A CLOSER LOOK AT CRYSTALLINE CANNABINOIDS
- October 14, 2018
Any marijuana aficionado will tell you that the way to tailor a “high” is all about finding a plant with the right chemical composition. Over the years, growers of the Cannabis sativa and indica strains (as well as hybrid plants) have compiled cannabis concoctions that deliver specific balances of THC and CBD. These chemicals, called cannabinoids, are responsible for stimulating the brain, which releases dopamine as a pleasure response. However, some people prefer to get a kick that regular marijuana cannot give them. Instead of getting “high” through smoking or eating the plant, users are seeking out isolated concentrations of THC and CBD called crystalline cannabinoids (drawn from the marijuana plant). Let’s take a closer look at the new rage in the weed community.
What Is a Crystalline?
People are continuously pushing the boundaries of what we can and cannot do with weed. As unusual as it sounds, scientists have successfully engineered crystalline forms of two acids derived from marijuana’s most powerful cannabinoids. THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and CBDA (cannabinolic acid) are the chemical precursors to their more common forms THC and CBD. As a result of harvesting, the two acids begin to lose potency and break down (through a process called decarboxylation). Later, drying the marijuana plant activates the dormant THC and CBD (depending on the mixture).
While the cannabis plant contains hundreds of cannabinoids, THC and CBD are unique in that their structures resemble crystalline networks. In fact, under a microscope, the two substances have the same latticed composition and appearance as snowflakes.
How to Turn Acid into Crystals
As part of the first step, engineers create THC and CBD oils from an oil extract, which also contains additional assets like terpenes (fragrant oils), flavonoids, fat, and lipids. After isolating the oil, producers wash the mixture hydrocarbon hexane and acetic acid (soupy concentrations of vinegar), followed by a bath in solvents. Afterward, the new composition is fed through a rotary elevator (or rovotap), and the remaining material undergoes preparative chromatography (a separation process).
After an additional process of mixing and separating, the crystalline product is formed and will comprise 99% of pure cannabinoids.
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