New Nanotechnology is Taking the Cannabis Industry to a Higher Level
Yesterday, we reported on Yeti Farms, a boutique, all-natural cannabis farm in Colorado that has introduced a type of edible (named "Yetibles") that becomes bio-available in seconds to minutes, depending on the user. Compare this to typical edibles that can take thirty minutes to two hours to work. This delay can cause a myriad of problems for a consumer, including ingesting too much when the effects aren’t immediately felt.
Yetibles are different. Utilizing a patented process, Yetibles are absorbed in seconds to minutes, allowing the user to feel the effects almost immediately. Accordingly, Yetibles allow consumers to better determine the proper dosage for their individual needs and preferences.
Cannabis nano-emulsions work by taking large oil droplets and breaking them down into tiny particles that can mix with water in a way that enhances the cannabinoids’ bioavailability.
This type of novel technology has also allowed beverage startups to create better-tasting weed tonics, beers, teas, and aperitifs, reaching casual consumers looking for an alternative to alcohol.
Compared with flower or vapes, the cannabis-beverage market is small — but it’s growing. According to cannabis-industry analytics firm Headset’s 2019 cannabis-beverage market report, the canna-drink market doubled over the past two years, currently worth $3 million, only about 1.4 percent of overall cannabis sales. When it comes to oral consumption, edibles still prevail as the method of choice, with 12 percent of overall cannabis sales.
However, getting cannabis oil to mix with water-based beverages has proved challenging.
Now, through a process called nano-emulsification, cannabis oil is broken down into microscopic particles and then mixed with an emulsifier, a substance that helps oil dissolve in water.
Jake Bullock, co-founder of Cann, a THC- and CBD-infused sparkling water, said that the emulsifier takes the cannabis oil on one end and water on the other end, and suspends it in the liquid in a way that’s water-soluble and allows the product to be consistent.
Since cannabis-company founders tend to have less insight into the science of emulsification, many rely on outside labs to infuse their products. Henderson’s Outbound Brewing, the nonalcoholic cannabis-beer company, brought in an outside chemist with experience in the cannabis-beverage industry. After a month-long brewing process involving the removal of alcohol from the beer, the chemist created the nano-emulsion and infused the beer while also introducing cannabis terpenes, which impacted flavor.
“We want to work with terpenes to enhance the flavor of the beer,” the company says. “Because in a nonalcoholic beer, when you remove the alcohol you do lose some of the body. Reintroducing that using cannabis terpenes not only helped bolster the flavor of our product, but also helped guide the cannabis.”
The recipe for nano-encapsulation is a well guarded secret.
Yeti Farms founder Shawn Honaker has been working on his Yetibles for over a year. The challenge was to not only utilize miscible technology, which produces molecules 25 nanometers in size (a strand of human hair is about 75,000 nanometers wide), but also to have the edible homogenized so that the flavor and active ingredients were equally spaced within the edible.
For the time being, Honaker is selling Yetibles in the Colorado market, but says there may be opportunities to license the technology to producers in other states.
Shrink the Molecules?
Nanotechnology doesn’t actually shrink the cannabinoids. Rather, using a process called sonication, the cannabinoids are broken up at a molecular level and emulsified into a solution. In doing so, these tiny particles of matter, measured at 100nm or less, absorb easier because of their size.
Research has shown nano-sized particles can see as much as 100 percent absorption rate. With nano-sized cannabinoids, when the consumer takes a 20mg dose, they can absorb the entire dose. This increased bioavailability results in achieving the same results using a much smaller dose. In other words, you get more bang for your buck.
This technology also allows the effects of each dose to wear off earlier.
Dr. Ryan Vandrey, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences who studies the pharmacology of cannabis at Johns Hopkins University, said that the quicker the effects of cannabis hit, the quicker they subside.
However, shorter effect duration might not necessarily be a bad thing when it comes to edibles and beverages. “If you’re talking about drinking this in a social setting in an evening, you need to drive home at some point,” he says. “A faster onset and shorter duration might be better,” Vandrey said.