The Extraction Process

Last week, in part one of this eight-part series featuring MÜV products, the physicians at DocMJ toured AltMed Florida’s indoor growing facility. Beginning with the early stages of the plant, they followed as the plants progressed from room to room, seeing each step of the growing process, finishing the tour in the drying room.

From there we transitioned into learning about the next phase of creating medical cannabis products – the extraction process. The AltMed team lead us into their laboratory, which as with the grow tour, did not disappoint our doctors. Here, they witnessed the sophisticated equipment in motion, each set for a specific purpose in the lab’s sterile environment.

Once finished drying, the bud is added to curing bins which are then frozen and funneled into 5 lb. sock-like bags, that will be soaked in chilled ethanol, pressurized and processed. During this time the clear ethanol will darken from the plant compounds which will deliver a dark crude extract that will then be filtered to remove any unwanted substances. This cold ethanol extraction method ensures that cannabinoids, like THC and CBD, and terpenes alike are preserved for maximum medicinal benefit, consistency, taste, and effect.

By using ethanol and a combination of shaking, pressurizing and maintaining precise temperatures, the material is converted from flower form into the highest quality concentrate. This includes Shatter, Gold and Blue, along with strain-specific terpene enriched distillates and oils. The doctors carefully observed these jars of crude extract and enjoyed the discussion with the MÜV lab team on how the extract would be used for the final product.

Here are a few of the questions asked by our doctors about the extraction process and end product and answered by AltMed’s Extraction Manager, Anna Vidal.

Q: How can you ensure the consistency of the products being produced – if a patient finds something that is working, they will have continued access to it?

A: Consistency of the product in the extraction process is achieved because of the rigid protocol that is followed for each individual bud pulled from the cure bin. Because of our internal Research and Development along with patient feedback, we have determined which strains deliver the best results for the various concentrates and distillates. Since this is predetermined, the process was customized to maximize the extraction performance in every state of manufacturing – therefore, producing a consistent result that can be closely duplicated.

Q: How is Ethanol Extraction safer than CO2 or Butane? What are the patient benefits?

A: The FDA has deemed the consumption of Ethanol in this way to be safe and a third-party lab verifies undetectable amounts of ethanol through rigorous testing before our products are released to the dispensaries.  Our internal standards along with third-party results support that ethanol extraction used in MÜV products is safe.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and butane tend to require a lot of post-extraction processing to remove undesirables, whereas ethanol is very straight-forward and clean (in both CO2 and butane extractions you must winterize the concentrate with ethanol as the last step.) The extract is essentially ready to use as soon as soon as it is extracted and dried. Dr. Szabo of DocMJ adds, “Solvents such as ethanol are used to dissolve active ingredients from medicinal plant materials such as cannabis. The Cannabis is often soaked in the ethanol (alcohol) for about a month and then the soaked plant material now called “Menstruum” is pressed and the resulting tincture is collected.”

While other companies may use MCT or vegetable glycerin when using the extract to create vape pens, MÜV uses all cannabis-derived terpenes in order to achieve the desired viscosity for vape pens rather than fillers.

The patient benefits from all cannabis-derived ingredients, in a solvent-free formulation that has been meticulously manufactured through a rigidly monitored process. Knowing what the final use of the bud is before the process begins allows us to achieve the desired result.

Q: Can you explain the benefits of the terpenes that are extracted and the THCA vs THC?

A: Terpenes are crucial in helping to facilitate the movement of cannabinoids into the endocannabinoid system.

They increase the overall experience with cannabis by creating what is called the ‘entourage effect’.  While the benefits of all of the terpenes present in cannabis are still being studied, some terpenes can serve as antioxidants, and each has their own unique benefit: i.e. certain strains contain higher levels of a terpene called linalool, linalool is found in abundance in nature in plants such as lavender; and has been known to relax the body and mind in most people (your personal reaction to terpenes is; personal.) Dr. Szabo explains, “The Entourage effect is defined as the enhancing, synergistic effect that occurs when the whole plant of cannabinoids, terpenes, and botanical compounds are consumed together.”

In terms of THCA vs. THC: “THCA is the acidic precursor of THC. Cannabis doesn’t actually produce THC or CBD instead the plant produces all cannabinoids in an acid form. THCA is found in raw plant material”, says Dr. Szabo. When subjected to extraction, and converted to an oil form, it still exists as THCA (all concentrates). This is a non-psychoactive compound and will not convert to activated delta-9 THC until it’s subjected to combustion, vaporization, or decarboxylation. There are many benefits, and THCA is great for patients who seek the medicinal benefits of THC, without wanting as much of the psychoactive properties associated with delta-9 THC (delta-9 is the combusted or “activated” version of THC.)

Dr. Szabo, as well as the other physicians at DocMJ are committed to ongoing education and recommending cannabis in its purest form to treat patients’ medical needs. By being a part of this informative first-class facility tour, they learned more about AltMed’s use of third-party labs for safety testing, the measures taken to preserve the cannabinoids and terpenes, and the variety of products available to our patients. MÜV products are based on science, Research and Development, rigorous testing, and patient feedback. They are considered to be of the highest quality on the market and as such receive DocMJs stamp of approval.  

A special thanks to Dr. Brian Szabo for his contributions to this article