Decarboxylation: How Cannabis Becomes Psychoactive

Decarboxylation, which is an essential action in enjoying cannabis flowers and edibles, is a process in which carbon dioxide (CO2) leaves a stable molecule and floats off as a gas. Atoms in a molecule can be thought of like billiard balls, with each one having a size, weight, and exact position. As these atoms float away, the substance left behind will become lighter, like a dry towel being lighter than that same towel soaking wet. The idea is that as the CO2 leaves, the weight left behind is reduced.

Decarboxylation typically occurs by heating, but can also be caused by exposure to certain frequencies of light, and certain substances like molecular oxygen in the air.

If the weight of the molecule before and after its decarboxylation is known, then a percent of mass lost in decarboxylation can be calculated. If the CO2 contributes 10 percent of the weight of a molecule, than 90 percent of the mass remains after decarboxylation. This would mean that continuously heating 100 grams of this substance would eventually yield 90 grams of the decarboxylated substance, as the remaining 10 grams represent the weight of CO2 which gassed off.

How Does Decarboxylation Affect Cannabinoids?

Decarboxylation of cannabinoids and cannabis products is very crucial to understanding the power of cannabis as medicine. The cannabis plant only has the ability to produce cannabinoid acids, like THCA, and THC is only created by decarboxylation outside the plant. This decarboxylation is usually done by fire when smoking, or by baking in edibles. Most cannabinoids lose approximately 87.7 percent of their mass upon decarboxylation. This means that if you had 100 grams of crystalline isolate of a cannabinoid acid, such as THCA, after decarboxylation you would have 87.7 grams left of THC.

This is important for people decarboxylating their cannabinoids themselves, such as producers of cannabis-infused edible products and hash oil producer that wish to sell decarboxylated oil. This is also important for advertisers of raw cannabis products such as cured cannabis flower, who must either report the value of the cannabinoid acid directly observed by the testing lab, use the theoretical conversion, or display both.

This labeling issue with raw flower is not as easy as it seems at first glance. Let’s consider a typical example of THC-dominant cannabis. The lab will test the flower and find 26 percent THCA and 3 percent THC. This is because some of the cannabinoid acids produced by the plant are decarboxylated by air and sun before harvesting and curing. The smaller the amount of THC observed directly by the lab typically indicates that the cultivator has submitted fresh cannabis that has been protected from light and exposure. A very high THC content indicates that the cannabis flower is not as fresh and been more exposed.

Now the dispensary has to either advertise two numbers, 26 percent and 3 percent, or advertise one theoretically calculated number, 25.8 percent, or both. Both allow the patient to access the greatest amount of information and be the best informed, while also reducing liability on the cannabis business involved in label making.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a well-known cannabinoid for being the primary intoxicant and euphoriant of cannabis. THC is also one of the most practical and safe treatments for neuropathic, chronic, and other types of pain. THC is effective in addressing both the immunological and symptom component of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Despite the fact that THCA is not an intoxicant, it is a powerful medicine. THCA is one of the strongest anti-inflammatory agents in cannabis. Smokers receive very little to none of this cannabinoid, due to its decomposition in the smoking process. THCA is an anti-inflammatory agent, and according to one study, a more powerful neuroprotective agent than THC. THCA is a powerful COX-1 and COX-2 antagonist, similar to aspirin and ibuprofen, but with far less toxicity to the liver.

The effects of THCA and THC reflect the diversity of action on the human body a cannabinoid and its precursor acid can have. The other cannabinoids, CBD, CBG, CBC, and THCV all have acid forms which have distinct effects on human health.

Cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to be an effective medicine for people suffering from anxiety. What CBD has also been shown to be effective at fighting is breast cancer cells. Many of these studies find that CBD promotes apoptosis, or cell suicide, in breast cancer cells while leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) is CBD’s acid precursor from raw cannabis flower. CBDA has also been shown to fight human breast cancer, but in a different way. Whereas CBD causes apoptosis in breast cancer cells, CBDA has been shown to slow or stop metastasis of breast cancer cells by arresting their motility, or ability to move throughout the body. This evidence would indicate that a breast cancer patient may want to talk to their doctor about dual CBD/CBDA therapy, taking both decarboxylated CBD and raw CBDA together.

Cannabigerol (CBG) has been shown to have some potent anti-inflammatory properties that are particularly applicable in inflammatory bowel disease (IBS). Additionally, CBG has been shown to have some properties not known among many other cannabinoids, such as an ability to interact with human adrenal receptors and serotonin receptors. Currently, more studies need to be done on cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) in isolation from CBG to get an understanding what, if any, difference there are between the cannabinoid and its precursor acid on human health.

