The mass use of cannabis extracts is such a new phenomenon that learning something new about its effects shouldn’t be too surprising. But that didn’t stop us from being a little rattled by the findings of a new study from the University of Pernambuco in Brazil.
According to the study, though naturally occurring terpenes in cannabis have no known adverse health effects, adding terpenes to cannabis (a very common practice for extracts) alters the chemical makeup of these terpenes and makes them toxic, at least to rats in a controlled study.
Specifically, these Brazilian eggheads looked at what happens when beta-carotene, a common terpene found in many fruits and vegetables, is added to cannabis sativa. Beta-carotene on its own is good for you in moderate doses and can help prevent illnesses such as lung cancer, according to the study. But when beta-carotene and cannabis hook up, the BC begins to “generate various potentially toxic compounds.”
Those toxic compounds were bad news for the lab rats. Those exposed to beta-carotene that had been degraded by cannabis showed higher frequency of kidney disease and experienced “alterations in liver weight.”
It should be noted that the process the scientists used was not the same as an extraction artist in Colorado or California. The researchers combined beta-carotene with the smoke of a cannabis flower, quite different from combining it with a cannabis extract.
It’s uncertain whether the same toxic effect could occur in a dab with added beta-carotene, but it’s probably wise for users who like their dabs nice and terpy to know that there could be side effects to adding terpenes to their wax. The study concluded that, “BC [beta-carotene] intake together with CSS [cannabis sativa smoke] should not be encouraged due to toxicity and loss of antioxidant activity of the BC after contact with the CSS.”
Beta-carotene has also been found to actually increase the likelihood of some cancers in people who use high doses through supplements while smoking tobacco. We’re hoping that further testing is done soon so that we’ll know if tane soup is the only thing we have to worry about when we go concentrate shopping.