Cannabis and olive oil are highly renowned for their sweeping medicinal benefits. While the general efficiency of olive oil as an extraction solvent has previously been published , it was only a matter of time before the paths of these two hydrophobic compounds crossed once more.
A study published in the journal Planta Medica explored cannabis olive oil preparation and the impact of temperature and extraction time on concentration of active product ingredients.  The cannabis material used had a combined THC and THCA content of 19-22%, with THCA being the major component among the active compounds.
The preparation phase was kicked off by heating the cannabis material to obtain cannabinoid decarboxylation, followed by maceration in olive oil. The researchers employed gas chromatography coupled to either a mass spectrometer (GC/MS) or a flame ionization detector (GC/FID) to analyze the contents and concentration of cannabinoids in the olive oil preparations.
Cannabis flowers were heated at temperatures ranging between 85-145oC for 40 minutes in order to achieve decarboxylation to, in turn, prepare the oil for oral use. As the temperature rose, so did the THC levels, while the tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) levels dropped. At 115oC in particular, the THC:THCA ratio was the most equalized at the 20-minute mark at 5:13. However, after that THC levels prevailed dramatically, and by the 60-minute mark, they completely took over the show.
“Below 115°C, the levels of CBN were always below the [lower limit of quantification (LOQ)], indicating a low decomposition rate of THC. The decarboxylation of THCA is complete over 130°C,” the researchers explain. “At this temperature, increasing amounts of CBN were measured… The temperature of 115°C was therefore considered the most suitable to treat cannabis flowering tops before oil extraction.”
“If a high content of THC is required, without degradation effects, 115°C for 40 min is the best condition for the treatment of the flowering tops,” they continue.
Afterwards, the study examined the time and silicone oil bath temperature of extraction. Since 40 and 120 minutes of extraction didn’t make much of a difference to the end results, a shorted extraction time was deemed the most efficient option.
The final standardized protocol that the researchers decided on is as follows: “heating of cannabis plant material at 115°C for 40 min and extraction in oil at 100°C for 40 min.”
“To obtain an olive oil preparation with a high content of THC, it is mandatory to decarboxylate the plant material before the maceration in olive oil. The analysis of the preparations obtained with the optimized method showed that it is possible to obtain olive oil extracts with a high content of THC and these preparations are homogeneous, even if prepared in different pharmacies,” the study concludes.
- Romano, Luigi L. and Hazekamp, Arn “Cannabis Oil: chemical evaluation of an upcoming cannabis-based medicine”, Cannabinoids, 2013, 1(1):1-11. (Times cited = 63, Journal impact factor = N/A).
- Casiraghi A et al, “Extraction Method and Analysis of Cannabinoids in Cannabis Olive Oil Preparations”, Planta Med.,2018, Volume 84(4):242-249. (Times cited = 8, Journal impact factor = 2.342).
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