Rapid isolation procedure for Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THCA) from Cannabis sativa using two flash chromatography systems

J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2011 Oct 15;879(28):3059-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2011.09.012. Epub 2011 Sep 10.


Two isolation procedures for Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THCA), the biogenetic precursor in the biosynthesis of the psychoactive Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the cannabis plant, are presented. Two flash chromatography systems that can be used independently from each other were developed to separate THCA from other compounds of a crude cannabis extract. In both systems UV absorption at 209 and 270 nm was monitored. Purity was finally determined by HPLC-DAD, NMR and GC-MS analysis with a focus on the impurity THC. System 1 consisted of a normal phase silica column (120 g) as well as cyclohexane and acetone--both spiked with the modifier pyridine--as mobile phases. Gradient elution was performed over 15 min. After the chromatographic run the fractions containing THCA fractions were pooled, extracted with hydrochloric acid to eliminate pyridine and evaporated to dryness. Loading 1800 mg cannabis extract yielded 623 mg THCA with a purity of 99.8% and a THC concentration of 0.09%. System 2 was based on a reversed-phase C18 column (150 g) combined with 0.55% formic acid and methanol as mobile phases. A very flat gradient was set over 20 minutes. After pooling the THCA-containing fractions methanol was removed in a rotary evaporator. THCA was re-extracted from the remaining aqueous phase with methyl tert-butyl ether. The organic phase was finally evaporated under high vacuum conditions. Loading 300 mg cannabis extract yielded 51 mg THCA with a purity of 98.8% and a THC concentration of 0.67%.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cannabis / chemistry*
  • Chromatography, Liquid / instrumentation
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Dronabinol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Dronabinol / analysis
  • Dronabinol / isolation & purification
  • Plant Extracts / analysis
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification*


  • Plant Extracts
  • Dronabinol
  • delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid