Last updated on 20 May 2020
Cannabidiol (CBD) in the FINOLA oilseed hemp variety
CBD is a natural polyphenol that is produced by hemp. During the last five years, we have received an ever increasing number of requests for information on the amount of CBD produced by the FINOLA variety of hemp. There are a lot of variables to consider, and there are no easy answers that will be correct for every situation.
Some people have also asked about the FINOLA cannabinoid profile, which has notable amounts of CBC (cannabichromene) and CBDV (cannabidivarin) in their acid forms, in addition to significant amounts of CBDA (the acid form of CBD). For the full article, see Radmila Pavlovic et al. 2019, referenced below.
As CBD becomes a larger topic for discussion, we think that it is important to provide some general information on this page, since there is not enough time to fully discuss these complex issues with everyone who asks. Hopefully this information will be of value to you.
FINOLA produces a lot of CBD
For more that a decade, FINOLA and other European hemp varieties have been used for the commercial production of cannabidiol (CBD) in Europe. These extracts were used to launch the initial marketing of CBD in the US, well before the first farm bill passed in 2014. Since US hemp production was not very well developed until a few years after 2014, US hemp market relied upon CBD extracts from Europe.
FINOLA continues to be an excellent industrial source of CBD for these reasons; it is short, autoflowering and easy to manage by hand or with machines, it matures in less than 100 days in most locations and it produces a huge bud that contains low THC (<0.2%) and proportionately more CBD.
But what is “a lot of CBD”?
This is a very simple and reasonable question to ask, but context is important, and many variables will significantly influence the final result.
– The cultivation environment; indoors or outdoors?
– Lighting and temperature; natural light or artificial?
– Atmosphere; natural air (outside) or supplemented with carbon dioxide (inside)?
– Male vs. female plants; are both analysed together (field), or just females (garden)?
– Pollination; are the female plants allowed to produce seed, or not?
– Time of sampling/harvest; see Oier Aizpurua-Olaizola et al. 2016, referenced below.
– The actual sample; exactly what part of the plant is sampled for the analysis?
– Processing method; is the plant to be extracted, or not. If so, how is it extracted?
– What is the efficiency of the extraction method?
– Laboratory competence- is the lab reliable for this type of analysis?
– Analytical methodology- LC or GC, and what type of detection method?
Lengthy discussions can arise from each of these variables, and still not provide a satisfactory answer. At best, we can only share some of our own data in general terms.
Experience over time
Since the early 1990s, we have collected a lot of analytical data on the amounts of cannabinoids and other phytochemicals that are produced by FINOLA and other hemp varieties. From this data, we can make some general statements that may be helpful to you:
Production from industrial scale field conditions
For an open pollinated hemp crop, the top third of the plants can be harvested with a standard grain combine to recover the hempseed and the green vegetative material. The vegetative material will include the leaves, flowers, bits of stem, etc. This must be separated from the hempseed at the time of harvest or just after harvest. In any case, you must begin to dry the harvested materials within a few hours after harvest, to avoid the certainty of a mould problem.
In 2018, we organised a broad survey of field samples from six industrial scale FINOLA farmers in Finland. All samples were collected at the same time as the grain harvest. The amount of CBD in the dried vegetative material ranged from 0.67% to 7.35% CBD, with an average value of 2.19% CBD.
Production from smaller scale row crop or garden scale conditions
If stems and large leaves are not included in the analysed sample, and only the apical tips of the mature, seedless female FINOLA flower are analysed, then the amount of CBD can exceed 15%.
Time of sampling
The phytochemical composition is always changing throughout a hemp plant’s life (see Oier Aizpurua-Olaizola et al. 2016, referenced below). For industrial scale production, with male and female plants, it only makes sense to link the vegetative harvest time with the grain harvest. This takes a lot of planning and coordination, and we do not have any more to say about that at this time. You have to figure this out for your own circumstance. For the row crop or garden scale production of mature, seedless female flowers, the grower is advised to observe the trichome density on the leaves to determine the optimal time of harvest. Again, you have to figure this out for your own situation.
The sample for analysis
It should be obvious that a sample of bulk vegetative material from a dioecious field crop will have less CBD than a carefully manicured female flower without seed. These are completely different samples, produced under completely different growing conditions. Again, it is important to understand the context of the sample, in order to understand the true value of the analytical data.
The method of analysis
There is no real benefit in measuring CBD and CBDA separately in a fresh hemp sample, since almost all of the CBD exists as CBDA. For this reason and other good reasons, gas chromatography with flame ionization detection (GC-FID) is the most reliable analytical tool for the analysis of total CBD (or THC) in a hemp sample. One reason why GC-FID is more reliable is because the total CBD is analysed only once. With liquid chromatographic methods, such as HPLC, both CBD and CBDA must be measured separately and then added together to determine the total amount of CBD. When CBD and CBDA are quantitated separately, more possibilities for analytical errors occur than if the analysis was calculated only once for total CBD with GC-FID.
