Consumption of cannabis was a straightforward activity in the past. The primary alternatives were to smoke a joint or bowl, and perhaps a companion was familiar with the preparation of edibles. The culture and market surrounding cannabis are maturing, and as a result, a wide variety of cannabis-infused products, including concentrates, vapes, beverages, sublinguals, and transdermals, are experiencing explosive growth in popularity.
When any natural substance, such as cannabis, tea, coffee, or hops, is transformed into a product, extraction is a necessary step in the process. The purpose of any extraction method is to remove the chemicals of interest from the plant material, such as caffeine and chlorogenic acid from coffee or cannabinoids and terpenes from cannabis, while leaving the inert plant material behind. The purpose of cannabis extractions has varied significantly over the course of time. In the beginning, the objective was to accomplish a high throughput. Extraction methods with a high yield that are primarily focused on producing the maximum potential THC concentration. There has been a movement toward the use of full-spectrum extracts as a result of the presentation of further research and the increased level of consumer awareness.
Entire-spectrum extracts are significant for a number of reasons, the most important of which being the fact that they retain the full flavor and potency of the cannabis strain that was used to generate them. It is regrettable that the term “full-spectrum” has been incorrectly applied to any extract that contains both cannabinoids and terpenes. However, a true full-spectrum extract should provide cannabinoids and terpenes in the exact same ratios that were present in the cannabis cultivar that was used to make the original product. This can be demonstrated through analytical testing of both the cannabis flower used to begin the process and the extract that was ultimately produced.
VARIOUS EXTRACTION METHODOLOGIES
This transition has only contributed further to the uncertainty regarding which extraction technologies are the most effective for various product applications. While the topic of which cannabis extraction process is superior to others is by far the most frequently asked, the fact of the matter is that every approach comes with its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. The most important thing to keep in mind when selecting an extraction method is to match that method with the objectives of the extraction as well as the capabilities of the operator.
The Retrieval of Ethanol
If, for instance, the objective is to simplify an extraction as much as is humanly possible, handle a huge volume of bulk biomass, and concentrate entirely on producing a high THC extract, then an ethanol extraction coupled with distillation would be the optimal answer. Ethanol is an extraction solvent that is used rather frequently, and as a result, there is an abundance of commercial solutions available. Ethanol is a very safe solvent that is food grade and can be easily distilled away, despite the fact that it is still combustible. Last but not least, it is an effective solvent that enables the quick extraction of huge quantities of material.
On the other hand, if the intention is to keep some of the terpenes that were present in the cannabis raw material when it was first harvested, then butane extraction might be the more suitable choice. Cannabis can be quickly extracted using butane, and the cannabinoids and terpenes that are present in the plant are transferred into the extract. Unfortunately, butane extraction methods tend to be on a smaller scale. Considering that butane poses a significant risk of explosion, this means that the infrastructure costs required to provide a safe production environment could be rather substantial.
For smaller, boutique-type concentrate production butane continues to be fairly popular as it is simple to make tasty and powerful extracts. Although many people would consider concentrates, sauces, waxes, and other similar products to be full-spectrum, these products don’t quite meet the criteria. Butane does not extract all of the components from cannabis in the same manner, which results in a shift in the ratios of the naturally occurring compounds that are produced. In order to make the extracts suitable for human consumption, butane must first be eliminated from them. This removal method entails heating the substance in a vacuum, which ultimately leads to the loss of terpenes in addition to the butane solvent.
The Extraction of CO2
The Supercritical Fluid CO2 Extraction (SFE) method is quickly becoming the technique of choice because of its ability to produce true nature-identical, full-spectrum extracts for the manufacture of the highest grade products. In exchange for the improved quality of the extracted material, a significant increase in complexity is incurred. Because of the fact that, in contrast to butane and ethanol, Supercritical Fluid CO2 can be adjusted in terms of temperature and pressure, an experienced extractor can tailor each extraction to the particular strain of cannabis that is being extracted. This contributes to the complexity and quality of the product.
On the other hand, this also implies that a novice extractor can very easily over- or under-extract their cannabis, resulting in extracts that are either of inferior quality or yield a low quantity. During the early stages of the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, this problem earned SFE a poor reputation. Now, thanks to newly established procedures that have been refined with the help of engineering, chemistry, and analytical knowledge, SFE is able to generate extracts that accurately reflect the ratios of cannabinoids and terpenes found in the raw material from which they were derived. In addition, heating the product any more is not necessary in order to make it safe for human consumption because CO2 is not only harmless but also environmentally friendly and a gas at room temperature. These high-quality, nature-identical extracts avoid any potential deterioration, allowing them to give the whole cannabis experience in any product type, including concentrates, vaporizers, drinks, sublinguals, and transdermal patches.
To select the best method, it is essential to have a solid understanding of the desired outcomes of the cannabis extract that is going to be created, as well as the skills and information that are needed to run the various extraction processes. Furthermore, the goals of extraction have changed over the course of the past five years, and they will continue to change over the course of the next decade or more. Because of this, it is essential to continue researching new extraction technologies in order to remain at the forefront of an industry that is constantly evolving.