If you’re unfamiliar with what alcohol extraction has to do with weed, here is a quick entry with encyclopedic knowledge on everything you’d ever want or need to know.
Alcohol Extraction Overview
Alcohol extraction is a process of removing essential oils, fats, and other chemical compounds from plants. Any plant as a matter of fact. Alcohol extraction is by no means exclusive to cannabis.
However, of the many possible ways to use alcohol to extract material from plants, only a few work well with cannabis. This is because of the unique chemistry of the desirable compounds in cannabis. The extreme delicacy of the terpenes in cannabis also limits viable extraction to just a few methods.
According to the experts, there are three primary methods for extracting cannabinoids and terpenes from cannabis.
The most common is butane extraction. The safest is supercritical CO2 extraction. And the most cutting edge is ethanol extraction, or more rarely isopropyl alcohol.
Butane is a popular choice, especially for home extraction setups. That’s because butane does a great job “selecting” for the active cannabinoids and terpenes that make concentrates so potent and flavorful.
In the professional, industrial setting, supercritical CO2 extraction has ruled the day. It’s cheap, safe, has a low toxicity. But it grabs a lot more plant material than butane, which means purifying the extract takes longer and is more difficult. The result is lower yield and reduced terpene and cannabinoid profile.
Capna Labs, in California, is pioneering a new ethanol-based extraction method that they argue is the safest and most efficient method to date.
Ultimately, no extraction method is one hundred percent efficient. And all have their strengths and drawbacks. Cannabis is a complex plant, and patients and recreational users alike desire different products. The goal, however, is always the same. To produce the purest concentrate possible.
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