Can Cannabis Oil Go Bad?
Finding a long-lost cannabis concentrate is a bittersweet moment. Your discovered concentrate was left stranded in a pair of jeans that had been stuffed in the far reaches of your dresser, untouched since that last camping trip. For about a year, it’s been sitting in between some parchment paper, waiting for you to unearth it.
The good news: no mold. The bad news: it doesn’t look like the translucent and golden “shatter” you once had. What’s before you now looks like a collection of off-yellow sugar crystals. Has this hash oil gone past its shelf life? Can you still enjoy it?
How long a cannabis concentrate lasts depends on a number of factors ranging from the quality and classification of the starting material used to the packaging and storage of the final product. While some extracts and infusions can experience quality degradation in a very short time span, others may stay fresh and useable indefinitely.
The Impact of Extraction Method on Concentrates
Over time, some shatters will sometimes “sugar out” as their terpenes degrade away, leaving a substance with a higher concentration of THCA behind.
The golden standard in any extraction methodology is that the quality of the end product will always reflect the quality of the starting material. “Gold in, gold out; Garbage in, garbage out.” There’s a direct correlation between the quality of the starting material and what remains post-extraction. Inferior products containing compromised cannabinoid profiles will, in every case, result in an inferior extract.
Terpenes will almost always experience degradation of some kind during extraction. The loss will not only affect the flavor and medical efficacy of the final product, it could play a role in that product’s shelf life as well. Some products, such as those purposed for dabbing, utilize extraction methods intended for terpene preservation. Extractions meant for infusions such as for edibles, topicals, and tinctures however, may not necessarily need to utilize these terpene preservation methods.
Concentrates come in a variety of forms, ranging from extracts like saps, shatters, crumbles, butters, and distillates to sifted mechanical varieties like kief, ice water extract (IWE), and dry sift. Their attributes, such as consistency, viscosity, and clarity, are all byproducts of their extraction method.
The basic principle of an extraction is to remove the many impurities from the starting material, which include plant matter, fats and lipids, and other foreign contaminants. Many fats and lipids in solventless concentrates remain because they are more difficult to mechanically remove.
Solvent extractions, on the other hand, produce “oleoresins” that contain a combination of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes, as well as other impurities such as fats and lipids, in many cases. Through a secondary solvent filtration process called “winterization,” these fats and lipids may be removed from a product, leaving behind a more purified substance.
The process of winterization is known to cause some terpene degradation that could compromise both the flavor profile and the consistency of the final product. However, this process is necessary for the production of super stable hash oil products such as glass-like “shatters,” as well as high terpene-containing saps and sugars.
Terpenes, Cannabinoids, and Concentrate Shelf Life
The greatest perceived enemies of any concentrate, be it a wax, shatter, sap, or any cannabis oil-infused product, are all the same: light, heat, air, and time.
Concentrate varieties range in consistency from stable shatters and viscous saps to butters and sugary waxes. Each variety contains a different combination of molecules (e.g. cannabinoids, terpenes, lipids , impurities), but most carry a high concentration of the cannabinoid tetrahydracannabinolic acid (THCA).
The geometric structure of pure THCA is comprised of lattices stacked onto one another, forming a crystalline structure. However, THCA in a concentrate mixture will crystallize differently, depending on variables such as the ratio of other impurities present to agitation and temperature.
For instance, “shatters,” known for their super stable glass-like consistency, are typically monocrystalline in final form, meaning they exhibit many properties consistent with amorphous solids (they have softer melting point ranges and appear less rigid in molecular structure) when exposed to varying concentrations of terpenes, impurities, or even other cannabinoids like CBD.
In order for shatter to maintain a glass-like physical structure, it must go through further filtration to remove these impurities. If left in a product, these other components can do many things, one of which is to cause a “buttering” effect in a concentrate when agitated or brought to varying temperatures.
When terpenes or even other cannabinoids such as CBD are present in a concentrate, they can also act as emulsifiers (a mixing or solvating agent) to the crystalline THCA. A concentrate that is richly saturated in both THCA and in terpenes can take on different consistencies depending on how the product was agitated and at what temperatures that product was exposed to. These varying phases that concentrates exhibit (e.g. polycrystilline to amorphous) are largely influenced by the many impurities that prevent THCA from crystallizing.
Impurities can include anything from elevated levels of terpenes to fats, lipids, solvents, as well as the presence of other cannabinoids. For example, concentrates high in cannabidiol (CBD) will appear sappier due to the distinct structure of its molecule.
Over time, some shatters will sometimes “sugar out” as their terpenes degrade away, leaving a substance with a higher concentration of THCA behind. Although this process may compromise the experience a hash oil product may have once given, it’s not a final indicator that the product is unable to be used for vaporization (dabbing). Rather, it simply means that the molecular structure of the oil has changed as a result of the terpenes degrading out of the concentrate.
“Sugary”-like hash oils that were once “shatter”-like in consistency is our visual observation of what happens during terpene degradation, when THCA no longer has to worry about terpenes getting in the way of crystallization.
Cool, dark, dry, still environments (refrigerators, freezers, low cabinets, freeze driers) are best for promoting longevity of your cannabis concentrates.
