CO2, Cannabis, and Terpenes Extraction Information

New Study on Cannabis Extracts

cannabis extracts
Cara Wietstock
Written by Cara Wietstock

Study suggests that dabbing could create harmful toxins.

Though many still prefer to smoke combusted flower, it seems that cannabis extracts are here to stay. And not only because dabbing is life for many stoners in the world. A recent survey shows that consumers like dabbing because they can use less product. Many also report that they feel a ‘cleaner’ high. Extractions have also streamlined the manufacturing industry, meaning they are definitely here to stay.

A study was published recently in ACS Omega as an initial push to understand exactly how safe it is to dab cannabis extracts and terpenes. The study utilized temperature ranges based on user reports and an impinger adhered to a smoking machine were attached to a dab rig with a ceramic nail. These methods were used to document and monitor degradation products. The extract used was a commercially available mix of myrcene, limonene, and linalool commonly labeled as Fire OG.

cannabis extracts

Samples of the vapor were collected using validated methods discussed in rigorous detail in the full study. During the research, temperatures were monitored for consistency using a thermographic camera. An initial temperature was recorded just as the terpene hit the nail. After a 10 second draw, another temperature was recorded since during the draw the nail cools around 30 to 50°C. A median temperature was calculated for each replicate to a median representative for each TR.

The toxins MC and benzene were found in abundance in the NMR spectra. MC is a known degradation product of isoprene, a known degradation product of myrcene and other terpenes. MC is also an air pollutant and also a pulmonary irritant. Benzene has been detected previously in cannabis smoke and is known to form during terpene thermolysis. The organic chemical compound and potent carcinogen is also a pervasive pollutant, and those found in the inhalant of terpenes from dabbing are far more concentrated than those found in the air.

Despite the limitations of the study (listed in full here), authors concluded that dabbing cannabis extracts can deliver significant amounts of toxic degradation products. This is especially important as terpene additives become increasingly popular. Clearly, more research is needed as state by state, country by country, legal cannabis becomes a reality. In the meantime, dab at low temps and always use a carb cap.

About the author

Cara Wietstock

Cara Wietstock

Cara began working in the retail cannabis industry of San Francisco, CA in 2011 and continued in that sector for years. In 2015 she dedicated herself to writing full-time. Her passion for the written word and deep respect for the healing properties of the plant have brought her to Terpenes and Testing magazine. She now helps keep us on the cutting edge of scientific cannabis discovery as the Editor-in-Chief of the print publication.

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  • One should be very cautious in extrapolating these results to vaping. Energy is required to degrade any organic molecule and the available energy in a nail at the start of a dab far exceeds the power of most vape pens currently on the market.

    One should also consider that fact that MC and benzene are present in much higher levels in smoke from burning flower. The study claims that dabbing delivers significant amounts of HC and benzene compared to ambient air. A better study would be to compare the levels of toxins present in a dab to that of smoke from burning flower. If that were the case, the article would have been titled “Dabbing Much Safer than Smoking Flower.”