The stereotype of cannabis is that, in a recreational capacity, individuals consuming it are seeking the psychoactive effects. However, this is gross misrepresentation of the plethora of applications that come from cannabis. This point is demonstrated even when one looks at the constituents that make up cannabis.
There are over 600 different constituents in cannabis, with the categories most focused on by end consumers being the terpenes and the cannabinoids. Terpenes are non-psychoactive components of the plant; however, they are believed to have medicinal properties and influence the effects certain cannabinoids, the psychoactive components, on the body.
There are thought to be 113 different cannabinoids, though research only exists on 71 of them, and these can be categorized into 11 main classes. Most of these cannabinoids are present in extremely low concentrations; of the classes only three form the majority of the cannabinoid content.
These are Cannabidiol (CBD), Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBN); the first two are desired, most research into cannabinoids has been focused on them and the third, CBN, is the product of THC degrading. This occurs when the dried biomass is stored incorrectly, and the THC oxidizes. CBN has only 10% of the psychoactive potency found in THC and this highlights one of the advantages of extracts over dried flower: easier storage. THC is the main psychoactive in cannabis; the psychoactive effects of cannabis are caused by the binding of THC to a certain cannabis receptor in the brain, CB1.
It should be noted that there is another class of THC, this is Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, it is present in much lower concentrations than Delta-9-THC and only possesses roughly 80% of the efficiency. The last major cannabinoid, and one that is rapidly gaining notoriety in the medical field, is CBD. In contrast to THC, this cannabinoid is a non-psychoactive class, in fact it has been shown to counteract some of the unwanted side effects of THC consumption, such as cognitive impairment.
This alleviation of side-effects is one of many medicinal properties that are associated with CBD. Another one of these being, its antipsychotic effects, which are claimed to help conditions ranging from epilepsy to dementia. It is hoped one day that CBD will be able to supplant many opioid based painkillers.The yields from extraction of cannabinoids and terpenes from cannabis are subject to influence from a magnitude of interconnected variables. People commonly mistake the yield variables as being exclusively associated with the extraction process itself. This, however, is not the case. The upstream steps, such as the preparation of the cannabis, are equally as important to the product yield. In the simplest case, you cannot extract what is not there.
One of the main bottlenecks of the preparation process, is that drying the cannabis is both time and energy intensive. If this step is not done correctly, the water levels remaining the in the cannabis will be too high. In the best case, this causes a poorer yield, but in the worst-case scenario, where individuals are using the supercritical extraction method, too much water can actually cause damage to the extraction equipment. On the flipside of this, however, excessive drying at high temperatures and/or over a long period of time, can cause reduced levels of cannabinoid content. This inefficiency leads to additional costs of time and energy, increasing overall costs per unit. This is only exaggerated by the lower yields, due to low cannabinoid content; which leads to a negative multiplier effect.
The clear challenge that is presented from the issues above is finding the optimal drying conditions that will maximize yield, while simultaneously minimizing the costs per unit. At Ayurcann, we are actively pursuing this formula for ideal drying parameters. The major issue that we will be solving for our clients is that: trying to use elevated temperatures to reduce drying times, reduces the cannabinoid content of the material, leading to a reduced or subpar yield. On the other hand, however, using low temperatures for extended periods of time, leads to bottlenecks in the process, leading to lower operational efficiencies, which also raises the cost per unit. To add to the complexity of this issue THC degradation into CBN (the degraded form of THC that has only a fraction of the potency) is positively correlated with drying temperatures. Oxidation, however, can also lead to the degradation of THC into CBN. The implications of this being that the longer exposure period (drying time), the lower the THC yield.
It is important to note that not all cannabis plants are equal when it comes proportions and ratios of terpenes and cannabinoids. Due to this, certain strains are more appropriate than others as source material for different cannabis products. THC rich cannabis strains are divided into two main strains, which are C.Sativa, C.Indica.
These classifications are used commonly in relation to the type of effect one achieves through the consumption of cannabis products. However, this not accurate since the cannabinoids and terpene compositions, which give rise to the effects from consumption, form no distinguishable patterns based on this classification. The sub-strains contained in within these two strains are used as the staring biomass material to produce THC rich and balanced oils.
CBD rich cannabis strains can be divided into two main strains, which are C.Sativa and C.Ruderalis. Sub-strains contained in C.Sativa are what predominantly constitute commercialized hemp cultivation. Hemp referring to cannabis high in CBD and low THC concentrations. These strains are suitable feedstock for production of CBD rich oils.
The important takeaway from all this, is that it is key as an end consumer to understand the important cannabis constituents, so that you can select a suitable product for you. Whether you are looking for stress and pain relief, in which case a CBD rich product is most appropriate. Or if you are looking for a psychoactive effect, in which case THC content is of primary concern. Another important point is shelf life, especially where THC is concerned, extracts provide easier storability and more control over dosage, which comes in a more concentrated form.