Enantioseparation of chiral phytocannabinoids in medicinal cannabis

. 2023 Mar 21;1221:123682.

doi: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2023.123682.

Online ahead of print.


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Fabiana Russo et al.

J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci.



The evaluation of the chiral composition of phytocannabinoids in the cannabis plant is particularly important as the pharmacological effects of the (+) and (-) enantiomers of these compounds are completely different. Chromatographic attempts to assess the presence of the minor (+) enantiomers of the main phytocannabinoids, cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and trans-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (trans-Δ9-THCA), were carried out on heated plant extracts for the determination of the corresponding decarboxylated species, cannabidiol (CBD) and trans-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (trans-Δ9-THC), respectively. This process produces an altered phytocannabinoid composition with several new and unknown decomposition products. The present work reports for the first time the stereoselective synthesis of the pure (+) enantiomers of the main phytocannabinoids, trans-CBDA, trans-Δ9-THCA, trans-CBD and trans-Δ9-THC, and the development and optimization of an achiral-chiral liquid chromatography method coupled to UV and high-resolution mass spectrometry detection in reversed phase conditions (RP-HPLC-UV-HRMS) for the isolation of the single compounds and evaluation of their actual enantiomeric composition in plant. The isolation of the peaks with the achiral stationary phase ensured the absence of interferences that could potentially co-elute with the analytes of interest in the chiral analysis. The method applied to the Italian medicinal cannabis variety FM2 revealed no trace of the (+) enantiomers for all phytocannabinoids under investigation before and after decarboxylation, thus suggesting that the extraction procedure does not lead to an inversion of configuration.


Chiral cannabinoids; Chiral chromatography; Decarboxylation; Enantioseparation; High-resolution mass spectrometry.

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of Competing Interest The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

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