Have you ever wondered how hemp oil is made? As it turns out, the quality of your hemp oil depends on the type of extraction process the company uses. The same hemp strain put through two different extraction processes can produce products that are distinct from one another, not only in appearance but in their chemical profile. Having an understanding of how your hemp product came into fruition is just as important (if not more) to the choice of the product itself.
What is “extraction”?
Like all plants, cannabis produces essential oil. This oil, however, cannot simply be melted off or washed away. After all, oil and water do not mix. A solvent is needed to separate the essential oil from the plant matter. This solvent allows extractors to concentrate cannabis resin into a product of its own. This oil concentrate can be used by itself or infused into other goods, like the delicious on the go Dough, sweet and savory spices, and salves.
Extractors use many different solvents to concentrate the oil of cannabis. The commonly known extractions are ethanol, butane, and propane. These solvents can be used to extract resin from psychoactive cannabis varieties and non-intoxicating hemp cultivars alike.
Yet, not all solvents and extraction methods are created equal. Some, like ethanol and CO2, are safer for consumers and processors. However, even these two processes can produce dramatically different products.
What Is Ethanol Extraction?
Ethanol is, simply put, alcohol. In ethanol extraction, the alcohol is used as a solvent. Unlike other solvents, like butane, ethanol is considered a safe and clean solvent that poses little risk of toxicity. Apart from solventless extractions, ethanol has been considered one of the safest solvents to use in consumer goods.
While all commercial extractions must undergo an intensive testing phase to ensure that unsafe levels of residual solvents are not present, ethanol easily evaporates and poses little risk to human health.
This extraction is highly efficient. Alcohols are polar in nature, allowing ethanol to form bonds with both water-soluble and fat-soluble plant compounds.
How Does Ethanol Extraction work?
Most commercial extractors prefer more technologically-advanced methods for extracting and purifying hemp resin. This technology passes ethanol through plant material and then recollects the ethanol at the end of the process. The ethanol can be recirculated around the plant material multiple times, allowing for the optimal extraction of essential oils. The end product is often syrupy in texture. Ethanol extractions produced with this style of machinery and properly processed will also be light to dark amber in coloration.
What is CO2 Extraction?
CO2 is carbon dioxide, which can be used in extraction processed when exposed to the proper temperature and pressure conditions. Similar to the ethanol extraction, CO2 extraction is considered one of the safest forms of extractions possible. CO2 products pose little risk of toxicity to consumers, which is perhaps why companies commonly use this extraction process.
Extractions made with CO2 tend to be a light to dark amber in color and have a honey-like consistency. However, unlike ethanol, CO2 is very picky. While the ethanol extraction tends to easily dissolve both water-soluble and fat-soluble molecules, CO2 fails to extract much of the beneficial phytochemicals present in cannabis resin. This is why it is believed many CO2 extractions use ethanol during the process to capture those lost phytochemicals.
How Does CO2 Extraction Work?
During this extraction process, pressurized carbon dioxide is used to pull the desired phytochemicals from a plant. In the world of cannabis, the process pulls all of the essential cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids out of the plant material.
One study, in particular, found that CO2 extraction drastically changed the chemical composition of cannabis strains. Compared with dried flower, CO2 extracts eliminated many of the subtle terpenes and flavonoids.
The primary reason is to create a pure, clean, quality oil that is safe to produce with little-to-no post-processing, unlike toxic solvents that may require many hours to purge the solvent trapped in the oil.
It wasn’t too long ago that we were still significantly unaware of the incredible health benefits of CBD. Now, we are onto new research that discovers the most efficient and safest way to extract CBD. Whenever purchasing a product, we encourage our readers to do as much research on the method of extraction as possible. (spoiler alert: CURED Full Spectrum Oil uses CO2 Extraction) We encourage you to know what you’re putting in your body.