Cannabis Extract Is Done In Different Ways – Which Is Best?
Ever since medical cannabis advocate Rick Simpson suggested that cannabinoids could be extracted from hemp or marijuana using petroleum ether or naphtha, extracting cannabis oil has been surrounded by controversy in some quarters, and experimentation with other solvents in others. What’s the problem?
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These solvents are unsafe for human consumption!
The problem with either of Simpson’s methods for extracting cannabis oil is that the solvents are actually carcinogenic. Researchers tested the different methods of extraction using a substrate such as a solvent, or more comfortingly, olive oil.
The research results were interesting: harsh solvents seemed to extract the greatest amount of cannabinoids, but terpenes had not been as well extracted. Ethanol and olive oil extractions did not do as good a job of extracting cannabinoids, but the terpene levels were higher and the extracts were at least fit for human consumption.
The researchers concluded that despite the higher cannabinoid levels, extracts made for harsh solvents were dangerous and should not be used. The olive oil and ethanol extracts were safe, but did not contain a high percentage of cannabinoids.
Does that mean extracting cannabis oil is a rip-off?
Both the ‘unsafe’ and ‘safe’ groups of extracts we’ve looked at so far have immense drawbacks. The harsher methods may give you cannabinoids, but they don’t have the terpenes and could give you cancer or poison you if the solvents have not been properly purged. The latter two are more benign, but don’t contain a very good concentration of cannabinoids.
But there are two more methods of extracting cannabis oil that we should not overlook: cold-pressing and supercritical CO2 extraction.
The oil, the whole oil and nothing but the oil
Cold-pressed hemp oil is simply pressed from the plant, but it should be remembered that this is basically a ‘juicing’ process, so you get pure hemp oil, but a lower concentration of essential oils. However, it’s a great way to take advantage of the nutritional value of hemp when added to food.
If you’re looking for concentrated oils that are as natural as they come, extracting cannabis oil using supercritical CO2 is the way to go. Although it is performed in a laboratory setting, this method is not toxic and unlike solvents, has low environmental impact.
Because the process takes place at a low temperature, all the ingredients: terpenes, cannabinoids and more, are maintained in their natural state. Scientifically speaking, they are not denatured (or altered) during the extraction process. It’s even possible to do selective extractions using this method. For example, coffee manufacturers are turning towards supercritical CO2 extraction to decaffeinate coffee- a process that had previously been achieved through the use of harmful solvents.
Returning to the processes that can be used for extracting cannabis oil, we can draw the following conclusions:
Don’t try this at home, and if you feel that you must do so, choose ethanol extraction and ensure that you do it correctly and purge out the ethanol afterwards.
Beware of any extraction obtained through strong solvent use. At worst, they are highly unsafe.
Ethanol extractions are safer, and this video will show you how it can be done at home.