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Publication Title | Cannabis Oil: chemical evaluation of an upcoming cannabis-based medicine

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Cannabinoids 2013;1(1):1-11

Original article

Cannabis Oil: chemical evaluation of an upcoming cannabis-based medicine

Luigi L Romano, Arno Hazekamp

Department of Pharmacy, University of Siena, Italy

Plant Metabolomics group, Institute of Biology, Leiden University, The Netherlands


Concentrated cannabis extracts, also known as Cannabis oils because of their sticky and viscous appearance, are becoming increasingly popular among self-medicating patients as a claimed cure for cancer. In general, preparation methods for Cannabis oils are relatively simple and do not re- quire particular instruments. The most well-known example of such a product is called ‘Simpson oil’. The purpose of the extraction, often followed by a solvent evaporation step, is to make canna- binoids and other beneficial components such as terpenes available in a highly concentrated form. Although various preparation methods have been recommended for Cannabis oils, so far no stud- ies have reported on the chemical composition of such products.

Recognizing the need for more information on quality and safety issues regarding Cannabis oils, an analytical study was performed to compare several generally used preparation methods on the basis of content of cannabinoids, terpenes, and residual solvent components. Solvents used include ethanol, naphtha, petroleum ether, and olive oil. The obtained results are not intended to support or deny the therapeutic properties of these products, but may be useful for better understanding the experiences of self-medicating patients through chemical analysis of this popular medicine.

Keywords: cannabis oil, Rick Simpson oil, cancer, cannabinoids, terpenes

This article can be downloaded, printed and distributed freely for any non-commercial purposes, provided the original work is prop-

erly cited (see copyright info below). Available online at Author's address: Arno Hazekamp,


Cannabinoids exert palliative effects in cancer patients by reducing nausea, vomiting and pain, and by stimu- lating appetite [1]. In addition, preclinical evidence has shown cannabinoids to be capable, under some condi- tions, of inhibiting the development of cancer cells by various mechanisms of action, including apoptosis, inhibition of angiogenesis, and arresting the cell cycle [2,3]. As a result of such exciting findings, a growing number of videos and reports have appeared on the internet arguing that cannabis can cure cancer. But although research is on-going around the world, there is currently no solid clinical evidence to prove that cannabinoids - whether natural or synthetic - can effec- tively treat cancer in humans. It is therefore important

to be cautious when extrapolating preclinical results to patients.

Anecdotal reports on cannabis use have been historical- ly helpful to provide hints on the biological processes controlled by the endocannabinoid system, and on the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids. The antiemetic [4], appetite-enhancing [5], analgesic [6], and muscle-relaxant effects [7] and the therapeutic use of cannabinoids in Tourette’s syndrome [8] were all discovered or rediscovered in this manner. But alt- hough it is possible - and even desirable - that cannabis preparations exert an antineoplastic activity in, at least some, cancer patients, the current anecdotal evidence reported on this issue is still poor, and, unfortunately, remains far from supporting that cannabinoids are efficacious anticancer drugs for large patient popula-

© International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines


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