Cannabinoids; Do You Know Your THC From THC-A?

Two key driving forces within the cannabis concentrate market are purity and potency. There has been plenty of research into

Cannabis Pictures / Flickr


Two key driving forces within the cannabis concentrate market are purity and potency. There has been plenty of research into finding ways of maximizing these and discovering the extent to which boundaries can be pushed for cannabis isolations and extractions.

The question on the mind of everyone involved, from researcher to consumer, has been this: is it possible to isolate pure cannabinoids and package them for consumption?

Well, we now know that the answer to that question is, Yes! It is now possible to deliver a product composed of THC-A and CBD; this product is called crystalline.

So, What Is THC-A and CBD Crystalline?

THC-A is and abbreviation for Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid; CBD-A is the same for cannabidiolic acid. These are the two largest cannabinoids within cannabis plants and are precursors to their consumable variations THC and CBD.

As a cannabis plant ages these two cannabinoid precursors gradually decarboxylate and are activated. The cannabinoids can also become active when the cannabis plant has been harvested and dried; heat being applied can decarboxylate cannabinoids into active compounds.

At 99.9% isolated THCA and CBD are the purest cannabis concentrates you can find.

There are hundreds of compounds within cannabis, some are active whilst others inactive. They take on a variety of shapes and structures at the microscopic levels, but THC-A and CBD both have similar molecular structures that resemble that of a crystalline formation. On inspection both these compounds look like crushed salt or snowflakes. It is key to note that CBD-A does NOT have a similar formation, only CBD.

As was highlighted at the top of this segment, THC-A and CBD are the purest forms of cannabis concentrate there are and both have a purity of 99.9%. What this figure tells us is that they are clear of any traces of terpenes, fats, lipids, flavonoids or any other substance from the cannabis plant. This means that these particular isolates are devoid of color, odor and flavor.

THC-A and CBD Crystalline Process

The art of creating crystalline is a closely guarded commercial secret, but there has been enough information leaked to give an indication as to the process.

The first stage of isolating cannabinoids starts with extraction. Along with the cannabinoids, a whole host of other things get extracted in the same process: terpenes, fats, flavonoids, lipids among others.

To separate these from the cannabinoids, a series of washing procedures are conducted. The first wash is carried out using a strong vinegar-like substance made up from acetic acid and hydrocarbon hexane. This strips away any plant material and impurities. To complete the first wash phase, the cleaning chemicals need to be removed and this is done by feeding the slurry into a rotary evaporator that gently gets rid of the chemicals by slow heating, pressure and rotational motion.

On completion of the wash, the cannabinoids are isolated further by preparative chromatography – a separation process. The cannabinoids get passed through different mediums at various speeds whilst having chemicals introduced. Again, on completion of this phase, the chemicals get removed through rotary evaporation.

The last stage of the cannabinoid isolation process is preparation for human consumption. At this point, all that is left are the pure cannabinoids and traces of stubborn impurities, Another round of mixing these with solvents and then separating the solvent slurry completes the process. The product is now crystalline cannabinoid with a purity of 99.9%

THC-A Inactive – THC Active

The terms Active and Inactive refer to the psychotropic qualities of these two compounds. THC-A does not have the psychotropic effect when ingested so is said to be inactive. THC, on the other hand, does possess them so is considered active. In order for THC-A to become active THC, it must be heated.

How To Use Inactive THC-A and CBD

THC-A is inactive as already stated, however, it still can be used for medicinal and therapeutic purposes in this state.

Crystalline cannabinoids can be easily taken through oral ingestion. Being so pure, doses can be accurately and uniformly administered through food portions or in capsule form.

For rapid activation of crystalline cannabinoids, they can be vaporized or consumed by dabbing; when decarboxylation happens almost immediately, breaking the inactive cannabinoid into active THC.

There is no flavor with THC-A and CBD, so manufacturers have taken to adding their own terpene blends. This not only adds flavor, but can provide a more sturdy experience and lead to more refined effects.

The benefits of crystalline cannabinoids seem obvious, but is there a downside? Well, the secrecy surrounding production techniques mean that recipes are difficult to replicate, which limits the supply to a relatively small number of producers. Of course, this leads to an expensive product.

If you’ve got the cash to buy some or are lucky enough to get a hold of some, please share your experience with us.

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