Realizing the therapeutic potential of cannabis goes through optimal extraction. And optimal cannabis extraction isn’t something fixed or universal. On the contrary, it depends on the specific context and needs.
A team of scientists from Slovenia explored the optimal extraction methods to create cannabis derivatives to treat colon cancer and protect healthy colon cells.  The extraction methods they explored were maceration, Soxhlet, ultrasound-assisted extraction (UAE), and supercritical CO2 extraction. Methanol and ethanol were found to be best suited solvents.
The extracts were analysed by liquid chromatography paired with mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to detect seven cannabinoids (CBD, CBDA, THC, THCA, CBGA, CBC and CBN).
The generated extracts were compared on two main aspects: their antioxidant power and their in vitro biological activity on colon cancer and normal colon cells. The phenolic content of the extracts was analyzed as well and showed a strong correlation with antioxidant activity.
All extracts tested high for phenolic content and respectively exhibited strong antioxidant properties except the extract obtained through supercritical fluid extraction (SFE), which is in line with previous studies on both levels. Ultrasound-assisted extraction, on the other hand, achieved the best results.
The most notable difference between ethanol and methanol as solvents in terms of yield was observed in maceration, with ethanol performing better.
Unlike chemotherapy, cannabis sativa’s anti-cancer activity doesn’t come at the expense of healthy cells, protecting them from cytotoxic effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and decreasing cancer cell viability. Cannabis derivatives could be a potential supportive tratment in addition to traditional methods against colon cancer.
The researchers noted a major limitation: the in vivo benefits of crude cannabis extracts’ resinous form don’t translate well in vitro, and an excessive dose of a concentrated extract could lead to local cytotoxic effects when in direct contact with cells.
A common way around this overdosing is to dissolve extracts in dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) for in vitro testing. However, this can change extracts’ cannabinoid profile and cannabinoids’ ratios, rendering their benefits unreliable, especially by medicinal standards. Further research is needed to find more sophisticated solutions to this problem and gain a better understanding on the matter overall.
 Rožanc et al., Different Cannabis sativa Extraction Methods Result in Different Biological Activities against a Colon Cancer Cell Line and Healthy Colon Cells, Plants, (2021); 10(3), 566 [journal impact factor = 3.899 ] [times cited = 7]
Image: human colon cancer cells_ https://unsplash.com/photos/lsxKuARrQXI