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Cannabis Extraction Methods

Things to Know About Cannabis Extraction Methods

Though people have been consuming cannabis flower for thousands of years, smoke inhalation and the byproducts of combustion take their toll. Whether they’re consumed in a dab rig or a vaporizer, concentrates and extracts deliver a delicious high with vapor rather than smoke, leaving the consumer’s throat and lungs in better condition. The potency factor plays a role as well.

The potency of THC flower tops out at nearly 30%. That percentage doesn’t come from the buds, but from the small, oily trichomes that give the flower its beneficial cannabinoids and distinct smell. Because concentrates and extracts contain up to 90% THC, it’s not surprising that these products are becoming more popular among cannabis enthusiasts. When you grow your own feminized seeds or autoflowering seeds from i49 seed bank, you will likely yield enough cannabis to enjoy smoking some dried herb and still have lots of material leftover to explore extract production. Here, you’ll learn more about cannabis extraction and what to avoid during the process.

Methods of Cannabis Extraction

There are two well-known cannabis extraction methods: those that use chemical solvents (extracts) and those that use no solvent (concentrates). Kief, rosin, and hash are all solventless concentrates. Rosin, for example, is made using pressure and heat, which creates a thick concentrate that’s great for dabbing.

A basic grinder is all that’s needed to collect kief, which is a THC-laden residue that falls off during the process. Simply sprinkle the kief into a joint or bowl for an added punch. It’s easy to make hash by freezing flower and processing it in a blender with ice water. Once it’s been processed, the plant material will rise, and the trichome-rich liquid can be filtered out. When that water evaporates, the sticky, potent trichomes are left behind.

Though these concentrates are not produced chemically, each one separates trichomes from plant matter. Many of today’s enthusiasts, however, are more interested in the vials, cartridges, and syringes sold in shops. These extracts are all produced via chemical extraction, which we’ll discuss in the sections below.

Ethanol Extraction

An ethanol extract is created by immersing dried, cured buds and fan leaves in isopropyl alcohol or naphtha. Alcohol efficiently separates trichomes from the flower, and ethanol-based tinctures were first listed in 1851’s American Pharmacopeia. Though the product itself may look a bit intimidating because of its dark color, it’s just a simple extract.

Many medical cannabis patients prefer ethanol extracts because they’re easily made at home with little equipment and may be used to treat a range of conditions. Tinctures, medicated beverages, candies, and RSO or Rick Simpson oil all fall into this category.

RSO makers evaporate the ethanol after separating the trichomes and plant matter, but an alcohol tincture retains it. Because alcohol has such a low boiling point, these extracts are a good way to medicate beverages and food without affecting the flavor. When taken by mouth, these tinctures have an activation time comparable to that of smoking.


For the uninitiated, butane extracts are often a source of trepidation. The apprehension is largely misplaced, though, as butane extracts are no more dangerous than (and share origins with) the canola and corn oils we use for cooking. To make butane hash oil (BHO) or propane hash oil (PHO), run the hydrocarbon through the flower and remove the solvent residue with a low-temp vacuum. Though butane is flammable, there’s no risk here as long as things are done with care. The hydrocarbons will retain up to 90% of the flower’s cannabinoids, providing a great high. Shatter, wax, live resin, and budder fall into the butane category.

Supercritical Fluid

This form of extraction provides a bit of a “sweet spot” between butane and ethanol. Known as the solvent-less method, supercritical fluid extraction uses compressed CO2 to strip the vital oils from your skunk #1 or auto g13 cannabis flower.

Though it has some similarities to ethanol and hydrocarbon extraction, this method is unique in that it uses a supercritical fluid. The process itself is non-toxic and doesn’t create air pollution, making it a more nature-friendly choice. Many enthusiasts prefer this method because of its higher terpene retention. Nectar, honey, oil, and many vape cartridges fit into this category.

Risks of the Cannabis Extraction Process

With the increased demand for cannabis tinctures, vape cartridges, and other products, extraction techniques are becoming more sophisticated. Widespread legalization has led producers to find new ways to get the most from their crops.

However, the creation and use of extracts can be risky. The chemicals used are highly flammable, and solvent residue can make the final product dangerous to consume. Anyone performing a cannabis extraction process should monitor environmental and personal safety concerns by adhering to OSHA regulations and equipment manufacturer recommendations.

Hearing loss is a real concern for those working in large-scale extraction facilities. Commercial equipment is very loud, and the use of noise-canceling earplugs is recommended. To avoid respiratory problems associated with cannabis dust, use NIOSH-approved respirators and an at-the-source ventilation system.

Keeping a safety checklist, monitoring potential dangers, and purchasing the proper safety equipment will go a long way in preventing extraction-related accidents. With a few easy-to-find items and some basic safety practices, extraction can be a safe, enjoyable, and even profitable practice.

Final Tips

Though technology is advancing, extraction is one of the most time-tested practices. Cannabis-infused tea, butter, oils, and concentrates have been in use for hundreds or even thousands of years, and all deliver a more potent, prolonged high. They’re stronger by design, as the extraction process strips and condenses beneficial terpenes and cannabinoids. When you invest in unique and flavorful strains like auto gelato and super lemon haze fem, these remarkable properties really come through when smoking or vaping their extracts.

A little bit of a product can go a very long way, which means it may take some experimentation to find the right product for your needs. To, try a puff or two on a vape pen. After about 15 minutes, consider how you feel before deciding whether to take a second dose.

Read the dosage instructions on tincture bottles carefully, and only take the recommended amount. When dabbing or trying a different product for the first time, start with a very small amount and gradually work your way up. As with other things in life, with cannabis extracts, it’s best to start low and slow. With the information and tips in this i 49 guide, you can stay safe and healthy when making and enjoying cannabis extracts.


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