THC oil, also known as cannabis oil, is an oil infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) extracted from the cannabis plant. THC oil has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its purported health and wellness benefits. However, like any consumable product, THC oil does have an expiration date after which its potency and safety can come into question. This article will examine whether using expired THC oil can make you sick.
What is THC Oil?
THC oil is a concentrated liquid extract made from cannabis that contains high levels of THC, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. Some key facts about THC oil:
- It comes in various forms including tinctures, gel caps, vaporizer cartridges, and syringes
- It is extracted from cannabis plants using a solvent like alcohol or CO2
- It usually contains very high THC levels ranging from 50-90%
- It may also contain other cannabinoids like CBD, CBN, and terpenes
- It can be consumed by vaporizing, ingesting, applying topically, or sublingually
- It is used both recreationally and medically for issues like chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, lack of appetite, and more
THC oil allows people to experience the therapeutic and psychoactive effects of cannabis in a highly concentrated form. When derived from legal hemp, THC oil may contain up to 0.3% THC. However, illicit THC oil can contain much higher THC levels.
Does THC Oil Expire?
Like any botanical extract, THC oil does have a shelf life. With time, the cannabinoids and terpenes in the oil will slowly degrade and lose potency. Exposure to oxygen, light, and heat can accelerate this breakdown process.
Generally, properly stored THC oil has a shelf life of:
- 12-18 months when refrigerated
- 6-12 months when stored at room temperature
- 2-6 months when stored in hot conditions
However, these timelines can vary based on the quality and type of THC oil. Well-made THC oil stored in a cool, dark place can potentially last up to 2 years before undergoing significant potency loss.
Does expired THC oil become unsafe or dangerous to consume? Let’s take a look at what can happen when you use THC oil past its expiration date.
Changes in Expired THC Oil
Here are some of the main changes that occur as THC oil starts to decline in freshness and potency:
Loss of Terpenes
Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in cannabis that modulate the effects of THC. They tend to degrade more rapidly than cannabinoids when exposed to oxygen, light, and heat. As they break down, THC oil loses some of its aroma, flavor, and nuanced effects.
Loss of THC
With time, THC gradually converts to another cannabinoid called CBN (cannabinol). CBN has more medicinal sedative effects and none of the intoxicating effects of THC. While conversion to CBN may be beneficial for insomnia, it reduces the psychoactivity of expired THC oil.
Loss of Other Cannabinoids
Besides THC, THC oil contains array of other beneficial cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, and CBC. Like THC, these compounds degrade into less active forms over time leading to a loss of the “entourage effect” from the cannabinoids working synergistically.
Exposure to oxygen causes THC oil to oxidize over time, leading to a loss of potency and development of potentially harmful degradation compounds. Properly stored oil oxidizes slowly, while improper storage accelerates oxidation.
THC oil can potentially harbor mold, bacteria, and other microbes that can grow over time if the oil isn’t properly preserved. However, most commercially produced THC oils contain preservatives to prevent microbial growth.
Can Expired THC Oil Make You Sick?
So can using THC oil past its prime actually make you ill? Here are the key factors:
Mild Effects from Reduced Potency
The most likely impact of using expired THC oil is that its effects will be diminished. As THC and terpene levels drop off, the oil simply becomes gradually less potent.
Consuming expired THC oil may result in:
- Milder psychoactive effects
- Decreased efficacy for medical issues
- The need to consume more to achieve desired effects
While undesirable, these mild effects pose little health risk in most cases. However, the need to use more THC oil to compensate for potency loss can lead to overconsumption and severe cannabinoid intoxication in some cases.
There is some concern that degraded cannabinoids and terpenes in expired THC oil could break down into toxic compounds over time. However, research has yet to demonstrate that aged or oxidized THC oil produces compounds toxic enough to cause illness when consumed.
More research is still needed, but available evidence does not indicate toxic byproducts are a significant concern with expired THC oil.
Dirty extraction methods or improper storage could potentially lead to mold, bacteria, or other microbes growing in THC oil over time. Contaminated THC oil would present a health risk when vaped or consumed orally.
However, there are currently no documented cases of serious illness caused by microbial contamination of expired THC oil. Properly produced THC oil with preservatives should inhibit microbial growth even after expiration.
Loss of Desired Effects
The most likely negative health effect would come from a loss of THC oil’s intended therapeutic effects after expiration. This could mean reduced efficacy for treating medical conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD, and lack of appetite.
While not inherently harmful, loss of effectiveness could lead to worsening symptoms for medical THC oil users. For optimal results, medical cannabis oils should always be used prior to their expiration date.