It is important to note that the mass loss is not a conversion rate. Mass loss assumes that all of a substance will decarboxylate and calculates how the mass will change. An accurate answer must account for how much of the cannabinoid will decarboxylate. Studies indicate that 30-70 percent of cannabinoids undergo decarboxylation under standard smoking conditions. This is why our calculations are only a theoretical maximum, and are not a result with the same standing as those directly observed in the plant. This is also why it can be very important to label your theoretical calculations as such, and provide all original values provided by lab results, as a means of reducing liability upon your business.

TELL US, have you ever heard of decarboxylation?

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How to Use CBD Oil for Pain?

CBD oil offers the pain-relieving results of marijuana minus its psychoactive effects. It lets people benefit from the great uses of the cannabis compound CBD without the herb’s high and its side effects. CBD is a popular abbreviation of cannabidiol, which is an essential cannabis component. As per several experts and the findings of many […]

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Cannabis And the Fight Against Multiple Sclerosis

Dealing with the physical and neurological effects of multiple sclerosis can be quite harrowing, new research shows how MS sufferers often turn to cannabis for relief.

While research is always ongoing, much has already been written about cannabis as an aid in helping with sleeping issues, depression, ADD, as having possibly potent anti-tumor properties, the ability to help regulate blood pressure, and as an immunological aid due to its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. The list goes on as far as research already done or ongoing that points to CBD (and cannabinoids in general) as being extremely useful in treating different medical ailments.

The idea of cannabis being useful for those suffering from multiple sclerosis is not new. There have been studies done on this subject over the years, and a growing body of medical research to support the theory.

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What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a central nervous system disease where the patient’s own immune system attacks the myelin that coats their nerve cells. The name of a disease that does this is a demyelinating disease. Myelin is important because it forms a cover over the nerve cells that allows for electrical impulses to efficiently transfer between nerve cells.

Damage to this myelin therefore can cause all kinds of transmission problems where impulses are slowed down, or not getting through correctly, or at all. This damage to the nerve cells causes different symptoms like tingling sensations, burning sensations, chronic pain, numbness, issues with balance and coordination, problems with bladder control, vision issues (often blindness in one eye), and fatigue.

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Where and how exactly multiple sclerosis comes about is still very much a mystery. As of yet there is no cure for multiple sclerosis and those that suffer from it are left to find the best ways to manage their symptoms. MS is way more commonly found in women, and generally comes on when a person is between the ages of 20-40 years old. About 2.5 million people suffer from it globally, some of whom experience what is called ‘relapsing remitting MS’ which is when a person’s symptoms come and go over time, essentially causing symptom relapses.

Because multiple sclerosis is a disease where the body is attacking itself, and damaging itself, it is known as an autoimmune disease. The cause for these diseases is unknown, but they all share the commonalities of a mis-functioning immune system that causes damage to the body. Other examples of autoimmune diseases are celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Grave’s disease, and type 1 diabetes, to name just a few.

Older Research

The idea of using cannabis for MS is not new at all. In fact, a 2004 randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study, was done to investigate just that. The investigators used a cannabis based medicinal extract (CBME) to test if it produced any benefit to multiple sclerosis sufferers over a placebo. Participants included 160 patients who all had substantial issues with spasticity, tremors, pain, bladder control issues, and spasms.

The results were interesting and showed outcomes through a Visual Analogue Scale (measures the frequency and intensity of a symptom), as well as looking at the patient’s level of fatigue, disability, their mood, cognitive abilities, and how they slept. Following the use of the cannabis extract, there was a reduction in primary symptom score from an average of 74.36 to an average of 48.89.

With the placebo it went down as well from 74.31 to 54.79. While the placebo group also did show a reduction in symptoms, the cannabis extract group showed a greater amount.

New Research

Earlier this month, a study was published called Cannabis use in people with multiple sclerosis and spasticity: A cross-sectional analysis. In this study, investigators took a look at cannabis use among people with multiple sclerosis who have spasticity issues. The study was done using self-reporting by patients. Several different key points of information are interesting when looking at this particular group of people. The study found the following:

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  • 36% use cannabis regularly
  • 54% have used cannabis in general
  • 58% of those who use cannabis, use it daily
  • 79% reported cannabis as being useful for helping with spasticity
  • 26% use prescribed cannabis
  • 85% of participants said cannabis was helpful with pain
  • 55% used topical cannabis applications, 52% reported administering with edibles
  • 26% use cannabis along with prescribed medications to deal with spasticity
  • 79% of those who use cannabis use multiple ways to administer it

Self-reporting studies like this are often interesting because they show what people with issues will naturally gravitate to. When people are sick, they generally go for the best option to feel better, and will stick with this, even if given other medical solutions.

