If you’re wondering how the cannabis terpene extraction process actually works, you aren’t alone. In truth, there’s no single answer we can provide here today because there are several different methods. At the moment, vaping is extremely popular in the US, and cannabis concentrate is required to enjoy this. Often, we take the extraction process from the cannabis plant for granted, but we’re going to explain all today!
Firstly, why are there so many different methods? Ultimately, it’s because the industry hasn’t yet found one method that exceeds all others in every area. When companies are extracting from a cannabis plant, they need to think about their goals while also considering the benefits and drawbacks to each method before proceeding with one.
For many, the problem has always been the delicacy of extracting all the pivotal substances. How can we do this while removing the impurities, chlorophyll, and fats? To extract one component and keep it in good condition while eliminating others is incredibly difficult.
Of course, companies also need to think about their resources. When a business can do something quicker, they usually take this opportunity. When extraction takes longer, it costs more money and also potentially allows a competitor to step in and overtake them. If we look at the cost dilemma, the consumer will need to take a percentage of this, and suddenly they’re either paying more or going elsewhere for their product.
At the moment, the most common methods of cannabis terpene extraction fall into two categories; solvent and non-solvent.
Relying on heat and pressure to get results, the two leading non-solvent solutions are steam and hydrodistillation. If we look at steam, the manufacturer will boil water and suspend the raw plant above. Steam will rise through the plant, and this draws out terpenes and other light oils. With hydrodistillation, the goal is the same, but the plant goes into the water. Over time, the same light oils will rise to the surface to be collected.
Non-solvent solutions allow us to get extracts without diluting them, and this is a huge advantage. However, the biggest problem is that the terpenes are easily destroyed due to the high temperatures.
To prevent damage or distortion, manufacturers developed BHO (butane hash oil) methods. As a solvent extraction method, it’s often called ‘butane honey oil’ due to the gold-like substance. With the plant in a glass container, the BHO is passed through, and this leads to a liquid. From here, this gets filtered as the butane is removed; now, we have a BHO concentrate. As a non-polar solvent, we can leave impurities behind while extracting.
After a number of accidents in homes, manufacturers encourage people to stay away from home butane tubes. In a professional environment, the closed-loop system ensures that a vacuum oven recovers evaporated butane. With open BHO tubes at home, the butane enters the air, and this creates an explosion risk.
After these two, some companies are now using supercritical CO2 extraction. Returning to pressure and heat, a supercritical liquid is created from the gaseous CO2. Then, the liquid is a solvent for the cannabis plant. Elsewhere, live resin allows for a stronger final product.
In the years ahead, if we see one change in this industry, it’s likely to be with ethanol extraction since this is where much investment is going currently!