What Is the Ethanol Extraction CBD Process?
Posted on March 10th, 2021
The Cannabis Sativa plant contains more than 480 different compounds. A little over a hundred of these compounds belong to the ‘cannabinoid’ family. Due to the therapeutic effects researchers are starting to associate with them, it’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s thanks to cannabinoids that the cannabis plant is so famous.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or Δ9-THC is one of the most popular cannabinoids found. This is the psychoactive element that causes you to experience a euphoric feeling after consuming it. Another cannabinoid, called CBD, works in a different way than THC; for once, it does not get you high at all. Instead, it seemingly only has potentially therapeutic effects to offer you, which is why it caught the eye of wellness enthusiasts.
So far, the most famous cannabinoid classes are as follows:
- Cannabichromene (CBC)
- Cannabigerol (CBG)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
Additionally, there are acidic forms of the majority of these, which are their precursor compounds. They show some potential but, so far, research on them is difficult due to low yields and how complicated they are to isolate.
What is CBD?
CBD is the second-most popular cannabinoid after THC. Most people know THC or marijuana because of its psychoactive properties. But CBD is also present in the marijuana plant, and it is an essential ingredient for medical marijuana.
CBD’s also present in high amounts in the hemp plant, another variety of cannabis that has only trace amounts of THC compared to marijuana. Legally, it is the fact that it has 0.3% THC content that differentiates hemp from marijuana. If a hemp plant were to surpass 0.3% THC, as far as the law might concern, it classifies as marijuana.
Thus, Manufacturers derive CBD from the hemp plant due to it already having very little THC, preventing them from processing it further to remove it. Again, although CBD is one of the components of marijuana, it doesn’t cause a high feeling by itself. Also, according to WHO, CBD doesn’t seem to exhibit any signs of creating addiction.
What’s the Source of CBD?
As already mentioned, CBD is present in the Cannabis Sativa plant, which has several varieties; hemp and marijuana are two important ones. The latter has high THC content while the former only has trace amounts of it, but what it does have its high CBD levels. CBD and THC themselves do have to share the exact same molecular formula, C21H30O2. However, their structures, the arrangement of the atoms its different, which might be why they have somewhat overlapping therapeutic effects.
What Is Ethanol Extraction CBD?
Ethanol or ethyl alcohol is a colorless, flammable, and volatile liquid. Mankind commonly uses it to produce paints, food additives, solvents, beauty products, and gasoline. When you consume wine, spirit, or beer, it means that, indirectly, you are consuming ethyl alcohol. Curiously, some researchers are working to find out if CBD might help repiar damage due to alcohol addiction as well, early results show some promise.
Apart from producing the above items, you can also use ethanol to extract chemical compounds from plants like cannabis. There are various Ethanol extraction CBD methods. Yet, the general processes of each always involve heating hemp plants in bulk quantities to trigger decarboxylation. Decarboxylation is a crucial step to efficiently obtain active cannabis components. Once completed the decarboxylation step, manufacturers soak the plant in ethanol for a predetermined time.
The extracted solution goes through a filtration process once the time’s up. That helps separate the full-spectrum solution from the remaining hemp matter. Finally, they leave the extracted liquid on an open dish to ensure the ethanol evaporates from it. What remains behind after it’s a highly potent CBD extract.
Ethanol is one of the plant-based solvents used in cannabis extraction, particularly important for ethanol extraction CBD hence the name. Some scientists believe that, since it is a plant-based solvent, it helps produce the most potent CBD. The logic behind that claim is that it can maintain the highest chemical ratios from the final hemp material. According to those scientists, CBD manufacturers could use the Ethanol extraction CBD method for high-volume extracting. Yet, it isn’t the only extraction method, neither is it the safest method.
Some of the other CBD extraction methods recommended by scientists are cold Ethanol extraction CBD, warm Ethanol extraction CBD, and CO2 extraction method. Each method has its pros and cons, and it depends on the manufacturer which method to follow depending on budget.
Cold Ethanol Extraction CBD
Some manufacturers may opt for the cold ethanol extraction variety of the ethanol extraction CBD process. The manufacturers keep the ethanol at extremely low temperatures. It helps them create CBD extracts with minimum impurities while maximizing CBD and terpene amounts.
