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For thousands of years, natural remedies were the only choice for both the treatment and prevention of human ailments. Natural products are crucial resources for the creation of new medications and have become instrumental in the cannabis/hemp industry. Developing efficient and focused extraction and separation processes for bioactive natural compounds is a key element of creating high-quality cannabis/hemp products such as isolates, tinctures, and other non-flower-based medical and recreational cannabis/hemp items.
What types of natural product extraction exist today? Currently, there are a few methods being used by cannabis/hemp companies around the globe to extract different cannabinoids from the hemp plant, with more being researched and discovered year on year as the legal cannabis/hemp market grows. This article will be taking a closer look at the different types of natural product extraction, their benefits, and their downsides.
Hydrocarbon Product Extraction (Solvent-Based)
Hydrocarbon extraction, sometimes referred to as butane hash oil (BHO) extraction, is one of the most well-known and efficient solvent-based extraction techniques.
Hydrocarbons in the cannabis/hemp industry can be used to mass-produce a wide variety of high-quality cannabis/hemp concentrates. Although butane is the preferred solvent, some extractors mix it with propane (typically 70/30) to preserve more of the plant’s terpenes.
- Because butane and propane extraction have very low boiling points, more cannabis/hemp and hemp chemicals can be preserved.
- Producers can extract more therapeutic chemicals from the same cannabis/hemp plant material using hydrocarbon extraction methods since their yields are great.
- Processors may produce a wide spectrum of cannabis/hemp concentrates (live resin, shatter, crumble, and HTFSE) to satisfy any consumer need by utilizing different propane and butane solvent mixtures.
- The FDA has approved some hydrocarbons for use by industries that process cannabis/hemp.
- Setting up the facility and purchasing the necessary equipment for hydrocarbon extraction is expensive.
CO2 Extraction (Solvent-Based)
One of the most non-toxic and sustainable solvents available today is carbon dioxide. Hence, the next popular technique for extracting particular cannabinoids from the biomass of the cannabis/hemp plant is supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction.
Carbon dioxide is a gas at normal pressures and temperatures. However, when heated over critical points, which are 87.8°F and 1,070 psi, CO2 transforms into a supercritical fluid, which has properties of both a gas and a liquid.
The cannabis/hemp buds are rinsed with supercritical CO2 during the CO2 extraction process. The CO2 permeates the buds and separates the plant’s desired components like THC and CBD.
- CO2 is non-flammable and non-toxic, so its products are more appealing to consumers. (With the right safety measures in place, however, any cannabis/hemp extraction techniques can be safe for consumption and production.)
- Although the extraction apparatus can have higher initial costs than other processes, CO2 is easily accessible at a relatively low cost as the solvent.
- CO2 is a tunable solvent because it responds differently to changes in temperature and pressure. Producers can carefully choose the desirable compounds they want to separate by fine-tuning these parameters.
- This type of natural product extraction is less efficient and produces a lower yield than some other extraction methods.
- CO2 cannot extract the entire spectrum of terpenes. Most are either lost during the extraction process or remain in the biomass.
Alcohol Extraction (Solvent-Based)
Alcohol is an effective solvent for extracting cannabinoids and terpenes from cannabis/hemp and hemp in high quantities.
Depending on the intended result, ethanol extraction can be done at a wide range of cold and warm temperatures by pouring the ethanol over the raw plant material.
Unwanted components (such as excess ethanol) can be eliminated during the solvent removal process to produce a tasty and pure ethanol-based concentrate for the cannabis/hemp industry.
- In comparison to other extraction solvents, facilities are typically permitted to hold more ethanol solvent.
- As a food-grade solvent with low hazardous risk, ethanol is safe to use in the extraction of cannabis/hemp.
- Electrical and labor costs for ethanol are cheaper. As cannabis/hemp growers improve the rate of their production, scaling may also become more economical.
- Considering how highly flammable ethanol is, this extraction procedure is among the riskiest to perform.
- Cannabinoids and chlorophyll can be destroyed by ethanol as it travels through biomass.
- Frequently needs extra processing before it can be turned into a useful product.
The trichomes on cannabis/hemp flower buds or trim, which can also be used to create a range of cannabis/hemp products, can be broken by agitation techniques. For instance, various mesh screens or sieves are used to separate cannabis/hemp trichomes known as dry sift kief from the plant. The resinous trichomes, which are gathered at the bottom, are broken apart by the sieves through manual or mechanical agitation.
Another method of extraction using agitation is called ice water extraction, which includes putting the cannabis/hemp material in a succession of mesh bags with a solution of ice and water. The trichomes are easily broken when stirred up in cold water and fall to the bottom of the bags, where they can be collected later.
- A solvent-free extract gives many health-conscious customers peace of mind, and there is no risk of poisoning or injury during production.
- This method of extraction is largely accessible and affordable, even for home users.
- Agitation extraction methods have a lower yield than other methods, such as hydrocarbon extraction.
Heat and Pressure Extraction (Solventless)
Low heat and pressure are employed in rosin pressing devices to melt and compress the sticky resin from cannabis/hemp. The sticky, potent oil created is known as “rosin.” You can dab rosin or include it in a range of products, such as tinctures, topicals, and edibles.
- Comparatively easier to carry out than solvent-based extractions.
- Less hazardous than most solvent-based extraction methods.
- Solventless extracts can be produced in a range of colors and consistencies by just changing the heat and pressure.
- Rosin pressing produces concentrates of very high quality.
- The finished product cannot be kept for an extended amount of time before being used as it is perishable.
The growing demand for medical cannabis/hemp is driving the development of novel and efficient ways of extracting phytocannabinoids. In today’s cannabis/hemp-conscious world, a cannabis/hemp extraction method is available for every degree of expertise and risk tolerance, as well as every budget and physical space restriction.
Abundant Labs is a pioneer in safe, effective natural product extraction. We employ only the best methods to create only the best products. When you choose to work with us, you can trust that all safety precautions are adhered to strictly, and all cannabis/hemp products are of the absolute highest quality: that’s the Abundant Labs way. Visit our website for more information on our services or to view our full range of products.