You’ve heard of ozone earlier than, probably regarding the ozone layer that protects us from life-enabling, but additionally damaging ultraviolet radiation from the solar, and the truth that there’s a sizeable gap within the layer, permitting extra dangerous wavelengths to irradiate Earth. However ozone isn’t simply in a depleting layer of the stratosphere. It’s throughout us, simply in hint concentrations. And whereas the traditional, extra secure oxygen we require for all times has two oxygen atoms, the ozone molecule accommodates three oxygen atoms. That’s it.

Ozone is used industrially for a number of various purposes, equivalent to its use as a gaseous machete for cleaving carbon-carbon bonds, which has utility within the pharmaceutical {industry}, or within the synthesis of molecules. [1] Extra related to our dialogue right here, although, is ozone’s attribute use for killing microorganisms like micro organism, molds, or yeast, together with in meals merchandise, the place its GRAS (generalized acknowledged as secure) standing, penetrability, and degradation to non-toxic oxygen (O2) make it a horny possibility for disinfection. [2] Even utilizing ozonated water has offered antimicrobial properties towards a wide range of food-related, and cannabis-relevant micro organism, together with Salmonella and Escherichia coli. [3]

Microorganisms generally is a drawback in cannabis. Latest surveys point out that 15% of all commercially grown flower has microbial contamination. This amounted to $150 million of contaminated flower in Colorado alone, and by 2020, that is projected to be an industry-wide, $Three billion drawback.

Immunocompromised folks can develop aspergillosis, a critical sickness that may unfold all through the lungs and bloodstream to the guts, liver, kidneys, or mind. People who find themselves allergic to mildew can have signs like sneezing, runny nostril, pores and skin hives or rashes, to full on bronchial asthma assaults. Sufferers who aren’t allergic to mildew however are sometimes inhaling mildew spores can develop bronchial asthma or allergic signs over time.

I spoke with Jill Ellsworth, Founding father of Willow Industries, an {industry} chief in post-harvest microbial decontamination to seek out out why they’ve chosen ozone as their proposed technique of decontaminating cannabis flower.

“Three years in the past, throughout our preliminary R&D, we examined a number of decontamination strategies, however ozone proved to be the very best for cannabis,” Jill defined. “It’s secure, efficient, and has been utilized in agriculture and for water remedy for the reason that 70s, so there was analysis supporting our authentic thought.”

“Scientifically talking,” she elaborated, “ozone (O3) is a extremely unstable molecule that’s produced from oxygen. Along with being a particularly efficient antimicrobial agent, ozone quickly decomposes into oxygen, so it cleans the flower with out leaving a residue. And maybe most significantly, our ozone system reduces microbial ranges with out altering the flower’s medicinal properties; in different phrases, we clear cannabis with out oxidizing cannabinoids or terpenes.”

Jill talked about this very important facet of their know-how since there have been skeptics of this system, together with Jill herself, particularly contemplating that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can rework to cannabinol (CBN) by oxidation. So, how does Willow make the most of ozone constructively and never destructively?

“Contemplating I had the identical concern three years in the past, I fully perceive why some folks can be frightened about ozone oxidizing their cannabinoids or terpenes”, Jill responded. “Actually, that was our preliminary design problem: we knew ozone could possibly be used to manage microbials, however we wanted to discover a centration of ozone that would scale back microbial counts with out oxidizing the medicinal properties of the plant. It took a number of iterations of testing to seek out the right degree, however as you’ll be able to see by the info on our website, our system efficiently remediates cannabis whereas defending probably the most priceless chemical properties of the plant.”

Concerning the well-known transformation of THC to CBN, Jill mentioned the permeability of cannabis resin: “Though there are strategies for utilizing ozone in oil remediation,” she defined, “in our present system, the ozone doesn’t penetrate these oils so the cannabinoids and terpenes are protected.”

Some terpenes had been detected within the handled flower that weren’t measured within the beginning biomass, however these variations can stem from the variability in lab testing and the pure variation of terpenes distributed inside cannabis. Trichomes (and subsequently, terpenes) should not evenly distributed or localized on cannabis flowers, so, completely different areas on the plant may have completely different terpene concentrations. “Inside the context of our information set,” Jill added, “this idea helps clarify, for instance, why a hint quantity of geraniol was detected in a pattern handled by our machine. One other issue to contemplate is that our remedy course of can scale back moisture within the flower, so the relative proportion of every terpene can improve because the pattern weight decreases. Due to this fact, we additionally generally measure slight will increase in THC weight % in handled samples.”

Microbials can produce mycotoxins, highlighting why sending contaminated biomass off to the extractor to avoid wasting a couple of dollars isn’t ever really price it. Whereas the extraction course of can “blast off” the microorganisms, did these microorganisms produce mycotoxins that may co-extract with the focused cannabinoids and terpenes? Is ozone additionally efficient towards mycotoxins? “On the proper concentrations,” Jill defined, “ozone is able to destroying mycotoxins, like aflatoxin, that had been created by mildew spores or different microbials. Willow makes use of a focus that’s environment friendly at destroying these toxins.”

The analytical information Willow offers factors to their know-how as cannabinoid- and terpenoid-friendly since cannabis will be successfully cleaned with out deleterious results to the native chemovar. Moreover, ozone is an natural oxidizer, so it quickly reverts to breathable oxygen, leaving no residue.

Jill in contrast Willow’s ozonation remedy to utilizing UV mild. “UV mild destroys mildew spores that it contacts on the floor, as it might probably’t penetrate totally into the flower”, she defined. “Gaseous ozone, nevertheless, is able to moving into each space of the flower, so that you don’t want to interrupt up the product to insure it’s successfully being handled. Bigger buds require longer run instances to make sure the ozone has achieved this penetration.” Even with the added time, guaranteeing {that a} batch of flower is devoid of microbes needs to be well-worth the wait.

However what about significantly contaminated biomass? Can this in any respect be salvaged utilizing ozonation? Is it even price making an attempt?

The know-how is able to successfully treating very contaminated product,” Jill suggested, “however within the case of Botrytis cinerea or bacterial contamination within the vegetation’ water supply, it’s unlikely to have the ability to totally decontaminate. Botrytis, generally known as “bud rot,” is a systemic mildew that may contaminate whole vegetation past restore if not caught early sufficient. This fungus is typically known as ‘grey mildew’ and visibly seems as a grey fuzz inside or exterior of the bud. Early indicators of Botrytis can seem as bruises on the bud, which finally collapse into rot.”

Jill additionally suggested that bacterial or heavy steel contamination of a plant’s water supply is tougher to catch and can solely be revealed by check outcomes from a certified lab. Willow may also help diagnose the difficulty, and probably set up an ozonated water system, if mandatory, to make sure clear water reaches the develop rooms.


[1] Brown, T. et al. In Nicole Folchetti (ed.). Chemistry: The Central Science (ninth ed.)., 2003, Pearson Training. pp. 882–883.
[2] Kim, J. et al. “Utility of Ozone for Enhancing the Microbiological Security and High quality of Meals: A Evaluate”, Journal of Meals Safety, Vol. 62, No. 9, 1999, pp. 1071–1087. [journal impact factor = 1.510; cited by 534]
[3] Restaino, A. et al. “Efficacy of Ozonated Water towards Numerous Meals-Associated Microorganisms”, Utilized and Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 61, No. 9, 1995, pp. 3471–3475. [journal impact factor = 4.077; cited by 327]