ingesciences answers PGVG magazine’s and Vaping Post questions on CBD

NB: Since this publication, the R&D department LFEL have been integrated into ingesciences.

Controversial topic, cannabidiol, more frequently known as “CBD”, is turning up more and more in e-liquids yet continues to trail along a bad reputation.

The French E-Liquid Laboratory conducted a bibliographic study and emission analyses to find out more. Dr Maud Mercury, LFEL’s Director, and Jérémy Sorin, engineer in charge of the study, answer our questions.

Vaping Post: Which methodology did you use for this CBD study?

Maud Mercury : From an analytical point of view, CBD was identified and characterized using our chromatographic equipment. For vapour emissions, we used our U-SAV vaping machine to generate the aerosol then our chromatographic equipment to analyse its composition.

Jérémy Sorin : For the bibliographic study, I used search engines for the scientific articles. And I was amazed at the amount of data available. I had no idea that CBD had been studied so much. For this synthesis, I focused on around a hundred publications on the subject.

Vaping Post: When were the first CBD studies conducted?

J.S.: CBD was discovered and isolated in 1940 by Adams and his associates, but its chemical structure was only determined in 1963. The number of studies on the subject literally exploded in the 1990s then again during the noughties. There are two reasons for this: the first is the relaxing of regulations on cannabis and cannabinoids, notably in the US. The second is understanding the mechanism of action of cannabinoids (receptor system) which led to proving that THC is far from being the only cannabinoid with pharmacological properties. To date, around a hundred or so cannabinoids have been identified. THC and CBD are the most extensively studied because, historically, they were the ones discovered first. They are also the two most predominant cannabinoids in Cannabis sativa L.

CBD does not produce psychotropic effects

When were the first articles on cannabis vaping published?

J.S.: There are studies in scientific literature which focus on CBD vaping using the plant matter itself. However, we didn’t find them particularly relevant as they are not specific to CBD alone. But, on the other hand, we read recent studies dealing with vaping pure CBD in its solid form. The joint conclusion of these studies is that CBD is perfectly vapable in this form and at relatively low temperatures.

CBD can reduce states of stress and anxiety

In what ways are CBD and THC different?

J.S.: CBD and THC have very similar chemical structures. They share the same pharmacological properties which are very interesting from a therapeutic stance, such as their analgesic and their anti-inflammatory properties. However, it’s the side effects which they produce and the purpose for consuming them which really differentiate them. Unlike THC, CBD has but very few proven side effects. From what we’ve reviewed, we’ve identified only two for CBD and over a dozen for THC. The fundamental difference, however, between these two molecules is that CBD does not trigger any psychotropic effects. Hence, it is in no way consumed to reproduce the euphoric effects of THC and cannabis but to act on the person’s wellness.

What are the effects of CBD?

J.S.: CBD has many pharmacological effects, some of which have been proven more than others. The ones we’ve identified as being the most interesting cover anxiolytic, antipsychotic and analgesic aspects.

It’s as a result of these properties that CBD can reduce a state of stress or anxiety. It is worth noting that CBD also helps reduce the intensity of the psychotropic effects of THC. Some current studies show that CBD can help reduce withdrawal symptoms related to addiction. In the case of the personal vaporizer, it’s obviously a really interesting characteristic, if it’s proven, from a nicotine and smoking cessation viewpoint. Last but not least, CBD also has sedative, neuroprotective, anti-epileptic as well as anti-dystonic (muscle tone disorders) properties.

What are its negative effects?

J.S.: CBD can have an irritant effect, a bit like nicotine. This could, for example, restrict vaping based on people’s sensitivity levels.s.

Is it like the “hit” feeling you get with nicotine?

J.S.: Although it can feel a bit like the “throat hit”, as that’s where it takes place, the effect lasts longer with CBD, between 5 and 10 seconds.

Any other negative effects?

J.S.: CBD may provoke slight effects of drowsiness in some people who are sensitive to the molecule.

These effects depend on the concentration of CBD in the e-liquid. Is there a maximum legal dose?

J.S.: There’s currently no legal restriction. The limit is based on formulation applicability because as of a certain level of concentration, CBD becomes impossible to dissolve in e-liquid. Moreover, it’s practically insoluble in high proportions of vegetable glycerin.

We wish to highlight CBD’s therapeutic properties and not amalgamate it with THC and cannabis smokers.

