Salvaging Moldy Material

The question whether mold material is safe to use, regularly comes up on multiple forums, and there is no more a yes or no answer to the question, than there is about eating wild mushrooms.  All molds were not created equal!

Like mushrooms, molds belong to families, and while some are salubrious and even used by us in manufacturing processes, others can be deadly.

All of us have smoked moldy material, whether we knew it or not, because it is all around us, but unless you have a compromised immune system or are allergic to the spores, you don’t notice it.

In quantities large enough to create an allergic reaction, or with compromised immune systems however, the results range from a runny nose, to death.

The mold spores are the principle source of allergic reactions, but allergic reactions aside, some of the molds produce aflatoxins that attack our central nervous system and livers.  Mold material can easily be removed by filtration, but filtration doesn’t remove aflatoxins.

When considering what to do with moldy material, the pregnant question is what kind of mold?   What caused the mold is a clue, but the only reliable way to tell, is with a microscope, and I recommend that you do a microscopic examination to determine exactly what you are dealing with.

Locally, due to our short growing season, Botrytis bud rot is the bane of outdoor growers, and because of our high humidity, Powdery Mildew is everywhere.

Botrytis Mold

Powdery Mildew

The good news is that while the spores of both are capable of producing a Type I allergic reaction to those sensitive to them, neither produce know aflatoxins, so simply removing all the spores and mold material, makes it useable by removing allergens, as well as the ghastly moldy taste and smell.

Botrytis is actually the mold that produces Noble Rot in grapes, which is highly prized by wine makers for producing sweet wines.  I know of no prized use of ubiquitous powdery mildew and it is known by many other names, some of them not repeatable in polite company.

Of serious concern, an not to be taken lightly, are the Aspergillus and Penicillum molds, which are hard to distinguish from one another with simple microscopic examination, so are generally classified as Pen/Asp types.

They are easy to spot, as they were named Aspergillus because their shape, consisting of a shaft with a head like the religious water flinger the priests use, called an Aspergillum.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspergillus_fumigatus

Aspergillus is primarily a composting mold living off dead plant material, while Botrytis and Powdery Mildew target living material.

As previously noted, it has spores everywhere, but poorly cured material is the primary reason for an infestation.  It likes to grow in dark damp places.

Aspergillus is the more serious actor when it comes to serious health effects, both from allergic reactions to its spores, invasive colonization, and from its aflatoxins, but Penicillium sp. is known to cause  keratitis, external ear, respiratory and urinary tract infections, so it isn’t soft and cuddly.

The allergenic effects seen by Aspergillus spores include: Type I allergies; Type III hypersensitivity pneumonitis and others.

Some Aspergillus species are known to produce aflatoxins.  A. fumigatus causes allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis and allergic fungal sinusitis.

Members of this genus cause a disease called Aspergillosis, which is an invasive infection, colonization, toxicoses or allergy.

Many species grow at body temperature and they are opportunistic pathogens, causing infection in individuals with compromised immune systems.

Many toxins are generated by this genus, however, the full range of effects of these toxins are not well researched at this time.  They do fluoresce under ultraviolet light however, so their presence may detected by examination under a black light inspection lamp, such is used in Magnetic Particle and FPI Non-destructive Inspection techniques.

The aflatoxins will fluoresce green under the backlight and any residual solvent will fluoresce blue.

While not a mold, a bacteria anaerobic conditions created by poor curing practices promotes the growth of, and which has been found in poorly cured cannabis, is the Clostridiums.

The Clostridiums includes C botulinum causing botulism in food, and from which Botox is derived, as well as C Perfringens, which causes food poisoning and gas gangrene, as well as C Tetani, the pathogen causing tetanus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clostridium

Soooo, now that you know what to look for, if after examining your moldy material under a microscope, you still want to recover it, here is how we remove Botrytis and Powdery Mildew filaments and spores, as well as any of the Clostridium bacteria that may be present.

Our next step is to extract the essential oil from the plant material, using either an alkane or an alcohol.

If we use hexane or an alcohol, we do the filtration before evaporating off the solvent, or if we extract with butane, we redissolve the BHO in at least ten times its volume in ethanol for filtration.

Rough filtration:

We first filter through a coffee filter to remove the gross material and then through a Whatman #1 lab filter, using a vacuum assist, to save time.

Micro filtration:

Once it has been rough filtered, we then follow up by polishing it at 0.2 microns, using a 0.2 micron syringe filter.  It has a Luhr fitting, and screws on the syringe just like a needle.

In industry, I used 0.2 micron cross flow micro filtration units to scrub radio active effluent streams at up to 100 gpm, but for small needs like ours, the syringe filter suffices.

They are readily available relatively cheap on E-Bay, or at reasonable prices at American Scientific, as are the syringes.