The greatest perceived enemies of any concentrate, be it a wax, shatter, sap, or any cannabis oil-infused product, are all the same: light, heat, air, and time. All of these elements facilitate the degradation of terpenes and cannabinoids, and will hasten the process by which some of your concentrates and infusions change.
Cool, dark, dry, still environments are best for promoting longevity, and when exposed to as few environmental contaminants as possible, some of these products will last a very long time without changing or losing anything.
Optimal storage options include refrigerators or freezers, low cabinets, or a freeze drier. These will help to eliminate the variables that tend to break down extracts. Over time, the cannabinoids (and, in some cases, terpenes) will inevitably change in some ways, regardless of condition. THCA will eventually degrade to cannabinol (CBN), a process which creates an “amber-ing” or darkening effect. Shatters and other dabble oils with higher terpene profiles may also sugar up, just like the one you found in your dresser.
At the end of the day, that sugary shatter isn’t going to be a deal breaker. While your concentrate may not taste quite the same or give you that “full spectrum” feeling, a nice dab will still do the trick as those THCA crystals will still pack a punch.
Ever wonder about whether or not cannabis oil can go bad? Learn about the factors that influence how long cannabis oils and concentrates last from Leafly.
The Shelf Life of CBD Oil: How Long Does it Last?
Just like any other packaged product, CBD oil has a shelf life; a window of time where it’s the most safe and effective to use. But when it comes to determining the shelf life, the answer is not that easy. How long CBD oil – or any cannabis concentrate for that matter – will last depends on a number of factors. These can range from the quality and classification of the starting material to the packaging and storage of the final product.
Taking proper care of your CBD products will help to preserve their cannabinoid content, as well as the quality of their other natural constituents. Whether it’s pure oil, liquid concentrate, or capsules, it’s important to protect your product from exposure to elements like heat, extreme cold, and humidity to preserve the natural botanical properties.
Storing CBD oil products properly and with care will help to maintain their freshness and improve their shelf life. However, it’s always important to keep in mind that the brand or type of CBD product that you get will affect the length of time for which it will be good.
The average shelf life of CBD oil
The amount of time that it takes to go through a bottle of CBD oil will vary drastically between users. The serving size and how often the CBD oil should be used can be dramatically different for each person, depending on why they are using it.
Still, many people want to know how long CBD oil will last from the date of purchase. After all, the last thing any user wants is to purchase their CBD oil and be restricted by a “use by” date that will force them to waste the remains of their valuable supplement.
As we have already mentioned, the shelf life can be affected by a number of factors. While some infusions and extracts may experience quality degradation in a short time span, others may stay fresh and usable indefinitely. However, the general consensus is that the average shelf life of CBD oil is between 14 and 24 months, depending on how well you store it. If you still have your product after two years, it is recommended that you replace it, as the active ingredients may become less active.
The impact of extraction method on CBD oil shelf life
While CBD extraction methods have not been standardized, there are some pros and cons to each technique. Many of these techniques may significantly impact CBD’s shelf life. The most common way to extract CBD includes the use of naturally-occurring CO2.
This method is often preferred due to the greater levels of quality CBD that can be extracted. Other rich materials including flavonoids, phytochemicals, and terpenes are also extracted using this method.
The CO2 method includes the use of closed, pressurized chambers. Each chamber contains a different component. One chamber holds the hemp plant while another holds CO2. When CO2 is pushed into the chamber containing the hemp plant, the CBD begins to separate from the plant. The CBD can then be extracted in the form of a potent CBD oil.
Oils, capsules and the like made from the method may have a higher degree of usability for a longer period of time due to the high amount of CBD. Another method involves the use of steam.
This method is utilized in a wide variety of other chemicals, including the essential oils of plants like rosemary. With steam distillation, water is heated to create vapor. The vapor is then cycled over the hemp plant, causing a breakdown of the plant’s cell walls and releasing its oils.
The oils mix with the water and the oil is later separated. The oil is rich in CBD, however, this technique doesn’t yield as high of an amount of CBD and can be extremely cumbersome. The use of steam may be regarded as much safer and ultimately may lead to a more stable CBD.
A less popular method includes the use of solvents. The ultrasound assisted extraction (UAE) method for example, relies heavily on the use of solvents to extract any number of compounds. Solvents including butane are used to release the oils in the hemp plant. This method is the least preferred among CBD enthusiasts.
This is due to the lower quality of CBD oil extracted as well as the potentially dangerous by-products that are a result of the solvents. The trace amounts of solvents may have an impact on the overall shelf life of the CBD oil that is extracted.
It may be best as a consumer to investigate how CBD oil has been extracted. Consumers may want to choose a form that yields a more natural oil and very little chemical residue for best results.
The best way to store your CBD oil
The biggest perceived enemies of any concentrate, be it shatter, budder, wax, or CBD oil are all the same: heat, light, time, and exposure to air.
Storing CBD oils properly can result in a robust shelf life. Proper storage can discourage the degradation of oils and the proliferation of other chemicals that can destroy the compound.
