Cannabidiol (CBD) vaping products have become increasingly popular in the U.S. since their federal legalization in 2018, but their respiratory health effects are not well understood. A new 2023 cell study reveals that aerosolization of commercial CBD vaping products generates a reactive CBD quinone (CBDQ) which forms adducts with protein cysteine residues. These results suggest that vaping commercial CBD alters protein function and induces cellular stress pathways in the lung.
This study aimed to investigate whether CBD oxidizes to reactive species when vaped and the potential mechanism behind the adverse effects of vaping CBD on respiratory cell function. Using click chemistry and an in vitro vaping product exposure system (VaPES), the researchers found that CBDQ forms adducts with human bronchial epithelial cell proteins, including Keap1, and activates the KEAP1-Nrf2 stress response pathway genes.
While the recent findings on the potential harm of vaping CBD are significant, it's essential to note that they do not necessarily mean that vaping CBD is inherently unhealthy. Instead, it's possible that the hardware and formulations used in the vaping process could have a more significant impact on health. However, the study did not investigate certain crucial details, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions about the actual effects of vaping CBD.
Additionally, there is emerging counter research suggesting that CBDQ has health benefits, indicating that there could be more at play than just CBD itself. A 2021 review on CBDQ showed that HU-331, a synthesized form of CBDQ, is less toxic and more effective in mice with cancer than the commonly used doxorubicin, a strong chemotherapy drug. Unlike other quinones, it is not cardiotoxic and does not induce the formation of free radicals.
However, analysis of CBD vaping products has revealed the presence of synthetic cannabinoids, excessive levels of Δ9-THC, heavy metals, residual solvents, and flavoring chemicals, none of which can be blamed on CBD or CBDQ.
The study investigated the potential respiratory health effects of vaping CBD products and specifically studied the oxidative potential of CBD, as well as the high heat of vaping devices. The study analyzed two types of commercial CBD products - CBD distillate oil and CBD juice. The study found that CBD oil and juice contain CBDQ, a reactive CBD quinone that is formed when CBD is exposed to air or heat.
CBDQ was found in all commercial CBD products, and the amount significantly increased after vaping. Additionally, the study observed that vaping increased the amount of other cannabinoids, such as Δ9-THC, CBN, and Δ8-THC, in the oil, while it decreased the amount of Δ8-THC in the juice. The study only examined one commercial oil and juice, and it will be important to investigate how flavoring profiles and vaping product additives and contaminants affect CBDQ formation during the vaping process.
It is important to distinguish between the method of using CBD flower in a vaporizer, such as the Volcano Vaporizer, and the commercial CBD vaping products studied in this research. The Volcano Vaporizer, for instance, operates at a lower temperature and uses a convection heating method that warms the air around the CBD flower, releasing cannabinoids and terpenes in a vapor form for inhalation. This is different from commercial CBD oil vaping products, which typically come in low quality oil distillates and are aerosolized by high-heat box mods or pen-type devices. The study specifically investigated the potential respiratory health risks associated with these types of commercial CBD products, not the use of CBD flower in a vaporizer or pure CBD isolate in vaporizers. While the findings of the study are concerning for those who use commercial CBD vaping products, it is important to note that they do not necessarily apply to other methods of consuming CBD, such as vaporizing CBD flower.
The study is particularly significant in the context of EVALI, a lung injury condition that involved patients who used CBD vaping products. Since the CDC stopped reporting in 2020, at least 92 new EVALI cases have been recorded. vitamin E acetate was previously identified as a possible cause of EVALI, but recent studies have suggested that other vaping product components not related to vitamin E acetate may contribute to lung damage.
The study also highlights potential respiratory health risks for the many current users of CBD vaping products, as well as the need to evaluate other CBD-derived biosynthetic vaping products that continue to emerge on the market, including Δ10-THC, tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), THC acetate ester (THC-O-acetate), and hexahydrocannabinol (HHC).
In conclusion, the study sheds light on the potential respiratory health risks associated with vaping commercial CBD products. The study highlights the need for further research to fully understand the respiratory health risks associated with vaping CBD products and to identify all CBDQ protein adducts in an unbiased manner. As CBD vaping products continue to emerge on the market, it is crucial to continue researching their potential health risks and take necessary precautions to prioritize the safety and health of users.
After years of being criticized for our stance on pre-filled CBD vapes and vape juices, this study vindicates what Spekr has been saying since launching in 2018 - that they are not a safe method of CBD consumption due to the current low quality hardware standards and scientifically unproven methods in vape ingredients formulations.
This study does not confirm that vaping CBD by itself is dangerous, but opens up the possibilities for why these health problems could be happening. At Spekr, we remain convinced that the toxicity of CBD vapes is more likely to be caused by the other ingredients used in the formulations, rather than just oxidized cannabinoids, but much more research is needed on the topic, including human studies.
As a company that prioritizes the health of our customers over profits, we have always known, even without scientific data to support it, that pre-filled CBD vapes and vape juice were not going to provide the same non-toxic benefits as other methods of using CBD.
The study highlights that pre-filled CBD vapes and vape juice are not a safe option for those seeking the health benefits of CBD alone, reinforcing the company's decision to prioritize the healthiest outcomes for customers.
Despite the demand for CBD vape products in the market, Spekr remains committed to not producing them until the technological and scientific advancements allows for safer outcomes. The study adds to the growing body of evidence that vaping in its current commercial form should be approached with caution, and that Spekr's approach has been validated by scientific reasoning.
Study Title: Vaping Induced Cannabidiol (CBD) Oxidation Product CBD Quinone Forms Protein Adducts with KEAP1 and Activates KEAP1-Nrf2 Genes
Study Link: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.chemrestox.3c00038