Defining the BEST Cannabis Extraction Method

 In excerpt from a forthcoming book

Extraction is merely a controlled elution of components based on solubility. However, for many reasons, extraction of cannabis is complicated. Several variables can be manipulated during the extraction to improve results, depending upon the starting materials, operating conditions, and the ultimate goal of the extraction. The optimal extraction parameters will determine not only the type, quality and yield of the cannabis extract, but also the ease and cost of the extraction process itself. (1)

As the industry matures, haphazardly cramming feedstock into an extractor and processing the materials using generic parameters discovered on the Internet is not going to deliver a sustainable business model. By using scientific methodology optimized for the specific starting materials and the end product, extraction efficiency can be dramatically improved. Just a few percentage points of improvement can translate into significant revenue and Return On Investment (ROI).

Before starting an extraction, it is critical to map out a clear set of objectives. What is the formulation that you are trying to make? Does the formulation need aromaticity (aromatherapy ingredients)? Does the formulation need to have specific components?

What compounds are you looking to extract?

·       Physiologically-active cannabinoids are responsible for imparting cannabis medicinal and recreational benefits (10 major chemical sub-classes)
·       Terpenoid-type compounds are responsible for characteristic flavor/odor of cannabis, and they often occur at low levels in the extracted oil

·       Other prominent classes are the carbohydrates, hydrocarbons, flavonoids, alkaloids, lignanamides, glycosides, and lipids (fatty acids)

Different varieties of the plant will have different ratios of the critical components – cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and terpenes. Typically, one of the primary objectives is to monitor the ratios of these components since their attributes affect the cannabinoid potency, viscosity, color, clarity, and aroma. Even the compounds in a low percentage (terpenes, antioxidants, etc.) are valuable in obtaining an excellent commercial extract for medical or recreational cannabis. Understanding the physicochemical attributes that contribute to the product’s quality, and prioritizing their value in the final product, will provide the information necessary for making decisions about the design of the cannabis extraction process.

In the end, the “BEST” extraction method will be one that delivers:

Botanical integrity from seed to shelf

Efficacy of the process beyond efficiency, economics, effectiveness

Safety of people and product

Testing for confirmation
(1)   C. Sweeney, Cannabis Science, and Technology 1(1), 54-57 (2018)
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