span (Trofin et al. 2012). This demonstrates that while CBD content does decrease over time, it occurs at a much slower rate than THC.
CBN: Depending on how familiar you are with cannabis products, you may or may not have heard about CBN, also known as cannabinol. CBN is typically found in higher concentrations of aged cannabis products as it is a product of THC breakdown (Trofin et al. 2012). While not as potent as THC, CBN does still have moderate intoxicating effects (Casajuana Koguel et al. 2018). It has been observed that a steady decrease in THC concentration was offset by a steady increase in CBN concentration (Trofin et al. 2012). However, there is not a 1:1 conversion relationship of THC to CBN, as THC can be degraded into other byproducts other than CBN (Trofin et al. 2012).
Terpenes: Terpenes, as discussed earlier, are another active component found within hemp extracts. In a study assessing the content and stability of hemp oils distributed within the United Kingdom, it was found that the terpene content was susceptible to change in the presence of light (Pavlovic et al. 2018). Limiting exposure to light is an important factor to consider in the storage of your hemp extract products. There is a growing amount of evidence that CBD and the other active compounds in hemp extract work best together producing what’s referred to as the ‘entourage effect’. Proper storage of your product is essential (Calvi et al. 2018, Galilly et al. 2018)!
What is causing these changes?
Light Exposure: Light is one of the environmental conditions that can affect the content of your product. Light has the capacity to interact with reactive oxygen causing photooxidation of cannabinoids and terpenes alike (Trofin et al. 2012, Pavlovic et al. 2018). This is why we recommend you store your hemp extract in a place that will not receive direct light exposure.
Air Exposure: The second component necessary for photooxidation is air. Make sure that whenever you finish using your 6° Wellness products that you tightly secure the lid back on to minimize air exposure. However, oxidation products can come from more than just air. The breakdown of fats found within oils also has the same effect.
Type of Oil: Not all oil products are created equally when concerning the stability of your cannabis products. In the study assessing the long-term stability of CBD oil extracts from the United Kingdom, there were a total of 15 different samples collected and tested. Of those 15 products, six were suspended in olive oil, eight were suspended in hemp seed oil and one was suspended in MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil. The sample suspended in MCT oil was the only product found to have little, if any, fat oxidation products (Pavlovic et al. 2018). This means that suspending hemp extract in MCT oil will preserve quality by preventing the formation of oxidizing products.
I know as you read that you just asked, “Well, are 6° Wellness products suspended in MCT oil?”. The answer to that question is a resounding, “YES!”.
As a consumer, you not only deserve to have the best products but also the assurance that the products will be consistent across its use period. To maximize the potential of your 6° Wellness products, we recommend you keep them stored in a cool, dry place that does not receive direct sunlight. Furthermore, the final aspect of product quality assurance relies on you.
As we discussed previously the content of hemp extract oils can change over time. While you might think it’s more cost effective to purchase larger hemp extract products, always keep in mind how long it will take you to use the entirety of the product. For example, say you use 20mg of extract a day. The 600mg bottle offered at 6° Wellness would last you a total of 30-days. However, if you wanted to buy in bulk a 6,000mg bottle would last you at that same dose for 300-days. By the end of that 300-day period approximately 10% of the initial CBD concentration would be lost and instead of receiving 20mg on that final dose you’d receive 18mg. While that is not a drastic change, we still want you to get the most out of our products. It’s similar to buying any other food item.
We recommend buying enough product to last you 1-3 months based on your daily use. Buying the proper amount and storing your CBD in a cool, dry place in the dark will ensure that you’re getting the most out of your 6° Wellness hemp extract throughout its duration of use.
6° Wellness strives to provide you with clear, concise information for CBD use. We achieve this through science-based research using our products. We will continue to provide you with the most reliable and safe information possible on how you can incorporate CBD supplements into your daily life.
Looking for more 6° Wellness Content?
Podcast: CBD Deep Dive anchor.fm/6degrees
Calvi, L., Pentimalli, D., Panseri, S., Giupponi, L., Gelmini, F., Beretta, G., Vitali, D., Bruno, M., Zilio, E., Pavlovic, R., Giorgi, A. 2018. Comprehensive quality evaluation of medical Cannabis Sativa L. inflorescence and macerated oil based on HS-SPME coupled to GC-MS and LC-HRMS (q-exactive orbitrap) approach. J. of Pharma. Biomed. Analysis, 150: 208-219.
Casajuana Koguel, C., Lopez-Pelayo, H., Balcells-Olivero, M.M., Colom, J., Gual, A. 2018. Psychoactive constituents of cannabis and their clinical implications: a systemic review. Adicciones, 30(2):140-151.
Pavlovic, R., Nenna, G., Calvi, L., Panseri, S., Borgonovo, G., Giupponi, L., Cannazza, Giorgi, A. 2018. Quality Traits of “Cannabidiol Oils”: Cannabinoids Content, Terpene Fingerprint and Oxidation Stability of European Commercially Available Preparations. Molecules, 23(5): 1230.