Understanding THC Oil Extraction

If you think it’s complicated that so many different things can come from cannabis — you’re not wrong. First of all, there’s CBD. Then, there’s delta 8. Of course, there are all those other cannabinoids, too, including the psychoactive star, THC. So, how does THC oil extraction work? How can you tap into all of the benefits that THC oil offers? Let’s discuss some basics and some more advanced science.

What does extraction do?

Extraction accomplishes exactly what it sounds like it does — separates THC from the plant for more diverse uses. As you’ll learn, there are a few different types of extraction methods that yield slightly different results. These results are called concentrates, and are some of the many different types of THC products. Some of the most popular cannabis concentrates include:

  • Kief or sift
  • Hash
  • Rosin
  • Live resin
  • Wax
  • Tinctures
  • THC oil
  • Distillate
  • Shatter
  • Badder/Budder

Why bother with concentrates?

Even though the traditional flower is great, there are some additional benefits to THC concentrates for more experienced or confident users. THC concentrates, as the name suggests, offer higher potency for less product. So, you can achieve your desired effects by consuming less — often inhaling with vapor or ingesting in an edible. THC concentrates also allow you to get more creative with how you enjoy cannabis. THC concentrates can also offer a high or almost no high, depending on your preference. For example, choosing an oil that is very high in CBD but low in THC.

Types of THC oil extraction

We discuss a few benefits of THC concentrates above. And naturally, as you can imagine, the stronger the concentrate, the more expensive the product is. This also depends on how complex the extraction method is. Let’s talk about the basics of each different type. Extraction methods and the resulting concentrates also fall into one of two general categories: solvent-based or solventless.

Solvent-based extraction

Solvent-based extractions are typically done on the commercial scale to create large volumes of extract. Solvents used include things like ethanol, butane, propane, or carbon dioxide to strip cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant.

Alcohol extraction

  • In alcohol extraction, cannabis plant material soaks in alcohol, likely ethanol. You then remove the plant material, filter liquid out, and the alcohol evaporates.
  • One drawback to this method is the potential for a bitter flavor if too much chlorophyll from the plant dissolves. Ethanol and alcohols are also highly flammable.
  • However, a benefit is that there is no form of residual toxic residue.

CO2 cannabis extraction

  • In this method, high pressure and heat are used to turn CO2 into both a liquid in gas, removing components from the plant.
  • A benefit of this method is that very little waste is created. Another benefit is that any remaining CO2 in the final product just evaporates, making it a great method for medical-based products.

Cannabis butane or propane extraction

  • Also incorporating pressure and heat, this method uses liquid butane and cannabis material. Evaporation and a vacuum method remove the butane.
  • A few benefits of this method include low operating and equipment cost as well as its ability to produce extracts with high terpene content.
  • A drawback of this method is that butane is highly toxic — meaning any residual content makes this method unfavorable for medical products.
  • Propane extraction is similar to butane with a few differences. You need less heat to get propane to its boiling point. Also due to this fact, the resulting product will have a different chemical profile.

Solvent-free extraction

Solvent-free extraction methods are far less complex, but still, require some level of expertise. Kief can be made by grinding and sieving cannabis material. Hash is created by separating plant material over a screen and then compressing what remains. Or, plant material is added to ice water to separate desirable parts, called trichomes. The trichomes contain the majority of cannabinoids and terpenes. You then compress the remaining material to create hash. Rosin is another concentrate created from heat and pressure that has grown in popularity. Furthermore, rosin does not carry the risk of toxicity.

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