How to Properly Store THC Oil
To maximize shelf life and avoid any potential issues, here are some tips for proper storage of THC oil:
- Store in an airtight container to limit oxygen exposure
- Keep in a cool, dark place away from heat and light
- Refrigeration can extend shelf life but avoid freezing
- Avoid extreme temperature fluctuations which accelerate degradation
- Use the oil within 1 year for optimal freshness and effects
- Check for signs of clouding or separation – discarded if observed
Proper storage keeps THC oil potent for as long as possible. Refrigeration and opaque, airtight containers are ideal for storage.
Signs Your THC Oil Has Expired
Watch for these common indicators that your THC oil is past its prime:
Change in Color
Fresh THC oil ranges in color from clear to golden brown. Expired oil may darken or take on a reddish hue.
The oil may start to appear hazy or opaque rather than transparent when its quality declines.
You may notice separation between the carrier oil and cannabinoid extract in old THC oil. Separation signals curtailed shelf life.
Decline in Scent
As aromatic terpenes degrade, the THC oil will smell less pungent. A faint odor indicates expired oil.
THC oil can crystallize or harden with age as cannabinoids degrade into solid forms. Hardened oil has reduced potency.
Evaporation of volatile compounds like terpenes gives very old THC oil a dry, crusty texture rather than an oily one.
Can You Safely Use Expired THC Oil?
The safety risks of using expired THC oil are minimal. However, to avoid subpar results, it is best to discard THC oil that is over 12-18 months old.
If your THC oil has recently expired, look for signs of separation, cloudiness, or color change. If the oil still appears sound, it may still retain adequate potency, especially if properly stored. But expect its effects to be mildly attenuated.
While not dangerous, severely degraded THC oil provides very little benefit therapeutically or recreationally. The safest bet is to only use fresh, recently produced THC oil. Properly stored in a cool dark place, THC oil can remain usable for over a year past its production date.
Can Expired THC Oil Make Pets Sick?
What about giving expired THC oil to pets? Here are the key considerations:
- Cats and dogs appear to experience THC toxicity more readily than humans
- THC overdose in pets can cause coordination problems, lethargy, vomiting, or urinary incontinence
- Giving pets THC oil past its expiration increases the risk of overdose due to reduced potency
- Improperly stored THC oil may pose toxicity risks to pets if it contains mold, heavy metals, pesticides or other contaminants
- Unless recommended by a veterinarian, pets should only be given THC oil still within its expiration date
While expired THC oil likely won’t make your pet violently ill, it may increase their risk of an adverse reaction. Stick to pet-specific hemp oils or veterinarian-approved THC oils within their expiration period for optimal safety.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you get sick from 2 year old THC oil?
THC oil that is 2 years old is almost certainly expired and degraded. While it likely won’t make you violently ill, 2 year old THC oil will have very little potency left and provide minimal effects. It’s best to discard THC oil more than 1 year old.
Does old THC oil lose potency?
Yes, as THC oil ages and oxidizes, it absolutely loses potency. Expect a gradual decline in effects over time as THC and terpene levels drop off. After about a year, the potency loss is quite noticeable.
Is cloudy THC oil bad?
Cloudiness in THC oil signals contamination, separation of compounds, or the formation of cannabinoid crystals. While not necessarily hazardous, cloudy oil has reduced quality and potency. Cloudiness usually occurs in expired or poorly made THC oils.
Can THC oil expire if unopened?
Yes, even unopened THC oil has a shelf life. Unopened bottles may last a bit longer than opened product, but THC oil will still degrade over time due to oxygen exposure, light damage, and other factors. Refrigeration can prolong shelf life of unopened oil.
Does THC oil need to be refrigerated?
Refrigeration can effectively double the shelf life of THC oil compared to room temperature storage. Keeping THC oil refrigerated is recommended but not necessarily mandatory. With proper storage conditions, THC oil can remain potent at room temperature for many months after being opened.
The Bottom Line
While no definitive dangers have been linked to expired THC oil, using THC oil past its expiration date is never advisable. As THC oil ages, it loses aroma, flavor, and potency.
Discoloration, cloudiness, separation, crystallization, and diminished smell are indicators THC oil has expired. Although microbiological contaminants are unlikely in commercial THC oils with preservatives, improper homemade extraction and storage could potentially lead to contamination issues over time.
For maximum freshness and efficacy, use THC oil within a year of purchase – or within 6 months if storing in hot conditions without refrigeration. Discard THC oil showing any signs of expiration for best results. With proper cool storage in an airtight, opaque container, THC oil can retain its safety and potency for 12-18 months after production. But degraded THC oil provides minimal benefits, so always consume THC oil within its expiration date for optimal effects.