Cold ethanol extraction is popular because it produces the highest quantity of CBD extract. Most manufacturers take this step to the next level by using a multi-step purification process. The idea is to produce the purest possible quality of CBD extract.
The purification process starts with Winterization, which involves removing lipids and waxes. The cold ethanol used in this process increases the purification speed compared to warm ethanol. The manufacturer later removes this ethanol from the extract for reuse.
At the end of it, the manufacturer now has a full-spectrum extract containing CBD and terpenes of high purity. But this extract still contains, at most, 60% CBD. Manufacturers go on to use the molecular distillation method to separate the terpenes and CBD. It leaves them with a honey-colored extract containing the purest form of CBD.
Cold ethanol extraction CBD helps to achieve the premium purity level that most manufacturers seek. Here are a few reasons why this process is popular:
- Speed – The speed at which manufacturers separate CBD from terpenes makes cold extraction a popular method. It can potentially extract massive quantities of CBD in a few days.
- Energy consumption – Cold extraction consumes significantly less energy than other extraction methods, saving much money.
- Safety – Cold extraction is also one of the safest extraction methods yielding high-purity CBD extract. It can effectively strip away contaminants and has a low toxic risk. This also helps to keep out unwanted aromas and flavors in the final CBD extract.
Warm Ethanol Extraction CBD
Warm ethanol extraction CBD is another popular method, commonly known as the Soxhlet technique. As the name suggests, manufacturers perform this procedure under warm conditions. Here are the steps involved in the warm ethanol extraction method:
- They first boil ethanol in a pot or flask, followed by cooling it on a cooling coil.
- The alcohol slowly drips through a flower material setup while separating the terpenes from CBD.
It takes a significant amount of time to separate the two components from the solution compared to cold ethanol extraction CBD. The extraction process doesn’t take too much time, but the purification part makes up for it.
There are various pros and cons to this method. First of all, it provides a low solvent-to-feed ratio. That means manufacturers get a relatively pure form of CBD in the final solution. But they purify it further to screen out terpenes.
The main drawback of this method is its quantity. This is only suitable for small batches. Moreover, it may lead to decarboxylating the CBD because of the heat involved. This means manufacturers may need additional clarification and dewaxing steps to extract the purest CBD from the final solution.
Why Use Ethanol Extraction CBD?
Even though cold extraction provides the purest CBD extract, manufacturers still prefer using the traditional Ethanol extraction CBD method. This is because it doesn’t involve the high cost of cold extraction. The multi-step purification process in cold extraction makes it an extremely expensive method. While it is true that it produces the final extract faster and offers the best possible CBD spectrum, it still falls short because of its cost.
Manufacturers want to make the maximum amount of profit possible because the hemp farming process is quite expensive. The investment in machinery, labor, operations, and transportation, is high. They usually don’t want to make further investments in various purification steps later. This makes the traditional ethanol extraction method far more suitable to meet their needs.
Ethanol Extraction CBD Explained
The traditional ethanol extraction process starts by heating hemp plants. Remember, this process is popular for producing bulk quantities of CBD extract. Therefore, manufacturers use huge quantities of hemp in every batch. Heating the hemp plants help to obtain decarboxylation. This step produces active cannabinoids.
The next step involves soaking the hemp plant in ethanol for a few hours to extract the final solution. This solution then goes through a one-time filtration process that separates terpenes from CBD as the ethanol evaporates slowly.
Cons of Ethanol Extraction CBD
Although ethanol extraction is the most popular method, it doesn’t always provide the purest CBD extract. This is because it doesn’t involve the multiple purification process that cold extraction follows and might cause undesirable results. It is true that, while the extract that the manufacturers get is still enough to provide the health benefits, it still isn’t the full-spectrum CBD that most manufacturers claim they sell.
Other CBD Extraction Methods
Apart from ethanol extraction, cold and warm varieties, CO2 extraction is also a popular method. CO2 extraction is the best overall method because it is fast, provides full-spectrum CBD, and isn’t as expensive as most manufacturers think. The only thing they need to keep in mind is to maintain the pressure at 1000 psi. This allows the subcritical CO2 to separate terpenes from CBD quickly.
It depends on the manufacturers whether they want to continue with ethanol extraction or move to CO2 extraction. Only time will tell which method ends up becoming the final standard the industry officially adopts.