Factors such as moisture, temperature and direct sunlight can have an effect on how long CBD oil lasts. It is best to store oils in areas that are relatively cool, away from direct sunlight and free from moisture.
Store your CBD oil away from light and heat
It’s important to store your CBD oil in a cool, dry, dark spot for maximum freshness and to keep it from degrading. You should always avoid keeping your CBD oil out on a shelf or ledge near a window that receives sunlight, or in a cabinet where appliances produce heat.
If possible, keep all CBD oils in a pantry or closet that doesn’t exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit. While you can store your product in the fridge, one study suggests that there may not be a comparable change in chemical levels between cannabis products stored in a cool, dry place or in a cool and dark fridge. However, it is important to note that levels between products were seen between products kept at room temperature at 3 months versus those kept in a fridge for up to 15 months.
Many CBD oil products are sold in packaging that is designed to give protection from any light damage, so keeping your oil in the fridge, freezer or pantry, which remain cool and dark, is one of the best ways to store your product. If you want to take it a little further, you can wrap the dropper bottle with aluminum foil which will fully protect the oil from light.
Ultimately, cooler temperatures may mean a longer life for your CBD oil. When your CBD product is exposed to warmer temperatures, the chemical composition can have slight changes. While CBD oil is a pure and organic substance produced from hemp, the extraction process almost never results in 100% purity. Therefore, other minerals that are safe in the oil may react differently to heat, which could cause the oil to change some of its properties. This may make the oil turn into a more “buttery” form and make it look murky.
While freezing generally won’t cause the oil to solidify, it may create cloudiness and increase the thickness. But if you’re looking to keep your CBD oil for an extended amount of time, then the freezer may very well help to maximize the storage life. You should, however, consult with the brand that provides the CBD oil or read product instructions as different products may have different guidelines.
When it comes to keeping your product away from heat, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Don’t keep it near the stove, range, or oven, as that could heat up the oil around it.
- Avoid putting it on the window sill or area where the sun can reach it.
- Avoid leaving it in your car as the sun can heat up your car like a large oven.
How to store CBD oil: Avoid air exposure
Most CBD oil products are packaged in oral applicators or airtight bottles that are designed to prevent air exposure. Just like heat and light, air exposure plays a big part in the breakdown of natural cannabinoids like CBD. You should try to keep your CBD oil in its original container. If you need to transfer it, ensure that the new container is sufficient for long-term storage. Also, always be sure to fully snap on the bottle’s cap or tighten the lid after each use to extend the shelf life.
Air exposure can significantly reduce the oil’s effectiveness because exposure to oxygen slowly changes its chemical balance. The process is known as “oxidative stress,” and defines the altering changes of the oil as it is exposed to oxygen over time. Most methods of extraction and bottling processes take the heat and air exposure into account when trying to maximize the effectiveness of the oil once it is sold to customers. Without these protections in place, the CBD oils would result in a far lesser quality.
The safest way to store your CBD oil is in an upright position in a place with a stable temperature and away from extreme heat, light, or moisture. In fact, your pantry is a perfect place to store your product. While the fridge is a popular choice and also a good option, there is a drawback. If the oil gets too cold, it might thicken to the point where you will need to heat it a little before use. However, if this does happen you can carefully run the bottle under some hot water.
If you store your CBD oil properly, you should find that it lasts for at least a year. Most people who use CBD oil regularly won’t have anything to worry about, since they are usually taking the oil often enough that they are replacing it with a fresh bottle on a regular basis.
When deciding on how to store your CBD oil, you should take note of the carrier liquid that your CBD oil is in. All hemp and CBD extracts come in a carrier liquid, and the concentrated cannabinoid extract is diluted in here. Common carrier oils include MCT oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and hemp seed oil. You just need to store your CBD oil in the same way that you would store your bottle of coconut oil or olive oil.
If you are looking to keep your bottle of CBD oil for longer than a year, then the fridge is a good way to get as long a shelf life as possible. It will depend on how often you use your CBD oil and if it’s worth trying to keep it for an extended length of time. If you use your CBD oil often and you’re likely to have to replace it within a year, then you might as well store it in a cool, dark and dry spot such as your pantry.
Final thoughts on the shelf life of CBD Oil
Taking proper and careful care of your CBD oil will make a world of difference in terms of its potency and longevity. Be sure to take the required steps to store your oil in a place that will preserve its constituents. If you don’t need to keep your CBD oil for extended time spans, then you don’t have to go to vast lengths to protect it, like wrapping it in aluminum foil and storing it in the freezer. Simply store it in a dark, cool, and dry place.
Keep in mind that, even if you keep the oil stored properly, it will eventually become not as effective over time. Generally, CBD oil should last between 14 and 24 months. As time passes, the concentrates in the oil will begin to change, and you may also see a change in the color. If this happens, you will notice that the oil darkens. While it is still safe to use, you may find that you need a larger dose for effectiveness.
As long as you do your research and read the product instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems with storing CBD oil, and you should get optimal usage.
What is the shelf life of high-quality CBD oil? Here are some ways to make it last, and also some recommended ways to store it for maximum longevity.