Testing CBD oils

To produce CBD oil is just a first step. It is ensuring that a delivered product is of the top quality what is essential – and here a thorough examination procedure comes into play. Contrary to the popular opinion, it is not enough to analyse just the final stage of the production process, as it can often result in a various or even random products. The professional manufacturer not only should control the raw input material before the extraction, but also examine the plants while they are still growing, in order to be able to choose the best time for harvest.

Needless to say, an analysis is also impossible to skip while tracking the extraction process itself. Of course – you can buy raw materials from an unknown source and of unknown quality, outsource the extraction process to an external company, and finally have the final product tested by low-cost lab won’t take the responsibility for any mistakes whatsoever. The thing is – can such mode of production be called professional anymore? Of course – not. And yet – sadly, this is how quality control process looks like for most products on the market.

Only companies with appropriate analytical equipment and qualified personnel are able to first develop the processes and then to reproduce them in the production of good quality oils. Of course – this generates costs, but the quality is definitely worth it, and any conscious consumer throughout the world would agree with it.

The basic analytical technique used for the study of CBD oils is chromatography, more specifically – high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). It is a universal tool, used on a regular basis with new drugs before they are allowed for the market.
The full name of the technique might sound sophisticated for a layman, but the mechanism on which HPLC is based is fairly simple. Most of us would recall the simple experiment from the primary school in which dirty water was filtered through sand and cleaned. The HPLC analysis works on a very similar principle. The sample we want to test will take place of “dirty water” here, and instead of sand, we will use… well, sand. Yes, it is not a joke – in the heart of the device worth dozens of thousands of euro we will find a simple tube filled with sand of very high purity (silica), sometimes slightly modified. And then – just like in the school experiment – a mixture of compounds, including eg CBD oil, is passed through the sand filter so that its individual components, ie particular cannabinoids, will come out at different times. All is left to do is to place a suitable detector at the end of the tube so the composition of the mixture can be determined.

Figure 1 – An example of an outcome of chromatographic analysis (chromatogram) of CBD (blue peak) in the presence of dozens of other cannabinoids. The size and position of peaks such as this correspond with the content of the individual components in the mixture.

This all might sound trivial, but in practice, the procedure is not that simple. First of, to use the chromatograph efficiently and reliably specialised knowledge and experience are required. Due to the costs of reagents and the apparatus alone, the cost of a single analysis can range between few dozens and few hundred euro. More than ten thousands such analysis were run in order to develop and perfect HemPoland’s golden CBD oils production technology, but this resulted in a steady composition of each batch of our product. And it is precisely this reproducibility of the formula what is the key factor. For it has been extensively described in the literature that it is not only the CBD itself but also the chemical composition of its “surroundings” what is responsible for the final effects.

Nothing can be left to chance, everything must be under control.

Figure 2 – Even greater possibilities can be granted by coupling HPLC with the MS detector. Such combination allows you to discover the structure of each individual cannabinoid without a need to know its pattern beforehand. Unfortunately, the cost of such a device can exceed one million euro. The picture shows CBD fragmentation spectrum in CannabiGold oil.

Chromatography possesses another great quality – it allows experienced analysts to easily detect any attempt at counterfeiting. It is not true that there is no way to prove whether the CBD is of natural or synthetic origin – this is just a matter of time and resources. Any attempt at tampering with the natural composition can easily be proven by demonstrating the residual presence of solvents or synthetic raw materials and intermediates – they will never be removed completely. With crystalline products proving a fake is even easier. If almost exclusively CBD is observed in the study, it is most likely that the oil has been produced by simply dissolving the crystalline CBD, or by adding it to some extract of poor quality. This is why it is important to always demand that the manufacturer quantifies the content of other known cannabinoids, not only the “main” ones, and let’s not settle for a laconic statements like: “apart from the CBD, the extract contains CBG, CBC etc.”, for their amount makes a difference.

Dr Jarosław Szulfer