Is there any point in inhaling CBD?

J.S.: Yes, absolutely, because of its bioavailability. When a molecule is inhaled, the body doesn’t absorb it all: some is exhaled into the atmosphere, the rest is broken down before being absorbed. The proportion of the molecule absorbed by the body based on the total amount of the molecule consumed is what we call bioavailability. In the case ofCBD, when it’s administered intravenously, its bioavailability is, by definition, 100%; it’s around 20% when inhaled and 8% when ingested. As such, inhaling means the molecule consumed is absorbed more than when it’s ingested, and the sensory signals (cues) are transmitted to the brain faster (faster than when administering intravenously, for example). Finally, CBD combines well with vaping, it vaporizes at temperatures which are within the same order of magnitude as can be reached with a personal vaporizer…

Can it be recommended to cannabis smokers for risk reduction purposes?

J.S.: The products currently-available on the market are actually really targeted to cannabis-smoking consumers. In particular we can see “cannabis flavours” being proposed and highly-explicit “cannabis” type marketing showcasing green leaves, etc. It’s a very sensitive issue which needs to be given a really clear-cut answer. Personally-speaking, I believe inhaling CBD is useful for people who suffer from anxiety, stress, nervousness or have slight sleeping disorders, though without these being linked to pathological conditions.

Basically, it’s important to distinguish between medical use and a somewhat recreational use which works on the person’s overall wellness, irrespective if they are cannabis smokers or not.

M.M.: In a nutshell, we wish to highlight CBD’s therapeutic properties and not amalgamate it with THC or cannabis smokers.

We wish to highlight CBD’s therapeutic properties and not amalgamate it with THC and cannabis smokers.

So, what should a CBD e-liquid seller say to a cannabis smoker who wants to switch and use CBD e-liquids?

J.S.: The seller needs to ask them if they’re working towards reducing or even totally stopping their cannabis intake and, if so, then inhaling CBD can help them beat anxiety and stress related to withdrawal, but it’s not a miracle product.However, if the customer yearns for the same psychotropic effects they get from THC when they vape CBD, they’ll be disappointed because CBD doesn’t trigger any psychotropic effects. In this respect, the scientific community’s opinion is clear: CBD does not produce psychotropic effects.

Why is CBD still suspected of being psychotropic?

J.S.: One of the main reasons is that we still associate CBD with the recreational use of smoking cannabis (thus THC), even though the purpose sought is not the same. And here, there’s still an incredible need to inform and educate, especially in France where the subject is still taboo. We’re going to have to explain over and over again that it’s not CBD which triggers the psychotropic effects of cannabis but THC; that using CBD e-liquids and smoking cannabis are different and that their effects are not the same. And lastly, the trend for printing cannabis leaves on CBD e-liquid labels doesn’t really help people to understand the subject at all! (Smile).

Can inhaling be dangerous?

J.S.: Apart from irritation and drowsiness, there’s no intrinsic toxicity for the concentrations concerned. And all the more so as the quantities contained in e-liquids are even less concentrated than the quantities mentioned in the studies we reviewed

Does the molecule remain stable when heated?

J.S.: There are only one or two studies which prove this.

But given the temperatures used, yes, we can imagine it remains stable. We carried out tests using our U-SAV vaping machine, under pretty extreme conditions, close to the dry hit, and we didn’t find any degradation products in the CBD-related emissions. But, we’re continuing our tests, under different conditions, to make absolutely sure.

Can you become dependent to CBD?

J.S.: Several studies related to smoked cannabis dependence show that THC triggers the release of dopamine (the pleasure and reward hormone), just like nicotine. Thus, a cannabis smoker associates THC’s psychotropic effects with the pleasure sparked by the release of dopamine. So, they’ll want to reproduce these effects to feel this sense of pleasure again. In the case of CBD, there are no psychotropic effects and no dopamine release. So, CBD’s addictive aspect should be extremely limited.

Several types of CBD e-liquids are available. Is there a preference for any in particular?

J.S.: There are e-liquids which use CBD powder, sold by suppliers who guarantee the purity and absence of THC; this is also the most used raw material. But hemp oil e-liquids enriched with CBD are also available, a little in France and a lot abroad. It’s oil which is extracted from cannabis; it’s a viscous solution which can contain THC, CBD and several compounds which are unsuitable for inhalation. Some manufacturers use it because it’s much cheaper than pure CBD. The problem, apart from compounds which are unsuitable for inhalation, is that we’ve no idea of the CBD concentration and no idea if it’s contaminated with THC unless we carry out a chromatographic analysis. We believe this cannabis extracted oil may, unfortunately, discredit the CBD molecule’s high potential.

