Concentrates: Which Extraction Method is Best?
When most people think of “marijuana” they picture the infamous flowers of the plants. Nowadays, however, there is anything available from lotions to tinctures to suppositories for qualified medical marijuana patients. All of these options can be quite overwhelming for some and when you realize there are multiple different ways to make these products it can seem like a foreign language.
Medical marijuana products are available for purchase in Florida for those with a qualifying medical condition. If you or a loved one is interested in seeing if medical marijuana is right for you, take this short and simple pre-qualifying survey.
Variety of Concentrates
In order to process the flower into one of these other products, parts of the plant have to be extracted into concentrates. By using different methods, extractors are able to process the marijuana plant to obtain the most desirable compounds of the plant and turn that into a variety of products. Concentrates let you experience marijuana in many different ways, and they come in all different shapes and textures.
Concentrates can be separated into two categories based off of the extraction technique used:
- Solvent Extractions: A substance is used to separate the active compounds from the thricome gland to yield a solution. [A]
- Solventless Extraction: physical separation of the trichomes from the plant by means of shaking or pressing.
Butane Hash Oil (BHO)
Marijuana concentrates extracted with a butane-based solution is one of the most popular extraction methods used. Butane Hash Oil (BHO) can come in different consistencies, creating products such as shatter.
With this method, the extractor places plant material in a column with a filtration system, and the butane passes through it, stripping the plant material of its cannabinoids and terpenes. [B] The solution is then placed in a vacuum oven that evaporates the butane and other foreign contaminants out of the finalized product. Under this extraction method, THC content can be as high as 80%-90%, making it a popular choice for those suffering from chronic pain and sleep troubles.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Another commonly used solvent based extraction method is the CO2 technique. Carbon dioxide is a supercritical fluid, meaning it converts into a liquid form when pressurized. [C] Since this method uses a naturally occurring substance and leaves no residue behind, it is a very popular technique used.
The CO2 process allows the cannabinoids and trichomes to be extracted with low toxicity and minimal damage. The CO2 is pumped through a filter, separating the trichomes from the plant matter and then it is evaporated leaving behind the cannabinoids. This method is commonly used for distillate products present in vape cartridges, shatter, crumble and other concentrate products.
Ethanol is both more efficient to use and safer to handle in comparison to the other solvents used in extracting cannabinoids. It is a great option for commercial production of high-quality oils, distillates, and other marijuana concentrates. [D] This method soaks the plant matter in ethanol to extract the cannabinoids and terpenes present. The resulting mixture is then purged and refined for purity.
The downside of ethanol extraction is it takes a longer time and requires more material. It is costly, limited in the products it can make, and much more labor intensive than other solvent-based methods.
More recently, the medical marijuana community has been turning to solventless extraction methods. Rosin is made simply by combining heat and pressure to melt off the trichomes on the flower. This method maintains the beneficial ingredients of the plant without adding any additional materials to the mix.
It is hard to determine which extraction method is superior to the rest, because they are each beneficial in their own way. The types of concentrates produced by these different techniques can vary by cannabinoid percentage, consistency, flavor, and effects. Each individual has a unique experience with each and every product, so it is important to do your research and ask questions to decide which concentrate product is best for you.