If you’ve ever come across an old CBD product you haven’t used in a while and found that it simply doesn’t present the same effects or even tastes that it used to, you’ve directly experienced cannabinoid degradation.
Though it sounds scary, cannabinoid degradation is a natural process that every CBD product will experience, some more drastic than others. As something that happens so frequently, being aware of it is key to keeping your products acting and looking their best, even if it’s been months since you’ve used them.
Cannabinoid degradation is the process by which the cannabinoids inside the hemp plant begin to degrade, or break down, once the flower has been harvested. This is a natural process that all organic substances undergo, and with hemp, it makes the plant’s effects less potent, as well as its smells and tastes less pungent. Most cannabinoid degradation occurs naturally over time; however, the process can be sped up due to improper storage and atmospheric conditions.
The shelf life of hemp or hemp products can be up to a year or two if you’re careful about storage procedures and environmental factors. Environmental factors such as light, heat, and moisture are some of the biggest contributors to increased cannabinoid degradation, as they directly impact the molecular structure of cannabinoids. The UV rays observed in lighting, for example, have been found to directly break down cannabinoids like CBD, eventually causing the cannabinoid’s form to change completely.
Heat is another huge factor that can influence cannabinoid degradation, speeding up the process significantly. High temperatures are your hemp plant’s worst enemy, as they can actually allow for growth and spread of bacteria throughout your plant or plant product. It also increases the potential for mold, and moldy CBD products are highly toxic and should always be avoided.
Similarly to light, heat can also cause the actual transformation of cannabinoids, as high temperatures can result in decarboxylation or degradation entirely. This is why most products, like CBD tinctures, for example, are kept in dark, opaque bottles that light cannot easily penetrate. It helps keep the product fresh and the cannabinoids safe from enhanced degradation.
To further prevent cannabinoid degradation, you will also want to make sure to keep your hemp products away from excess moisture and humidity at all costs. Like light, moisture has the capability to bring about bacteria, potentially causing mold to grow, depending on your choice of CBD product. Not only that, but re-introduced moisture can affect the smells and flavors of your hemp product, giving them unappealing, ammonia-like profiles that simply cannot be enjoyed.
So, while cannabinoid degradation is a natural process that cannot be avoided, it can definitely be slowed down. Again, you likely won’t even experience cannabinoid degradation within your products, especially if you store them properly every time you’re not indulging. But, to prevent your cannabinoids from breaking down more rapidly than necessary, keep them away from harsh lighting, too much moisture, and high temperatures. If you do this, your hemp products will stay looking and tasting just as they should (for about a year, at least).
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