So, how can you tell the difference between the two products?

In some cases you can see it straightaway: there’s a good centimetre or so of oil on top of the PG/VG base. It also has the characteristic taste of cannabis resin, whereas CBD doesn’t have any taste. Moreover, hemp oil e-liquids are generally cheaper than CBD products and the concentrations and units of measure mentioned on the product label are often incorrect.

Does the CBD origin have to be mentioned on the vial?

J.S.: It really should be, but as it’s not regulated, no it’s not compulsory.

M.M.: We advise professionals and consumers to choose e-liquids where the CBD origin is mentioned.

J.S.: Or to choose manufacturers and distributors which provide a certificate of analysis mentioning CBD traceability and purity information for the production batch used in the vial. As using molecules with pharmacological properties in electronic cigarettes is already quite an issue, it’s better to show credentials whenever we use them.

Is there any problem associating it with nicotine?

J.S.: There’s no technical problem in doing so, but we don’t see the interest in doing it as the desired purpose is different.

A vaper who inhales nicotine-flavoured e-liquid is basically trying to quit smoking tobacco. Anyone who wants to relax would go for a CBD e-liquid. I vape and I’ve got a CBD-dedicated clearomizer which I use when I feel the need or at specific times of the day, generally in the evening when I want to relax and, at the same time, I’ve got my “all day” one which helps me not to smoke cigarettes. Lastly, we didn’t find any sources in literature that illustrated there was no synergy between the two molecules. Nicotine has stimulating effects, a bit like caffeine, which are the opposite of the effects people seek with CBD. For the time being, in my opinion, there are too many questions and little reason to associate the two.

Are the effects of CBD really that different between an e-liquid with a dose of 3 mg/ml and another with 60 mg/ml?

J.S.: In terms of effects, a factor comes into play: how perception is subjective from one person to another. Someone consuming e-liquid with 60 mg/ml of CBD on a dripper may not feel any effects whereas another vaper, using a standard clearomizer, may really feel enough effects when consuming 10 mg/ml. Just like a nicotine hit, there’s no general rule: it all depends on the individual’s sensitivity, as well as whether or not they are used to consuming cannabinoids or not… if someone is not very sensitive to the effects, we would advise them to hold the vapour in their lungs for longer and to inhale bigger puffs when vaping to increase the molecule’s bioavailability.

Today, you can find e-liquids with 100, 300, 600 mg of CBD, would it not be more accurate to specify the concentration rather than the dose on the vials?

J.S.: Yes, labelling leads to confusion, especially in the personal vaporizer sector which, historically-speaking, always mentioned molecule concentrations in mg per ml, like nicotine for example. Since they entered the market, manufacturers have been expressing the amount of CBD in the vial (in mg), a bit like on labels for pills that you swallow. But, in the case of e-liquids (solution), we need to specify CBD volume concentration – like 10 mg/ml, 30 mg/ml or 60 mg/ml – which makes things easier and more understandable for the consumer.

What do you think about CBD crystals for DIY use?

J.S.: Given the complexity and certain incompatibilities of the CBD formulation with other molecules (mainly aromatic ones), we advise consumers who want to have a go at DIY to get information beforehand, via forums, social media and even R&D labs which study the subject!

What conclusions have you drawn from your study and your analyses?

M.M.: Although CBD and THC have similar chemical structures, CBD is totally different from THC when it comes to use, purpose for consuming it and desired pharmacological effects (CBD has no psychotropic effects)… Furthermore, the molecule’s nature and its properties when vaped justify the arrival of CBD

e-liquids in so far as the personal vaporizer seems to be adapted to the consumption of this type of molecule. There’s an extensive range of offers as regards this type of product, but not all are conducive to inhaling; consumers must remain vigilant when choosing products.

Our role as a research centre is to make media accountable, inform sellers and consumers about a subject which is sorely lacking in non-specialized scientific information accessible to the general public. Attitudes need to change as regards CBD, whose main problem, at the end of the day, is that it’s extracted from the Cannabis sativa L. plant. The study which we’ll soon be publishing on our website should shed objective light on the subject.