Cannabis Product Types

Cannabis Oil in Australia


Cannabis Oil in Australia

Cannabis oil is a common form of medicinal cannabis product available in Australia. There are various methods to create it, but they all involve extraction of key compounds from the cannabis plant. These are often combined with carrier oils for ingestion. Cannabis oils are found in a variety of products and administration methods. They may be produced for oral administration in a tincture or softgel, or may be used for vaporisation in a 510 vape cartridge. There are three common types of cannabis oils which relate to their cannabinoid profiles. These are cannabidiol (CBD) or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-dominant oils, or balanced oils, which have an even amount of CBD and THC.

What is cannabis oil?

Cannabis oil is a form of cannabis product made from cannabis extract and may be combined with a carrier oil. Depending on the extraction process, it can contain a different variety and potency of phytocompounds. Cannabis oil comes in a vast range of formats that are each administered differently.

How is cannabis oil made?

The exact method for making cannabis oil varies. However there are several key steps that occur across the board. First the cannabis plant undergoes extraction to separate phytocompounds from plant matter. This extract may undergo further refinement and combination with a suitable carrier oil depending on the final product. Finally, it must be tested in order to make sure it complies with the appropriate quality control standards.

Extraction methods

There are a range of different methods which can be used for cannabis extraction. They have unique properties, making them more suited to different cannabis oil products. Extracting cannabinoids from the cannabis plant enables manufacturers to create formulated products with specific cannabinoid profiles and potencies. There are two broad classifications for extraction processes, referred to as solventless or solvent-based extraction. Solvents refer to substances that chemically isolate cannabis compounds from the plant material, such as carbon dioxide or ethanol. These solvents are removed following the extraction process. Solventless methods rely on mechanical processes for isolation. Check out our article for an in-depth look at cannabis extraction methods.

Carrier oils

Cannabis extracts are combined with carrier oils for the purpose of oral administration. Diluting cannabis extract in an oil makes it more suitable for absorption by the body. A range of different oils are suitable to act as carriers. Medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, hemp seed oil, olive oil and avocado oil are some of the most common options.

MCT oil

MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil is typically derived from coconut oil, palm kernel oil or milk fat. It is high in fat and is absorbed via the digestive system before going directly to the liver. However, it can cause digestive discomfort in some individuals.

Hemp seed oil

Hemp seed oil comes from the seed of the hemp plant as opposed to the flower. While not having the same chemical composition as flower derivatives, hemp seeds still contain some beneficial phytocompounds. 

Olive/avocado oil

Olive oil and avocado oil are frequently used as cooking oils. They are rich in vitamins, antioxidants and generally have a pleasant flavour. Most frequently, they are used as carrier oils for products that are made to be digested.

Australian quality standards

Before a batch of cannabis oil can be sold in Australia, it must conform to the relevant quality standards. These are primarily based on the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) as well as the TGO 93 and TGO 100 guidelines. While the intricacies of GMP vary, the main concept is to build quality into each stage of the production and manufacturing process rather than relying on only product testing at the end. The TGO 93 focuses on ensuring the ingredients used in manufacturing are identified and recorded. This makes sure the products are free from impurities and harmful ingredients. The TGO 100 mainly emphasises that a product is free from contaminants like bacteria and moulds.

How does cannabis oil work?

Cannabis oil, like all other medicinal cannabis products, work by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex cell-signalling system which contributes to maintaining homeostasis, or balance in the body. Depending on the type of product and the method of administration, the onset of action and duration may be different. If a cannabis oil is consumed sublingually, then it is absorbed using the mucus membrane that sits below the tongue. Meanwhile, if the cannabis oil is consumed within a capsule, then it will be absorbed through the digestive process like an edible product.

Administration of cannabis oils

There are nuances when it comes to the administration of cannabis oils, such as the onset of action and duration of effects. It is important for healthcare professionals to be aware of these differences in order to make informed decisions.

Cannabis oil ingestion

Most commonly, cannabis oils are administered using a dropper below the tongue. Depending on the composition of the oil, it may be absorbed sublingually or through oral ingestion. Sublingual absorption simply means that the oil (generally a water-soluble oil) is absorbed through a mucus membrane under the tongue and enters the bloodstream. This form of absorption may result in a faster onset of action compared to oral ingestion. For the majority of cannabis oils the absorption pathway is via ingestion. This means that the cannabinoids are absorbed via the digestive system and gastrointestinal tract before being metabolised in the liver.  Duration of effect, on the other hand, depends on a number of factors. The amount taken, the concentration of the particular oil, and individual body composition all impact absorption, onset and duration. However, the duration of effects takes between six and eight hours on average.

Practical considerations for administration

There are also many practical reasons that oral cannabis oil could be prescribed. Firstly, cannabis oil comes in a liquid form where you can administer it by the drop. This means a patient can measure out and consume cannabis oil according to the recommended dosage. Additionally, this carries into titration. When trying to adjust dosages, oil droppers allow patients to increase gradually until an appropriate dose is reached. Another reason is that patients may not be suited to other methods such as cannabis vaporisation. A healthcare professional will decide on the most appropriate administration method for a patient.

What types of cannabis oil are there?

There are a range of different cannabis oil types available, with their own unique properties. They can differ based on their cannabinoid profiles, potency and type of extract used. CBD oil, THC oil, and balanced are the three most common varieties of cannabis oil available. They utilise CBD and THC respectively as their primary phytocompounds but their concentrations and overall phytocompound makeups differ. Based on their composition, cannabis oils interact differently with the endocannabinoid system in the body. 

THC-dominant oil

THC oil is known to elicit a psychoactive response from the brain when it is consumed. This is due to the THC molecules having a proclivity to bind to the CB1 receptors and act as a partial agonist. CB1 receptors are located in the central nervous system and brain, which is why THC oils can exert a psychoactive effect. Due to these effects, patients undergoing a treatment that uses THC oil are not usually legally able to drive or operate heavy machinery under the current legal framework.

CBD-dominant oil

CBD oil does not tend to produce a noticeable psychoactive effect or alter sensory experiences. This is due to how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system. CBD molecules do not bind strongly to either the CB1 or CB2 receptors in the body. Instead, they act as negative allosteric modulators to the receptors. Due to this, CBD oil does not typically create the same kind of impairment as THC oil. The exact effects of a CBD oil may vary based on its classification as either a full spectrum or broad spectrum CBD oil.

Balanced cannabis oil

According to the TGA’s definition, a balanced medicinal cannabis oil uses cannabidiol for between 40 and 60% of its total cannabinoid content. The remainder of the oil is composed of other cannabinoids such as THC. Depending on the cannabinoid profile and overall makeup, balanced oils will interact differently with the ECS.

Learn more about medicinal cannabis

If you are a healthcare professional who is curious to learn more about medicinal cannabis, browse some of our educational articles. Alternatively, feel free to contact us today for more information.

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