The cannabis plant is historically known for its wide-ranging therapeutic benefits and versatility. Cannabis users can choose how they want to take their cannabis based on their health concerns or preferences. When looking for a cannabis product, the most common use is smoking, or inhaling.
Here are the pros and cons of the most popular extraction methods and the potential risks they hold for the producer and the consumer.
Cannabis extraction is essential for producing various cannabis-based products, including tinctures, edibles and cosmetics. Extraction methods matter when producing effective, high-quality cannabis products.
The more common extraction methods include solvents like Ethanol, Butane, and Isopropyl, CO2, and solvent-free (pressed) extractions.
Each extraction method will have pros and cons for the production and the effect on consumers. When considering different extractions, the cost and quality of extract profile are essential factors to keep in mind.
Butane, ethanol, and isopropyl are all types of solvent. Solvent extraction is commonly done by placing cannabis buds and leaves in a container, pouring the solvent over them before, and allowing the solvent to evaporate entirely. The resulting mixture is a concentration of all the different compounds found in the cannabis plant, which can be utilized for various products (1).
Extraction using solvents is favoured amongst many producers for its low cost and quick speed, so large amounts can be produced quickly. Another advantage is how easy and straightforward the process is—demonstrated by how popular this method is.
However, solvents are flammable, so strict regulations must be set in place before extraction. Many types of solvents can also destroy the delicate cannabis plant tissue, possibly destroying viable cannabinoids in the process (2). Due to this, other extraction methods may be better at isolating specific cannabinoids.
For the cannabis user, solvents result in a “complete extraction” since all the different trichomes are targeted among other compounds found in the plant (3). Retaining all the aromatic compounds can result in a potent cannabis product, providing more substantial effects when taken. It’s important to note that solvent extracted products can contain solvent residue and have a slight impact on the final taste of the product.
CO2 extraction is commonly done by pumping CO2 into a chamber with dried cannabis plants. The CO2 is at a specific state of matter between a liquid and gas. It then runs through the cannabis, absorbing the cannabinoids. The CO2 is then separated from the oil, which can then be collected and utilized in cannabis-based products (4).
CO2 extraction can be costly, with a complex system that requires operation from skilled technicians and is overall slower than other extraction methods. However, it produces a safe and high-quality cannabis product with all the retained properties in the cannabis plant.
For the CBD user, purchasing CBD-based products produced through CO2 extraction can mean a more effective product with minimal side effects. Specific cannabinoids can also be isolated, so if users are looking for cannabis products with particular results, this method might be best for them. Also, CO2 extraction has a low risk of residual contaminants being present, making it an excellent choice for vaping (5).
Solvent Free (Pressed) Extraction
Solvent-free extraction involves rosin presses to apply pressure and heat to liquefy cannabinoids before pressing them out of the cannabis plant. Because rosin is solvent-free, pressed extraction is regarded as slightly safer than solvent extractions, with minimal solvents like butane being left over in the rosin (6).
Pressing equipment can be costly, and the high pressure and extreme heat can be dangerous for those inexperienced with this method. This method requires a lot of patience and experience. Using rosin pressing to extract cannabis can also yield low amounts at one time.
However, the finished product is the highest quality and retains all cannabinoids, terpenes, flavinoids which preserve the properties of the components. This can be highly appealing to the user. Due to the lack of solvent contamination in cannabis products made with the solvent-free extraction method, the finished taste can also be clean and delicious (7).
There are many different types of extraction methods available. While each one will yield extracts, some methods result in higher-quality products.
All extraction methods come with various advantages and disadvantages for the producer and consumer. Learn as much as possible to make sure to take the most informed decision.