Numerous studies have shown that the labels applied to e-liquid and on CBD oils they do not report correct information. To learn more and understand how best to store these products, we interviewed Dr. Giorgio Nenna.
CBD oils and e-liquids: the situation in Europe
After research conducted in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which revealed that more than 2,800 people in the United States suffered lung damage from the use of e-cigarettes or vape, even at the European level e-liquids and oils have found themselves in the spotlight of the scientific community.
Among the most recent studies is that of the Fundación CANNA of the University of Valencia, which analyzed a selection of E-liquid CBD on the European market in search of substances harmful to the organism within them. The study found that out of 15 CBD e-liquids tested, only one contained vitamin E acetate – one of the most dangerous ingredients found in the United States – but 14 of them had less CBD than indicated on the label. Specifically, in 4 samples, the difference was 10%, but, on average, the CBD was 27% lower than indicated; only one contained higher values.
The difference is also given by the fact that the Italian and European legislation it’s still today incomplete and difficult to interpret with regard to the use of CBD (both in pharmaceutical preparations and in food or cosmetic preparations) and this has put products on the market that are poorly controlled or of lower quality than indicated. All this to the detriment of consumers.
Degradation and conservation: interview with Dr. Giorgio Nenna
It is in this context that in 2018 a group of Italian researchers carried out a scientific study to determine and study the basic quality criteria of any oily preparation by analyzing 14 of the most common CBD oils present on the European market. Again, the information on the label turned out to be different.
To get an overview of the current situation, we interviewed the Doctor Giorgio Nennapharmacist and researcher among those in charge of the study.
What were the results of the 2018 study? Have you done any new research on this topic recently?
The current regulations do not fully guarantee the safety of users since, in the products on the market, with the same declared concentrations of CBD, there are often percentage differences and marked qualitative differences from one product to another. Indeed, over-the-counter CBD products are not subject to mandatory tests to determine the exact composition, area of indication, route of administration, maximum recommended daily dose, storage conditions and stability.
The 2018 study showed that in the products examined most of the time the CBD concentrations did not correspond to what was declared on the label and moreover, a factor of considerable importance, the CBD concentration indicated was that given by the sum of CBDA and CBD. In hemp inflorescences there is only the acid form of Cannabidiol, cannabidiolic acid CBDA, which, during thermal exposure due to the extraction conditions, is converted into its neutral decarboxylated form CBD.
What is the main problem with this gap?
The different ratio of these two components in different extracts having the same declared percentage of total CBD is quite problematic as it is the biological effects of the neutral and acid forms are remarkably different. This condition can lead to unbalanced therapeutic effects and is an aspect not to be underestimated, especially bearing in mind that many consumers tend to substitute standardized galenic oil preparations (such as oily extract of Bedrolite) with hemp oil extracts. rich in CBD as a prescription is needed for the former.
Why do these products often break down so easily? Is this also a factor due to the different percentage of CBD?
Marketed products boast extraction methods that yield “full-spectrum” extracts, meaning that in addition to CBD, they contain various phyto-cannabinoids including THC, CBN, CBG, THCA, CBGA and others. the CBNin particular it is of great importance for the evaluation of oxidative phenomena resulting from the raw material used, its storage and drying, the method of extraction used and the storage of the finished product. Indeed, while CBD does not appear to be subject to oxidative degradation, CBN can be considered an indicator of oxidative processes as it is not considered a natural cannabinoid but rather an artifact resulting from the oxidation of THC, so its determination can help in the evaluation of the quality of CBD oils. In addition, although much less psychoactive than THC, it still provides sedative effects and its concentration must therefore be indicated on the label.
How does the composition of the oil or e-liquid affect its preservation? Could the fact that the label does not contain correct information from the point of view of the ingredients lead the consumer to make errors regarding the conservation of the product?
Three different types of vehicles are used in marketed products to solubilize CBD: medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, olive oil, and hemp seed oil, which is the most widely used. The detection of aldehydes and ketones makes it possible to evaluate the level of lipid peroxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids and can provide information on the composition of the oils used as the matrix and on the storage conditions. MCT oil is less susceptible to oxidative degradation than the other two, but its cost is higher. Olive and hemp seed oils are richer in polyunsaturated fatty acids which are the most sensitive to oxidation phenomena during storage.
The peroxidation of oils covers a crucial role since the formation of lipid oxidation products is correlated with the decrease in the concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes and for this reason an adequate storage temperature must be indicated to define the correct expiry date.
Why do you think there is such a discrepancy between what is written on the label and the final product? Is this an exclusively economic factor or is it also linked to the supply of raw materials?
The final composition of hemp oil extracts rich in CBD depends on the variety and quality of hemp used, the type of solvent oil used but above all on the extraction method applied.
Supercritical CO2 extraction is the method of choice as the low temperature and inert atmosphere allows for higher CBD yields and well-defined concentrations. The disadvantage of this technology is its high cost and therefore several manufacturers have moved towards solvent extraction, quite questionable because residual solvents (usually hexane, toluene, benzene and acetone) can contaminate the product final.
In general, what precautions are necessary to properly store a CBD oil or e-liquid?
Factors to keep in mind for proper storage of these extracts are light, exposure in the air And Temperature. If the effects of exposure to light are negligible, those related to exposure to air and temperature are certainly more important, and this is not unexpected, since many transformations are based on processes of ‘oxidation.
What do you think of the current Italian situation? Both from a regulatory perspective and from a CBD production perspective.
The current legislation on the cultivation of hemp is aimed more at its industrial use and therefore there is a legislative vacuum, also compared to other European countries, for its uses in the fields of medical and nutraceutical integration, which on the contrary could bring significant benefits to both producers and end users. These regulatory uncertainties do not allow large-scale investments and the distribution of serious and certified products, leaving gaps open for preparations available on the market with vague labeling and unclear composition.