It’s also interesting to see how they use cannabis, and how they see it effecting their symptoms. Self-reporting isn’t always the best way to gain information, and has its own pitfalls, but it can often show a pattern of behavior, and in this case it shows a pattern of MS sufferers with spasticity issues choosing to use cannabis to help with their symptoms.

Safety of Cannabis Use for Multiple Sclerosis

One of the questions that tends to come up when looking at cannabis use and multiple sclerosis is the safety of it. This question, of course, is prevalent when looking at any kind of treatment, but in this particular case, since cannabis has a certain reputation due to cannabinoid THC, the question does come up. In the first study I mentioned, which investigated using a CBME against a placebo, it was noted by the investigators that “There were no significant adverse effects on cognition or mood and intoxication was generally mild.”

This was investigated elsewhere as well. In 2018, investigators published a study which looked at the efficacy and tolerability of cannabis for multiple sclerosis patients. The idea was to see not just how well it worked for symptom maintenance, but how it effected the patient taking it. This study also used a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled setup. The symptoms they were interested in most were pain, spasticity, and bladder function.

The results showed significant findings for cannabinoids producing relief for all three symptoms. While there were no severe adverse effects noted, when it came to tolerability, cannabinoids showed a possibly higher risk. Overall the study investigators concluded that cannabinoids do offer a certain efficacy, and are safe to use.

Into the Future

While firm answers might not be possible just yet, research has been promising and offers a glimmer of light to those suffering from multiple sclerosis. CBD, and cannabis in general, still hold quite a bit of mystery in terms of what they’re actually capable of, but those who use it already to help with their MS spasticity and pain issues seem to choose it whether their doctor prescribes it or not. And that sure says something.

Here at CBDtesters, we are happy to keep you updated on all the recent CBD, cannabinoid, and cannabis news. Check back often to keep yourself in the loop and make sure to subscribe to the Medical Cannabis Weekly Newsletter.

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U.K. U-Turn Means 10,000 Patients May Get Cannabis Medicine

Global cannabis powerhouse GW Pharmaceuticals has been successful in its talks with the U.K. health authorities and NHS patients can now access its drugs for two types of epilepsy and spasticity.

This should allow over 10,000 patients easier access to GW’s Sativex and Epidyolex cannabis medicines through the country’s National Health Service (NHS). The decision has been welcomed by U.K. firm GW, charities and campaigners whilst others say its a missed opportunity as the new recommendations ‘have not gone far enough’.

In August, the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) interim report into the cost-effectiveness of Cannabis Based Medicinal Products (CBMPs)  was unveiled. 


Epidyolex Over-Priced?

It ruled GW’s Epidyolex and Sativex too expensive, but following months of talks GW Pharmaceuticals has learnt both drugs have now been approved for use by the NHS in England. Experts estimate the cost of Epidyolex at around £20,000 to £30,000 a year and GW’s chief operating officer Chris Tovey said, at the time, it was in discussions with NICE over pricing.

Responding to the latest news in a company press release, he said: “This is a momentous occasion for UK patients and families..(and)… proof that cannabis-based medicines can successfully go through extensive randomised placebo-controlled trials and a rigorous NICE evaluation process to reach patients.”

Doctors will now be able to prescribe Epidyolex, for children with two types of severe epilepsy – Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. An estimated 3,000 people with Dravet and 5,000 with Lennox Gastaut syndrome in England will benefit.

Sativex, a mouth spray that contains a mix of THC and CBD, has been approved for treating muscle stiffness and spasms, known as spasticity, in multiple sclerosis. However doctors will not be allowed to prescribe it to treat pain.

‘Great News’

Prof Helen Cross, a consultant in pediatric neurology at Great Ormond Street Hospital, who led UK trials of Epidyolex, said it was ‘great news’. However the campaign group, End Our Pain, said the new guidelines are a massive missed opportunity.

The BBC report spokeswoman Millie Hinton saying: “This restrictive guidance is condemning many patients to having to pay for life-transforming medicine privately, to go without or to consider accessing illegal and unregulated sources.”

Genevieve Edwards, from the MS Society, said they had been campaigning for access to Sativex for years and ‘it was brilliant NICE has finally listened’. But, she hit out at the lack of recommendations on pain saying it is a common symptom of MS.

The NICE guide guidelines found a lack of evidence regarding the use of cannabis drugs in the management of chronic pain.

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Parallel Problems – Pot and Prostitution Law

There are quite a few parallels between the sex industry and the cannabis industry. The puritan approach of the past failed simply because both industries are made up of everyday people, not criminals. As a result, the government has tried to create realistic regulations that will protect those most vulnerable. Instead, they failed and made […]

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