21 Mar Safety concerns about terpenes in CBD e-liquids
Broad-spectrum CBD products typically contain a high percentage of CBD along with other beneficial plant compounds, including minor cannabinoids and terpenes. This mix of compounds is believed to produce an “entourage effect”, whereby the overall effectiveness of the oil is enhanced due to an interaction between its components.
While terpenes potentially contribute to this entourage effect in broad-spectrum products, such as CBD oils, capsules and edibles, there are growing concerns about their inclusion in CBD e-liquids, as the effects of heating them to high temperatures are not yet fully understood.
Moreover, in marijuana vape products, terpenes have been found to produce harmful toxins when heated which are inhaled by the user. This is particularly concerning given that many people using cannabis vape products are young adults, whose brains and bodies are still in development.
While evidence for the effects of terpenes in e-liquids is limited and inconclusive, enough doubt has been cast over their safety for some CBD brands, like Naturecan, to justify using CBD isolate rather than broad-spectrum CBD distillate in their vape juice. As CBD isolate contains pure CBD, and no other cannabis compounds, it raises none of the health and safety concerns that surround the use of broad-spectrum CBD in e-liquids.
In simple terms, CBD vape juice is an e-liquid which contains CBD. It’s designed to be used in a vaporiser, which heats the liquid to around 200-250 degrees and converts it into a vapour that can be inhaled.
CBD vape juice typically consists of four main ingredients: CBD hemp extract, propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG) and flavourings. Propylene glycol is a colourless, odourless food additive with a thick, syrupy consistency, and vegetable glycerin is a clear, sweet-tasting liquid sourced from vegetable oils such as coconut, soy or palm oils.
E-liquids may contain a variety of PG/VG ratios. Those with high PG and low VG ratios, like Naturecan’s CBD vape juice (with a ratio of 80/20), allow for the creation of higher strength e-liquids, whereas low PG and high VG ratios produce greater amounts of vapour.
How does CBD vape juice work?
Vaping is one of the most effective ways of taking CBD. When inhaled, the vapour bypasses the digestive system and enters the bloodstream directly via the lungs. This allows CBD vape juice to take effect faster than other CBD products, and also results in higher bioavailability, meaning that a greater amount of CBD is delivered into the bloodstream.
The effects of CBD e-liquid can usually be felt within minutes, although this can vary depending on various factors, including the weight of the user and the strength and quality of the product.
Due to its rapid absorption by the body, these effects can be relatively short-lived (lasting 2-3 hours) when compared to slow-acting products like CBD edibles or CBD capsules. Nevertheless, it’s common for some vapers to vape regularly throughout the day, allowing these effects to be sustained over a longer period of time.
CBD distillate vs CBD isolate
CBD distillate and CBD isolate are two of the most common core ingredients of CBD products. While both are derived from the hemp plant, they have very different properties.
CBD distillate is a thick, syrupy liquid containing a range of natural plant compounds, including CBD, minor cannabinoids and terpenes. Having undergone the initial extraction process, it is free of all contaminants, lipids and impurities. Broad-spectrum CBD distillate is often used to make CBD products such as oils, capsules and balms, as it is believed to deliver the added benefits of the “entourage effect”.
CBD isolate, on the other hand, is CBD in its purest form. It is created by putting CBD distillate through further processing to isolate CBD from the other plant compounds. This means that CBD isolate contains none of the compounds that give hemp its scent and flavour, such as terpenes, so it is completely tasteless and odourless.
In its original form, CBD isolate is a crystalline solid which is then graded into a white powder to make it easy to use. A popular ingredient in CBD vape juice, CBD isolate can also be used in topical products and combined with a carrier oil, such as MCT oil, to create CBD oil isolate.
Why do we use CBD isolate in our vape juice?
At Naturecan, we use CBD isolate in our e-liquids due to the lack of toxicological data available to verify the safety of inhaling plant oils and other plant compounds present in broad-spectrum products.
In addition, research into marijuana vaping products has found that terpenes, which are added to pure THC distillates to dilute the liquid and provide an aromatic scent and taste, produce harmful toxins when heated, including benzene, a strong carcinogen, and methacrolein, an air pollutant and pulmonary irritant.
One 2017 study published in the American Chemical Society found that three terpenes, myrcene, limonene and linalool, produced varying levels of these toxins when exposed to high temperatures. It was also found that the ppm (parts per million) of benzene and methacrolein decreased as the temperature lowered. This indicates that vaping, and in particular high heat vaping, could be harmful to health, particularly when done regularly over a long period of time.
Naturecan Vape Juice vs Competitors
While some of our competitors use terpenes in their vape juice formula, these are not proven to be safe for inhalation and hence are not suitable for use in e-liquids.
Written by Alex Coughlan and reviewed by our qualified expert, Paul Holmes, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs Manager at Naturecan, BSc Medicinal and Biological Chemistry, Member of UKAS/FSA CBD Food Product Approval Expert Group