Background: Cannabis has been used since ancient times to relieve neuropathic pain, to lower intraocular pressure, to increase appetite and finally to decrease nausea and vomiting. The combination of the psychoactive cannabis alkaloid Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with the non-psychotropic alkaloids cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) demonstrated a higher activity than THC alone. The Italian National Institute of Health sought to establish conditions and indications on how to correctly use nationally produced cannabis to guarantee therapeutic continuity in individuals treated with medical cannabis.
Methods: The evaluation of cannabinoids concentration and stability in standardized preparations of cannabis tea and cannabis oil was conducted using an easy and fast ultra-high performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS/MS) assay.
Results: Extraction efficiency of oil was significantly higher than that of water with respect to the different cannabinoids. This was especially observed in the case of the pharmacologically active THC, CBD and their acidic precursors. Fifteen minutes boiling was sufficient to achieve the highest concentrations of cannabinoids in the cannabis tea solutions. At ambient temperature, a significant THC and CBD decrease to 50% or less of the initial concentration was observed over 3 and 7 days, respectively. When refrigerated at 4 °C, similar decreasing profiles were observed for the two compounds. The cannabinoids profile in cannabis oil obtained after pre-heating the flowering tops at 145 °C for 30 min in a static oven resulted in a complete decarboxylation of cannabinoid acids CBDA and THCA-A. Nevertheless, it was apparent that heat not only decarboxylated acidic compounds, but also significantly increased the final concentrations of cannabinoids in oil. The stability of cannabinoids in oil samples was higher than that in tea samples since the maximum decrease (72% of initial concentration) was observed in THC coming from unheated flowering tops at ambient temperature. In the case of the other cannabinoids, at ambient and refrigerated temperatures, 80%-85% of the initial concentrations were measured up to 14 days after oil preparation.
Conclusions: As the first and most important aim of the different cannabis preparations is to guarantee therapeutic continuity in treated individuals, a strictly standardized preparation protocol is necessary to assure the availability of a homogeneous product of defined stability.
Keywords: UHPLC-MS/MS; cannabinoids recovery; cannabinoids stability; cannabis oil; cannabis tea; medical cannabis.