Alcohol extraction is a centuries-old method used for extracting essential oils, fats, and other chemical compounds from various plants, not exclusively cannabis. In the world of cannabis, alcohol extraction stands out due to the plant’s unique chemistry, particularly the delicate nature of its terpenes. There are three primary methods of extraction in cannabis: butane extraction, supercritical CO2 extraction, and the increasingly popular ethanol extraction.
Historical Context of Alcohol Extraction in Cannabis
Despite the modern connotations of alcohol extraction with recent trends like vaping and dabbing, its roots extend far back. The process shares its lineage with the creation of hashish, an ancient form of cannabis concentrate. Hashish involves extracting THC from dried cannabis and compressing the resin. In contrast, alcohol extraction yields a more refined and potent concentrate than traditional hash.
|Ethanol, Isopropyl, Denatured
|Soaking in ethanol, extracting cannabinoids and terpenes, evaporation
|Roots in hashish production, now refined through modern techniques
|Rising in medical and recreational cannabis, focus on safety and potency
|Comparison with Other Methods
|Competes with butane and CO2 extraction, unique for full-spectrum potential
Types of Alcohol Used in Cannabis Extraction
Exploring Different Alcohols
- Ethanol: The only type of alcohol safe for consumption, ethanol is used in alcoholic beverages and is the preferred choice for cannabis concentrates due to its safety and effectiveness.
- Isopropyl Alcohol: Used by some for hash making, isopropyl alcohol has raised concerns due to its potential toxicity.
- Denatured Alcohol: Highly toxic and should never be consumed or used in cannabis concentrate production.
How Alcohol Extraction Works
Using ethanol near or at 100% purity is ideal for cannabis extraction. The process involves soaking cannabis in ethanol, which acts as a polar solvent. This method effectively extracts cannabinoids and terpenes while also pulling out chlorophyll, often giving the extracts a green color. The extract can be consumed in various ways: under the tongue, mixed in food or drinks, or even topically.
The Evolving Landscape of Cannabis Extraction
Innovations and Popularity
Capna Labs in California is at the forefront, developing an ethanol-based extraction method touted as the safest and most efficient to date. The goal across all methods is to achieve the purest possible concentrate. The popularity of alcohol extraction has surged in the cannabis scene, with concentrates becoming a significant focus for both medical patients and recreational users. Companies are now racing to develop the most efficient extraction processes.
Comparison with Other Extraction Methods
While ethanol extraction is a cutting-edge method, it is one among several. Butane extraction is commonly used, especially for home setups, and supercritical CO2 extraction is favored for its safety in industrial settings. However, ethanol’s ability to extract both water-soluble and oil-soluble compounds makes it uniquely effective for full-spectrum extractions.