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Numbers indicate percentage of change in treated samples compared to non-treated controls. While the overall qualitative composition of the samples was unaltered, differences in several terpene components could be detected after irradiation in the cannabis varieties studied.
The main components affected were the monoterpenes myrcene, cis-ocimene and terpinolene, and the sesquiterpenes gamma-selinene, eudesma-3,7 11 -diene and gamma-selinene. No new terpene peaks were formed as a result of treatment.
No cannabinoids were altered or formed as a result of irradiation. Multiple microscopic images were obtained of variety Bedrocan on flowers collected before and after treatment with gamma-irradiation, at a magnification of about 20— times. No clear differences in trichome structure, color, density, or shape could be observed between the control non-irradiated samples and treated irradiated samples.
Microscopic images of trichomes glandular hairs before and after treatment with gamma-irradiation. Cannabis variety Bedrocan was used. Gamma irradiation treatment of cannabis has become standard practice in the government-supported medicinal cannabis programs of The Netherlands as well as Canada.
In the study presented here such treatment, at a radiation dose 10 kGy sufficient to reduce microbial contamination bioburden to pharmaceutically acceptable levels, did not cause any changes in the content of THC and CBD, generally considered as the most important therapeutically active components of medicinal cannabis Grotenhermen and Müller-Vahl, Likewise, the water content and the microscopic structure of the dried cannabis flowers were not altered by standard irradiation protocol in four different cannabis varieties.
In our study, irradiation had a measurable effect on the content of multiple cannabis terpenes, mainly on the more volatile monoterpenes. In a previous study evaluating the effect of gamma irradiation on fresh Cilantro, a decrease in terpene content was also described Fan and Sokorai, However, the authors concluded that the observed loss of terpenes such as myrcene and linalool was insignificant compared to the losses that occurred by evaporation during refrigerated storage of Cilantro.
Also in orange juice the effect of irradiation on terpenes was found to be non-significant in comparison to changes induced by refrigerated storage Fan and Gates, Likewise, the slight terpene reduction observed in the current study is comparable to the effect that short term storage in a paper bag had on cannabis samples, in a study performed by Ross and ElSohly, A likely explanation therefore seems that gamma irradiation slightly accelerates the evaporation of some of the more volatile terpenes.
This idea is supported by the fact that no degradation products or additional chromatographic peaks were found to account for the lost terpenes, with the exception of some beta-caryophyllene oxide formed in the irradiated sample of variety Bedica. Interestingly, terpenes were not affected to the same degree in all varieties, e. Perhaps this indicates a protective effect that cannabis components may have on each other when present in specific proportions.
Nevertheless, the taste and smell of cannabis mainly depends on its terpene essential oil content Russo, While the current study indicated quantitative changes in some of the terpenes upon irradiation, a subtle change in smell or taste may indeed be possible as a result of such treatment.
Despite these changes, the overall terpene profile of each variety remained clearly recognizable. Gamma irradiation remains controversial among some consumers of medicinal cannabis.
However, weighing the risks vs. After all, cannabis plants cannot yet be grown and processed under conditions aseptic enough to meet pharmaceutical standards, while infection risks are well documented in the medical literature and can be harmful or even fatal to seriously ill patients. Meanwhile, the main harm of gamma-irradiation seems to be limited to a reduction of some terpenes present in the cannabis, leading to a small quantitative effect, but keeping the terpene profile qualitatively essentially intact.
This is especially important when cannabis is prescribed to seriously ill and possibly immune-deprived patients, with an increased risk of suffering from microbial infection. Meanwhile, the development of improved hygienic standards for cultivation and processing of medicinal cannabis may ensure that irradiation doses can be reduced to an absolute minimum.
In time, gamma-irradiation may eventually be replaced with other, more generally accepted, forms of reliable decontamination. The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and approved it for publication. The author is full time employed by Bedrocan BV, the licensed company that provided the medicinal grade cannabis used for this study. A big thanks to Gerda Lamers Leiden University for preparing the microscopic images.
National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Pharmacol v. Published online Apr Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. This article was submitted to Ethnopharmacology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology. Received Jan 25; Accepted Apr The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.
No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract In several countries with a National medicinal cannabis program, pharmaceutical regulations specify that herbal cannabis products must adhere to strict safety standards regarding microbial contamination. Introduction Because medicinal cannabis is often used by chronically ill patients affected by a weakened immune system, pharmaceutical regulations in countries such as The Netherlands and Canada specify that these products must adhere to strict safety standards regarding microbial contamination.
Table 1 List of current main methods available for decontamination or sterilization of food products. Type of decontamination Main treatments Heat: Dry heat Steam autoclave Chemicals: Gas ethylene oxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide Liquid hydrogen peroxide, formaldehyde High pressure: Non-ionizing UV-light Ionizing gamma-irradiation, X-rays, electron beam.
Open in a separate window. Irradiation safety and concerns Most commonly, the radioactive element cobalt 60 Co is used as the source for gamma irradiation. Evaluating the effects of gamma irradiation on medicinal cannabis Patients have occasionally expressed their concerns about the effects of irradiation treatment on medicinal cannabis. Table 2 Cannabis type and batch information of the cannabis varieties used in this study. Water content determination Water content of each homogenized sample was determined by using the Loss on Drying LOD method according to EP monograph 2.
Structures of the cannabinoids quantitatively analyzed by UPLC. Qualitative GC analysis of cannabinoid and terpene profiles Gas chromatography was used for the simultaneous qualitative analysis of monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and cannabinoids as previously reported Hazekamp and Fischedick, Microscopic visualization of glandular hairs In order to visualize potential morphological changes in the glandular hairs where cannabinoids and terpenes are produced present in the cannabis flowers, microscopic analysis of cannabis variety Bedrocan was performed before and after gamma-irradiation treatment.
Results Loss on drying Inhalation, either by smoking or vaporizing, is currently the main mode of administration used by patients Hazekamp et al.
UPLC analysis Six major cannabinoids were quantitatively analyzed by applying a validated UPLC methodology that is used as standard procedure for release testing of medicinal cannabis in The Netherlands. Microscopy Multiple microscopic images were obtained of variety Bedrocan on flowers collected before and after treatment with gamma-irradiation, at a magnification of about 20— times.
Discussion and conclusion Gamma irradiation treatment of cannabis has become standard practice in the government-supported medicinal cannabis programs of The Netherlands as well as Canada. Author contributions The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and approved it for publication. Conflict of interest statement The author is full time employed by Bedrocan BV, the licensed company that provided the medicinal grade cannabis used for this study.
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