Houdini Lab

Medical Importance and Extraction Techniques

For millennia, the cannabis (cannabis, hemp) plant has been utilized medicinally. Along with terpenes and flavonoids, these plants contain around 100 different types of medically useful chemicals known as cannabinoids [1]. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two most important and well-known cannabinoids [2]. Cannabinoids have the ability to impact receptors in our cells directly and/or indirectly because they imitate endogenous endocannabinoids produced by our bodies, for example, in reaction to injury [3].
CBD is non-psychoactive and has been shown in clinical studies to possess analgesic, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, antipsychotic, antinausea, and antirheumatoid arthritic effects [4, 5]. medical-cannabis-prescription-small.jpg It is most recognized for its anticonvulsant characteristics, which enable it to be used to treat epilepsy [6-8]. THC is psychotropic and can be used recreationally as a result. It is, however, an exceptionally strong medicinal molecule that is used to treat nausea, vomiting, and pain in cancer patients, as well as to promote appetite [9].


Due to the enormous synergy between cannabinoids and terpenes (fragrant oils responsible for the cannabis plant’s scent), natural cannabis-based medicines are far more helpful than any single pure or synthetic cannabinoid [10]. When combined, CBD and THC have been shown to improve symptoms associated with neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis [11, 12], as well as age-related inflammatory diseases [3].



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Concentrated extracts of cannabis plants (shatter, crumble, budder, wax, and oil) have grown in popularity in recent years because they enable a variety of simple administration methods that are superior to smoking the plant directly. Concentrates are viscous and frequently extremely sticky substances that can be obtained through extraction with petroleum hydrocarbons (e.g., propane, butane, hexane, petroleum ether, and naphtha), subcritical or supercritical CO2, and alcohols (e.g., ethanol, isopropanol). Following extraction, the solvent is evaporated, yielding the “pure” and extremely strong concentrate. Due to the extraction of undesirable plant waxes, lipids, and chlorophyll, an additional “winterization” phase may be required. This stage entails resolving the extract in ethanol at a ratio of around 1:5, freezing at – 40 oC for at least 24 hours, filtering out the precipitated undesirable components, and evaporating the ethanol.



On average, cannabis plant buds yield approximately 12.5% of concentrated cannabis [13]. Because the buds must be completely covered during extraction, the solvent volume to plant mass ratio must be approximately 20 or greater [13, 14], which presents a challenge because the solvent must then be evaporated.


Except for subcritical and supercritical CO2, the solvents listed above are combustible. Due to the fact that their vapors are denser than air, they can accumulate at the floor of an improperly ventilated room and explode. As a result, special precautions are usually required when working with these compounds.


Petroleum hydrocarbons – quick and efficient, but harmful and unhealthful


Petroleum hydrocarbon extraction virtually eliminates chlorophyll contamination, is relatively affordable, and produces extremely strong compounds, all of which contribute to its popularity [15]. However, the danger connected with these solvents is heightened, as they are more combustible and volatile than the others. Additionally, significant levels of hydrocarbons (about equal to the total terpene content) are always retained in the end product, which is hazardous to health [16].


The extraction equipment connected with this technique costs around $30,000 for a machine capable of processing 2.5 kg of dried cannabis material in about an hour (plus 1 additional hour for dewaxing). A typical unit of this type measures 82″ H X 73″ W X 21″ D [17]. The extraction is carried out in batch mode using a preloaded predetermined amount of source material.


CO2 supercritical and subcritical processes are efficient, clean, and safe, but they are also sluggish, complex, and expensive.


Supercritical and subcritical CO2 are chemically inert, non-flammable, and easily separated from and recycled from finished products. It is a highly effective solvent for non-polar and slightly polar chemicals, resulting in excellent extraction yields. However, its application necessitates the purchase of expensive, complex, and large equipment capable of operate at extremely high pressures (1,500 PSI). Additionally, it is critical to completely dry the cannabis material before to CO2 extraction to avoid the creation of carbonic acid, which can cause the extracted oil to go rancid, as well as to maintain high oil yields and limit extracted chlorophyll. Winterization is frequently required following the use of supercritical or subcritical CO2, but some reports indicate that this requirement might be minimized by “tuning” the solvent’s characteristics via pressure and temperature modifications [18].


The equipment costs and processing durations for this method are significantly greater, costing around $120,000 for a system capable of extracting oil from 3.2 kg of raw material in approximately 16 hours. A typical unit of this type measures 82″ H X 93″ W X 75″ D [19]. On a defined amount of preloaded raw material, the process is carried out in batch mode.


Alcohols are quick, effective, and non-toxic, but they are also expensive and somewhat risky.


Alcohols are a particularly tempting alternative to hydrocarbon solvents due to their extremely low or zero toxicity, excellent solvent characteristics, and lesser flammability (although care still must be taken when using them). However, these solvents also extract undesirable components, such as chlorophyll, necessitating post-processing (winterization). Additionally, it is highly energy-intensive to remove these solvents following extraction.


An ethanol extraction machine capable of processing about 4 kilograms of raw cannabis material costs approximately $90,000 and takes approximately one hour to finish [20]. This system is identical in size to the previously mentioned petroleum hydrocarbon unit, and the process is also carried out in batch mode using a predetermined amount of preloaded raw material.


Olive oil is an excellent alternative, but it is not ideal for creating concentrates.


Romano and Hazekamp [16] demonstrated that olive oil is likely the finest solvent for cannabis extractions because it is non-toxic and efficiently extracts all terpenes and cannabinoids while leaving chlorophyll behind. Regrettably, because olive oil has a boiling point higher than that of cannabinoids and terpenes, it cannot be boiled out when the extraction procedure is complete. This means that cannabis concentrates cannot be made in this manner, and cannabinoid concentrations in olive oil cannot surpass a trace amount. Even if the oil is reused numerous times for extracting cannabinoids from fresh buds, the resulting product’s cannabinoid level will remain too low to qualify as a “concentrate.”



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Industrial Sonomechanics has been providing ultrasonic equipment for several years.


The enhancement of extraction rates and yields of cannabis oil;


The development of water-soluble cannabis extract formulations with increased bioavailability and commencement of action.

Our continuous research in these areas has resulted in some significant advances, which we will discuss in future blog postings.


Currently, we are concentrating our efforts on the following:


1. Developing a method for extracting cannabis oil using only water. The idea is to avoid employing solvents and instead use water as the extraction medium (along with other food-compatible additions). Due to the hydrophobic nature of cannabis oils, which do not mix well with water, this strategy is rather difficult. However, due to the fact that high-intensity ultrasound is extremely effective at mixing liquids that do not mix normally, we anticipate developing this technology within several months.


2. Formulating transparent, water-soluble cannabis extracts with increased bioavailability. Due to cannabis extracts’ limited solubility in water, they have a low bioavailability, necessitating patients to drink significantly more substance than is necessary. We are in the last phases of producing cannabis extract nanoemulsions (nano-cannabinoids) with remarkable bioavailability and therapeutic impact, leveraging our experience in the pharmaceutical business. Translucent and water-soluble, these formulations can be easily incorporated into beverages without sacrificing their optical clarity.