If the goal is to know the precise and total value of CBD or THC in a hemp sample, then GC-FID is the most reliable analytical methodology.
However, LC methods of analysis are more useful in measuring the amount of cannabinoids in hemp-derived food products, because CBDA and THCA are not orally active, and it is important for the consumer to know how much “free” CBD and THC are in an edible product. Policy makers should also understand this basic concept, whenever there is a desire to craft regulations for CBD or THC. It would also be helpful to know what analytical laboratories can measure these things with accuracy and precision. So far, an accreditation for cannabinoid analysis is lacking in the world. Just because a lab may claim to be “accredited” does not mean that they are able to measure cannabinoids with both accuracy and precision.
Examples of recent policies that attempt to de-regulate CBD:
The World Health Association’s (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence held their 40th Annual Meeting in Geneva, 4-7 June 2018 to discuss cannabidiol (CBD) and concluded; “To date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.” The final report also concluded that “there are no case reports of abuse or dependence relating to the use of pure CBD” and “no public health problems have been associated with CBD use.” For more information on this, read the full 28 page report Here.
The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) has decided to remove cannabidiol (CBD) from its list of prohibited substances, effective January 1, 2018. WADA, which regulates prohibited substances for athletes, announced the move in a 2017 September 29th update. The Canada-based agency oversees the World Anti-Doping Code, which is used by more than 600 sports organizations, including the International Olympic Committee. The World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, is currently reviewing CBD’s therapeutic potential in a revision that may redefine how CBD is regarded and controlled internationally.
Examples of recent policies that attempt to regulate CBD:
By the beginning of 2020, countries in Europe and North America had already proposed regulations for products that contain CBD, for a variety of reasons. This is partly in response to an unregulated market that has offered a wide range of products, and with a wide variety of claims that are too often untrue. For example, claims of CBD content in the products which are factually untrue, also with some health claims that are mostly anecdotal and without a firm basis in modern scientific metrics.
Considering the number of people that are currently using these expensive products on a regular basis, it is surprising that we have not seen any remarkable adverse consequences from this chaotic situation during the last decade of CBD commercial hype around the world. Still, authorities in some countries have recently assumed that harm must be found, or that will be soon discovered after we have more data, and until that time such products must not be advertised or sold without proper authorisation, which is currently unavailable for food supplements.
In the European Union, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) decided to add CBD products to the novel food category, which was originally created over 20 years ago to prevent genetically modified products from entering into the Euro zone. The original intent for that regulation has obviously failed, so it would only make political sense to repurpose this bungled directive (?). At the same time, various hemp trade organisations have offered their own proposals, and mostly without any scientific justification. As if the food and nutrition sciences were some sort of popularity contest.
For example, the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) recently suggested 70 mg/day as a safe amount of CBD for an adult, while the UK’s Committee on Toxicity (COT) suggested a maximum safe dosage of 280 mg/day for a 70 kg adult.
Interesting to note that the purpose of COT is to inform the FSA. This disparity informs us on the confusion around this topic. Here is a special quote from the UK’s February 2020 FSA report, issued by Professor Alan Boobis, Chair of the Committee on Toxicity:
“My committee has reviewed the evidence on CBD food products and found evidence there are potential adverse health effects from the consumption of these products.”
He continued with this:
“We don’t know enough to be sure about such a risk but…”
So, which is it? Did they find evidence for “potential adverse health effects“, or do they not know “enough to be sure about” anything. You decide!
More examples of regulation
On 10 December 2019, the Finnish Food Safety Authority (Ruokavirasto) decided that “the marketing of foods containing added cannabinoids (CBD- and CBD-A) requires an authorisation”. That decision was not made with any scientific justification at all, and apparently applies to products where CBD or CBDA are added. It is unclear how this opinion applies to foods made from hemp.
This recent opinion on CBD from Ruokavirasto followed a statement made by the Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea) on 27 June 2019: “Cannabidiol (CBD) is a known medicinal substance and used as a medicine. A preparation that contains cannabidiol is equated to a prescription medicine in Finland. Each preparation is assessed separately, and Fimea decides, by means of an individual classiLcation decision, whether the preparation concerned is to be considered as a medicine in Finland.”. So, without any justification, and at a time a time when Finnish policy makers should have been enjoying their summer holidays, CBD was categorised as a medicine. No one was there to object.
Finland’s Fimea continued with its opinion by stating the following:
“Purchasing products containing cannabidiol from abroad may be illegal. It is forbidden to import a preparation containing cannabidiol that is classified as a medicine without a prescription. Anyone who orders products from the net, for example, or brings products with them from abroad must first ensure that importing them is legal.”.
