Many people around the world are finding relief from a variety of symptoms and illnesses through the use of cannabidiol or CBD. CBD is a popular research topic, and scientists have discovered that it’s an effective treatment for childhood seizures, cancer pain, and chronic muscle spasms.
Many prefer it because it doesn’t cause the intoxication or euphoria that THC does. In addition, it may also help a broader range of health conditions including, chronic pain, neurodegenerative diseases, and substance abuse. It’s still not deemed safe under federal law, but to meet the increased medical demand, 17 U.S. states, not having a formal legalized cannabis industry that includes THC, have passed laws allowing people to consume CBD for medicinal purposes.
Cannabis sativa, the plant CBD is derived from, has over 500 different compounds.Commonly used chromatographic methods like flash chromatography and high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC)are limited for the CBD researcher’s need to obtain a pure product. Continuing use of either technique to purify the compound from such a complex natural product is cost-prohibitive, not scalable, and time-consuming. Each method requires at least two steps to attain the purified CBD which makes the process slow.
An Alternative Method for Large-Scale Production
An alternative purifying method is centrifugal partition chromatography or CPC. While not a recent technology, it’s less expensive making it an excellent choice for the highly scalable production needed to create large amounts of quality CBD.
It’s less expensive than conventional techniques because instead of silica, it utilizes a liquid stationary phase that contains common fluids like heptane, water, or methanol. The crude cannabis extract doesn’t have to be pretreated either. It just needs to be diluted into the eluent, and then it can be injected into a CPC column saving material and time.Thus, after a thorough rinse, CPC columns are reusable.
During the CPC process, centrifugal force holds the stationary phase in place while the mobile phase pushes the cannabis oil through specially designed cells that keep the stationary phase in place. As the oil travels through each separate cell, “different compounds diffuse into the stationary phase according to their affinity to it, ultimately separating into different cells along the way.” Since there is no silica, the cannabis’s natural products don’t leave residues behind that cause cross-contamination.
CPC can purify more cannabis components besides CBD, including terpenoids, and cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), THC, and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). CPC’s large-scale production capabilities help pharmaceutical companies meet the high manufacturing standards. It is essential to note that CPC isn’t an analytical technique. This means that CPC requires an analytical HPLC to make chromatograms to substantiate the CPC process.
Solvents like acetonitrile and methanol used in chromatography are toxic to the environment and humans. Many companies try to replace these solvents with environmentally friendly alternatives, but these come with drawbacks. The toxic solutions are critical for optimizing purity so replacing one could diminish the yield and purity. As a result, chemists may need to perform more steps to obtain the same quantity and quality that toxic solvents achieve. In the end, this produces more waste and opposes the original purpose of using greener solvents.
The Future of CBD?
Pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceuticals is hoping to provide more people with access to CBD by developing Epidiolex®, a CBD oral solution for patients suffering from rare epileptic conditions. On April 19th they were awarded “a unanimous recommendation from the Peripheral and Central Nervous Systems Drugs Advisory Committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” It’s the first drug of its kind and could help highlight the importance of CBD and other medicinal cannabis and hemp remedies. Epidiolex® is advertised as a pure, plant-derived CBD. How this isolated cannabinoid product works for patients, without also containing other cannabinoids and terpenes to maximize synergistic interactions, remains to be seen.
As more manufacturers pursue large-scale CBD production, integrating CPC into the process could be critical. It extracts a significant quantity of high purity product in a more efficient manner compared to some other methods. CPC is economical and essential to the future of CBD manufacturing and to the patients who rely on treatment with CBD for their health conditions.