Once we have filtered at 0.2 microns, we remove the solvent by one of several methods, and the oil will have no hint of mold flavor or taste.

Since it is the spores that cause the Type I allergic reactions, that hazard is eliminated as well.

Any Clostridiums are removed, so subsequent storage in anaerobic conditions can’t provide favorable conditions.

To repeat, filtration doesn’t remove aflatoxins, so we don’t recommend this process for mold strains that produce them.

The attached read is a good overview on some of the other things you may find in cannabis:

http://www.hempfood.com/iha/iha01205.html

16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Hands on January 3, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    Hello and Happy New Year to you all! I am going to be doing this with kief from a 145u dry sieve of which the material had mildew. First I will thermos extract as you instruct, then to winterize with the ethanol. So I just wanted to make sure, is it ok I am planning to winterize in combo with the mildew filtration? Seems like I can just go from freezer to the first step of this polishing combining with end of winterizing, just wanted to double check before I go through this extra work. Thanks so much for all you hard work .. keep it up yal.. Bless

    Reply

  2. […] Check this out. It may help. http://skunkpharmresearch.com/salvag…dy-material-2/ Reply With […]

    Reply

  3. Posted by Chris on September 7, 2013 at 8:57 AM

    I have been wanting to try this technique. I finally collected all the supplies. I mixed my freshly extracted oil with alcohol for winterizing. I removed the mix from the freezer and ran it through a #1 whatman filter. Then I used heat to remove the alcohol. When that was finished I tried using the syringe filter. I have a 60ml syringe with a 25mm dia. 0.22 micron hydrophobic PTFE filter. The oil is nearly impossible to draw through the filter. I tried filling the syringe and pushing the oil through but that didn’t work either. I diluted the oil with more everclear but that didn’t work either. I have seen the same PTFE filter material cut in circles to fit a Büchner funnel, would this be a better way to process larger amounts of oil? Maybe I’m using the wrong filter media? Maybe I didn’t dilute it down enough?
    Any advice would be much appreciated,
    Thank you.

    Reply

    • Try the cellulose acetate filters.

      Reply

      • “”I removed the mix from the freezer and ran it through a #1 whatman filter. Then I used heat to remove the alcohol. When that was finished I tried using the syringe filter.””

        I think the order of operations got mixed up. Remember, the solvent is your friend.

        Reply

      • “Once we have filtered at 0.2 microns, we remove the solvent by one of several methods, and the oil will have no hint of mold flavor or taste.”

        Reply

      • Posted by charliebean on October 16, 2014 at 8:46 AM

        I also tried the 0 .22 syringe filter and found it far too slow to filter the amount of material I need to go through it. You mentioned using a cellulose acetate filter. Would you recommend the 142mm ones that some companies sell using vacuum assist? That would be a perfect size for my Buchner funnel. I thought I would ask first since those filters are rather expensive at $150.00 for 25.
        Thanks so much!

        Reply

  4. Posted by Sppete13 on February 17, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    Once I’m set up ill be here in sf Cali ……

    Reply

  5. Posted by James on January 25, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    I am planning on setting up vacuum filtration, and was hoping you could give me some advice. Is there a specific model of bottle top vacuum filter you would recommend for use with a Robinair 15500? Would 5 CFM be to high for this model? : http://www.amazon.com/Argos-Membrane-Aspirator-Filtration-micrometer/dp/B007JNO2LO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1359173174&sr=8-1&keywords=bottle-top+vacuum+filtration
    Also not sure if the .22 micron membrane could be removed and replaced with a grade 1 Whatman. I don’t need a collection vessel any bigger than 250mL. Any and all help would be gratefully appreciated! Thank you for all the information. What an amazing resource!

    Reply

    • The filter unit looks OK and should work with your 5 cfm Robinair, but without examining it, it is unclear how easy it is to change membranes.

      Consider a simple Bushner funnel and vacuum flask, and just drop in filters. I would recommend the largest filter you can find, to get the fastest drain before clogging.

      GW

      Reply

  6. Posted by Marc on September 28, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    Are you suggesting salvaging moldy material? My nose always runs when I medicate, does that mean there is mold in all the medication I have sampled? Yikes!!!

    Reply

  7. Thanks Skunk Pharm for sharing this information with us. If we can not do this ourselves can we get help from you? And if so How do we contact you?

    Reply

    • Good question bro! We are not a service organization, but have trained folks who do plan to provide those services. We will post those businesses that we have trained and certified, as they open for business.

      Curently, Specialized Formulations is the closest to opening their doors, and will offer extractions, formulations, and alchemy of patients own material. They are fully trained, but still working on their facilities.

      Oregon Medical Growers in Gaston is also fully trained and not far behind getting set up, so they may be a second possibility.

      Reply

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