Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is becoming increasingly popular by the day. It is a natural health supplement extracted from either cannabis or hemp and is known to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective effects. Because of this, CBD is believed to be beneficial for a wide range of medical conditions, as well as simply improving your general wellbeing.
With CBD’s sudden increase in popularity, the number of CBD products available has also grown. As well as being available in the traditional form of CBD oil, you can also buy CBD capsules, edibles, vape oils, topicals, and more.
So, how did your favorite CBD make its way from plant to medicine cabinet? In this article, we take a closer look at CBD extraction methods, specifically, hydrocarbon extraction.
In the first stage, cold butane is washed over the plant material. This process dissolves the cannabinoids and terpenes, extracting them from the hemp or cannabis. After washing, the active compounds will be transferred from the plant material into the butane solution.
In order to create a high-quality product, it is essential that high-quality bud is selected for the washing stage. Using plant material that has a low cannabinoid content or has been improperly stored will result in a substandard product in the long run.
Winterization and Filtration
Winterization is a process which is used to remove impurities such as lipids and plant waxes from the cannabinoid solution. This is usually done with ethanol, another solvent, which dissolves these impurities and is then removed from the mixture.
Winterization is not as necessary with hydrocarbon CBD extraction as it is with some other extraction methods. This is because hydrocarbon extraction is conducted at low temperatures, meaning that fewer lipids and waxes are dissolved in the first place. Therefore, many closed-loop hydrocarbon systems include an ‘in-line dewaxing column’ which removes impurities without the need for winterization.
Although these dewaxing columns do not remove impurities as thoroughly as winterization, they do a better job of preserving terpenes which can be damaged by more traditional methods.
Once the cannabinoids and terpenes have been extracted and the impurities removed, it’s time to collect the concentrate.
This is done by heating the butane to remove it from the CBD extraction. The butane is then returned to the solvent tank of the closed-loop system, while the useful compounds are separated for further purification.
The final purification stage is designed to ensure that any traces of solvents are removed from the end product. This can be done by whipping to create concentrates such as wax, or by spreading the product on a sheet and placing in a vacuum oven to make shatter.
Pros and Cons of Hydrocarbon CBD Extraction
As with all methods of CBD extraction, the hydrocarbon method comes with its own list of pros and cons.
The advantages of hydrocarbon extraction are that it creates a potent end product which can be used to manufacture a variety of different CBD concentrates. With hydrocarbon extraction, the crystalline cannabinoids can easily be separated from the liquid terpenes and either used separately or recombined to make full-spectrum products.
The most obvious disadvantage is safety. Hydrocarbons are dangerous and their use is restricted to Class 1, Division 1 hazardous areas. This means that these flammable solvents are subject to strict regulations regarding use and storage. Only a limited quantity can be kept on site, meaning that companies using hydrocarbon extraction may find it difficult to upscale.
The machinery used to extract CBD with hydrocarbons is also expensive and challenging to automate. The quality of the end product relies heavily on the skill of the operator, and may not be as consistent as some other extraction methods.
The final disadvantage is that when done incorrectly, hydrocarbon extraction can leave traces of solvent in your CBD product. Certainly not what you want if you are trying to improve your health!
To summarize, here is our quick-reference chart on the pros and cons of hydrocarbon CBD extraction:
|Hydrocarbon CBD extraction||1||2||3||4|
|Pros||Highly efficient extraction method||Produces high-potency end product||Preserves terpene content||Reduced need for winterization process|
|Cons||Hydrocarbons are flammable and dangerous||Extraction is expensive due to equipment and regulations||High level of skill required to maintain product quality||Trace impurities may be left in end product|
Hydrocarbon Extraction for CBD: Final Thoughts
Hydrocarbon CBD extraction is a highly efficient method which produces a potent end product with a great cannabinoid and terpene profile. However, the process requires a high level of skill to do correctly, and in the wrong hands, could be extremely dangerous.
There are pros and cons to all CBD extraction methods, and which one you choose is really a matter of personal preference. And while the extraction method of your CBD is important, there are other factors to take into consideration such as full-spectrum vs. isolate, what type of product to choose, and whether you are even buying from a reputable company.
For more on how to choose the right CBD therapy for you, check out our related article CBD Oil for Sale [A Buyer’s Guide]