On 13 February of 2020, the Food Standards Agency of Ireland (FSAI) issued a recall of CBD products that also contained detectable amounts of THC. From this report, the following was stated:
“THC was detected in 84% of the products tested. The level of ∆9-THC in 37% of the products tested was such that consumption of the maximum stated dosages could result in a significant exceedance of the safety limit established by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2015. “
So, in a short time, and in various forms, this regulatory habit against CBD has spread like a virus from one end of Europe to the other. Probably a coincidence.
Unfortunately, these political opinions are not well supported by scientific evidence. In fact, there is no credible evidence to suggest that reasonable amounts of CBD (for example, 100-300 mg/day in adults) will cause any harmful effects at all. To demonstrate that point, a recent scientific study provided a single daily dose of 750 mg CBD to healthy volunteers, and reported “no severe or serious adverse events during the trial.” (see Julie Crockett, et al. 2020).
CBD, as a pure substance, was isolated from Cannabis in the 1940s, and fully characterised in the early 1960s. A search for “cannabidiol” in PubMed, a service provided by the US National Library of Medicine, identifies over 2800 scientific articles. Indicating that CBD has been well studied by modern medicine. Adverse effects for CBD are difficult to find, and an effect that can be characterised as toxic or harmful to humans has not been found. Instead, CBD is already known to be a safe and effective antioxidant, more potent than vitamin C, and not unlike the natural polyphenols that are found in other healthy plant based foods, such as berries.
The potent anti-oxidative effect of CBD probably explains the anti-inflammatory effect that is especially enjoyed by people over 30-40 years of age. By comparison, CBD is as potent as ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®, Nurofen®, etc.), which is a popular anti-inflammatory agent with side effects that include heartburn, rash, gastrointestinal bleeding and increases the risk of heart failure, kidney failure, and liver failure. CBD has none of those side effects in healthy adults.
But, most of the natural antioxidants in berries are not produced by Cannabis. And while berries have been consumed as food for centuries, their polyphenols have not been subjected to nearly as much research as CBD, yet the polyphenols in berries are legally hyped as a safe and healthy super food. Once again, it seems that Cannabis has caused paranoia in a minority of people who have precious little knowledge of the subject. In short, we are being lied to by people who do not know the truth, and by some who are determined to pervert the truth. Eventually, the facts will be considered and the truth of this matter will become more apparent.
Finola Oy does not take a side in this mud wrestling competition. Instead, we report the political news and we report the facts pertaining to CBD and other issues related to hemp. We think that reasonable people will begin to use the available scientific information to make reasonable decisions. We also expect individuals and companies to challenge these poorly informed policies, perhaps in a court of law, if necessary.
In the European Union, policy makers are required by law to make evidence-based decisions. So far, we are waiting for our policy makers to comply with that law and justify their opinions. Otherwise, it would be a violation of our basic human right to good administration for European policy makers to continue with faith based decisions. It is also worth noting that this is the only human right violation where a civil servant can be held personally responsible for damages caused by their personal opinions and faith based decisions. If you are such a civil servant, and you decide to remain ignorant of the facts, then perhaps we will see you in court.
The total amount of CBD in FINOLA can range between 1-15%.
For carefully tended female flowers without seed, the amount of CBD is typically between 5-10%, and may even exceed 15% in some apical samples.
For industrial scale production, a dioecious field crop of FINOLA will typically have about 1-3% CBD in the dried vegetative material, and may exceed 5% in some circumstances. These results are highly dependent on the method of cultivation, the time of harvest, the type of sample that is being analyzed, and the method of analysis.
On average, in the industrial example, FINOLA can reasonably produce 1000 to 2000 kg of dried vegetative material from one hectare. With a modest recovery efficiency of 50% from vegetative material that contains 2% CBD, one could expect to achieve 10 to 20 kg of CBD per hectare in the extracted material.
Some Academic References
Julie Crockett, et al. 2020. A phase 1, randomized, pharmacokinetic trial of the effect of different meal compositions, whole milk, and alcohol on cannabidiol exposure and safety in healthy subjects, in Epilepsia, DOI: 10.1111/epi.16419 .
Radmila Pavlovic, et al. 2019. Phytochemical and Ecological Analysis of Two Varieties of Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) Grown in a Mountain Environment of Italian Alps, in Frontiers in Plant Science, Volume 10, Article 1265, doi: 10.3389/fpls.2019.01265 .
Oier Aizpurua-Olaizola, et al. 2016. Evolution of the Cannabinoid and Terpene Content during the Growth of Cannabis sativa Plants from Different Chemotypes, in Journal of Natural Products, Volume 79, 324−331, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.5b00949 .
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