PureGold: our core active ingredient
The active ingredient in TetraLabs products is PureGold™. PureGold is our name for the cannabinoids that remain after we remove everything else from cannabis. Our ecologically friendly process starts with unsalable sun-grown cannabis leaves and ends with a couple percent of pure cannabinoids.
The process is complicated and involves many steps. But, simply put, to make a concentrate one extracts the cannabinoids with a solvent such as supercritical CO2 or alcohol or other solvent. This yields products like CO2 oil, wax, BHO and so on. The problem is that the solvent also extracts other compounds. The TetraLabs process starts here and removes everything but the cannabinoids. Read on for find out how.
PureGold: An Overviewmore
TetraLabs is the culmination of a multi-year project to explore methods of producing ultra-pure cannabinoids by recycling cannabis plant materials that were unsalable by growers. We demonstrated feasibility three years ago, but could not produce sufficient quantities for patients beyond the trial groups1. We then spent several more years refining our process, learning how to make sufficient quantities and establishing a collective to enable more patients to benefit.
Cannabis plant material contains cannabinoids, as well as 450–600 other compounds — most of which do not contribute to desired medical effects. Plant material is also rife with potential toxins and pathogens such as insecticides and fungicides, molds, spores, bacteria and viruses, not to mention insects, parasites and their eggs. TetraLabs isolates the cannabinoids and leaves all these problems behind.
To accomplish this, farmers grow cannabis and provide essential oils — commonly known as “hash oil” — which they extract from their cannabis. TetraLabs refines these essential oils until the final product consists of 95% pure cannabinoids.
Our purification process uses only natural methods to selectively remove the unwanted components from the essential oils. We call the resulting purified cannabinoids PureGold. Nothing is added. Pure Gold contains only compounds originally present in cannabis plants. The non-cannabinoid 5% of Pure Gold consists of cannabis compounds known to be harmless and, in some cases, beneficial.
We add three food-grade components to make the final products. Grape seed oil and alcohol serve as buffers in our orally ingestible softgels and sublingual spray. We add a touch of limonene, a naturally occurring terpene in cannabis, to the pure cannabinoids in smokable PureGold.
1We thank Valerie Corral and the members of WAMM for assisting us with tests and dosage trials. Their support, feedback and advice have been invaluable.
PureGold: A detailed look at our proprietary process for creating pure cannabinoidsmore
PureGold’s exact composition is best exemplified by a gas chromatogram. The following typical chromatogram shows everything that is in PureGold. This particular batch has over 95% cannabinoids. The remaining 4% or so consists of plant waxes and sesquiterpenes.
A gas chromatograph does not record very volatile and non-volatile compounds such as cellulose. However, in our case, these compounds have already been removed.
By comparison, a chromatogram of cannabis plant material shows very many more peaks, and the cannabinoids are — by far — the minority. The highest ∆9-THC concentration available in plant material is 21%.
The THC family in the chromatogram contains 84% total THC of various types. This includes ∆6-, ∆8- and ∆9-THC, along with ∆6-, ∆8- and ∆9-THCV. The actual amount of ∆9-THC in this batch is 74%. Current batches reach 78%. The peaks to the left of the ∆9-THC peak are THCV isomers. These isomers of THC vary greatly in their psychoactive effects.Research into the therapeutic benefits of trace cannabinoids like THCV, ∆-8 and ∆-6 THC, CBC and CBG is ongoing. All show physiological activity.
The CBD section shows the amount of Cannabidiol. CBD is a sought-after cannabinoid due to its proven medical benefits. For example, CBD and THC are the active ingredients in Sativex, the multiple sclerosis drug developed by GW Pharma. Even though it is not psychoactive by itself, CBD has a powerful influence on the effects of THC even when the CBD content is 1% or less. CBD is the reason that Indica has a different affect than sativa. We also include Cannabichromene (CBC) in the CBD family. CBC has reported therapeutic effects as an anti-inflammatory. Like CBD, it moderates the effects of THC and activates the CB2 receptor. This chromatogram shows about 2% CBD and CBC.
The CBN family consists of degradation products that result from the oxidation of any of the various THC isomers as well as CBD. The CBN family represents 7% in this sample. CBN is not psychoactive but may have therapeutic properties. In addition to CBN, we also include Cannabigerol (CBG) in this family, which is to the right of the THC peak.
Waxes: Plants produce a wax cuticle to prevent excessive transpiration of moisture (drying). In larger amounts, cannabis plant wax resembles candle wax but is more slippery and translucent. Another waxy constituent is squalene, a tri-terpene. It has useful anti-oxidant properties and may help prevent cancer. It is a minor constituent in most vegetable oils. The waxes are long-chain hydrocarbons and obviously not psychoactive. We generally find around 3% wax and sometimes a bit less. We remove the plant wax for production of PureGold with Limonene.
Sesquiterpenes could also be removed, but we currently include them since they appear to have therapeutic value. Cannabis contains many terpinoids. In fact, cannabinoids are terpenoids. Terpenoids serve many functions in plants. For example, as amounts of terpenes vary in Cannabis, so does its fragrance. Sesquiterpenes represent an important constituent of most essential oils.
Complying With California Law
We designed our process both to achieve an extremely high level of purity and also to comply with California law, which prohibits the use of chemical extraction or synthesis of controlled substances. These laws were written to control the proliferation of illegal labs that make methamphetamine and other truly dangerous drugs, and—as such—are good laws. However, we believe they could also be applied to the medical cannabis industry. Consequently, TetraLabs went to great lengths to develop a method that does not use chemicals. And, in so doing, we developed a technique that not only complies with California law but yields truly excellent results. In other words, doing the homework to comply with those laws also led us down a new scientific path that we would probably not otherwise have taken. The resulting process is clever enough that no one has yet figured out exactly how we do it. We believe our process is patentable but have not filed a patent, pending further clarification of the applicable federal laws.
Although we do not use checmicals, we do add a few consumables to formulate PureGold into various pharmaceutical form factors. Our GoldCap and PureGold softgels contain gelatin and glycerin in the encapsulation material, and grape seed oil to aid absorption of the cannabinoids. Our GoldMist orial spray contains Everclear (food-grade alcohol), used to enhance the absorption of cannabinoids through the oral mucosa, and a bit of peppermint oil for flavoring. Our PureGold contains 5% food-grade d-Limonene — a common terpene that occurs naturally in cannabis, vegetables and fruits. We add absolutely nothing else in the PureGold process or to any PureGold product.
The legal details: California code section 11379.6(a) prohibits “chemical extraction” of controlled substances but does not define the term “chemicals.” However, the Court ruled in The People v. Bergen that resin can be “physically extracted” (e.g. pressure) or by “leaching the resin from the plant material by dissolving it in a nonchemical…extractor, such as butter.” The unfortunate lack of legal precision leaves everyone guessing. However, the Court did bless physical methods such as pressure (and by extension other physical methods such as centrifugation) as well as extraction (“leaching”) by butter. By extension, this might also include similar non-chemical, food-grade solvents, such as carbon dioxide, vegetable oil, glycerin and orange oil (d-limonene); however, neither the law or court decision adequately defines this.
Many cannabis dispensaries feature cannabis concentrates alongside their cannabis flower products. Concentrates are commonly known as “hash” or “hash oil.” The PureGold process starts with commercial “hash oil,” or cannabis resin. We remove solid materials such as mold, insect parts, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. We also remove man-made impurities such as pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. And we remove undesirable plant products such as fats, waxes, flavonoids, pectins, chlorophyll and tar. We select certain classes of terpenes and terpenoids that are known to have therapeutic effects, and reject others that have no therapeutic value. What’s left is a highly purified concentrate that consists of 95% cannabinoids in their natural proportions and 5% therapeutic sesquiterpenes.
Even when the refining process has been completed, the result still is not ready to be called PureGold. As a final step, we rigorously test our product using independent laboratories. Only after it has passed our demanding quality control screening can our key ingredient bear the name PureGold. We don’t just claim to make pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products.
The following diagram shows an idealized view of common cannabis flower contents along with their relative proportions. The active ingredients — cannabinoids and sesquiterpenes — comprise less than 20% of the total. All the rest is extraneous material.
Cannabis concentrates are made from either flowers or leaves. First, the cannabis is dried and screened. Then the solvent is added, dissolving the resin and leaving a cellulose residue behind. The solvent, now bearing the dissolved resin, may be treated further to remove more undesirable components. Finally, the solvent is removed by some form of evaporation.
Common solvents include butter, vegetable oil, glycerin, alcohol, carbon dioxide, butane and hexane. Along with the desired cannabinoids, every solvent also extracts undesirable constituents, such as tar, chlorophyll, terpenes, waxes, flavonoids and sugars. That’s why “hash oils” smell funny, taste funny and leave a substantial residue after heating. These non-therapeutic impurities also have physiological side-effects, such as “cotton mouth” and a “dopey” feeling of mental confusion.
In other words, some undesirable constituents go into solution in the solvent and are unavoidably carried forth into the essential oil. Hash oils generally contain around 50% cannabinoids along with 50% extraneous compounds. We remove those extraneous compounds.
The following diagram shows the results of this initial extraction step. Notice that most of the extraneous material is no longer present, and that the cannabinoids are now about 50% of the total.
A Closer Look
We identify undesirable compounds in the provided essential oils and use our proprietary processes to remove them. Our processes address each contaminant group one by one until only the cannabinoids remain. In all, TetraLabs’ processes contain about forty steps. Purification takes about three weeks, utilizing advanced equipment and skilled personnel.
Using only heat, pressure, centrifugation and other physical methods, we isolate and remove each of the groups of undesirable compounds shown in the diagram above of essential oils. Only the cannabinoids and trace amounts of sesquiterpenes and pigments remain, as shown in the following diagram.
After removing all contaminants and revealing the pure cannabinoids, the end product weighs at least 50% less than the essential oils with which we started. In the process, we accumulate collections of tar-like substances, wax and terpenes.
The final product that emerges from the TetraLabs process is a pale yellow, crystal-clear, viscous oil containing only cannabinoids. Its consistency is somewhat thicker than molasses but thins down to a runny liquid at about 160˚F. When warmed, PureGold has a pleasant, sweet aroma from the sesquiterpenes.
The color and clarity of PureGold attest to its purity. Moreover, when a few drops of PureGold are evaporated on a glass plate or in a new vaporizer, no residue remains. The glass appears completely clean. This test yields substantial charred residue with any other cannabis concentrate.
Regardless of the material provided to us, finished batches of PureGold are nearly identical. More specifically, the relative percentages of the various cannabinoids vary insubstantially from batch to batch.