While the cannabis extraction process can be challenging to understand, it is extremely critical to do so towards educating yourself about what you are using, how it works, and what it works on. Understanding the process leads to a better, more wholesome experience towards meeting your health goals. Learning these techniques is challenging, but not impossible. It took me a bit to get a good grasp of the terminology, even as a nurse with a background in science, to understand what it means and how the varieties can affect our bodies. I hope to shed some light—and lessen the learning curve for you—below.
Extraction is a process that has been used for centuries to make teas, tinctures, and herbal remedies. The idea is to collect all the beneficial compounds while leaving behind the undesirable compounds and unusable plant material. There are several extraction methods used in the cannabis industry to extract the cannabinoids (like CBD or THC, among many others) and terpenes (responsible for the smell, taste, and effect), but they’re not all equal.
Ethanol: This method utilizes high-proof grain alcohol (think Everclear). The alcohol soaks up the desired compounds so they can then be separated from the rest of the plant and collected as the ethanol evaporates. However, one reason that some folks do not care for it is that this extraction method pulls terpenes and chlorophyll out and the product can look green and have a bitter or grass-like taste.
CO2 Extraction: This method is considered “The Gold Standard” (and is Equilibria’s extraction method) which uses pressurized CO2 gas to extract desirable individual cannabinoids and terpenes. This is a clean, effective, and high-quality method of extraction, leaving concentrates that are safer to consume and tastier to experience thanks to the preservation of terpenes.
Hydrocarbon extractions (Example: Butane): There is a lot of debate around hydrocarbons in the cannabis industry as many products are made this way. It is quick, affordable, and efficient, but most of the terpenes in the plant are lost. If done right removing all of the butane from the final product, then this is a fine method. However, if Butane remains in the final product, it can potentially be harmful. This is because when heated it becomes benzene, which is a carcinogen (a cancer-causing substance). Only purchase products that utilize hydrocarbon extraction if you can review lab reports and COA’s (Certificate of Analysis).
Full-Spectrum: I recommend full-spectrum because it has the widest range of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial compounds such as minerals, electrolytes, vitamins, and protein. Full-spectrum products contain 0.3% or less THC.
Broad Spectrum: Similar to full-Spectrum but with an attempt to remove as much THC as possible. This type of CBD still has some other cannabinoids and terpenes in it, but no THC — making it less efficacious than full-spectrum.
Isolate: This formulation offers only CBD without any of the other beneficial cannabinoids or terpenes. Isolate CBD is expensive to make and sometimes, the end-product does not work very well. This is because, with only 1 compound (CBD), there is no Entourage Effect.
Scientists have discovered that when 2 or more cannabinoids and terpenes are combined, they start to act synergistically and amplify each other’s properties. So it’s not 1+1=2, it’s more like 1+1=4! This is what Scientists call the Entourage Effect.
Sometimes you’ll see a product that’s labeled ‘CBD isolate’, which means it’s CBD that has been isolated away from the rest of the plant and therefore doesn’t benefit from the synergistic/amplification properties.
A few additional things to keep in mind… always look out for lab testing! Full-spectrum products will have cannabinoids, terpenes (these are good things), and a list of pesticides and heavy metals (bad things) that are present in the products (if present at all). People who are susceptible to fungal infections should definitely only use CBD products that are certified and lab-tested to ensure purity. This is because mold, mildew, and other fungi can be present inside plant tissue and not visible to the naked eye. Molds, such as aspergillus, may be found inside untested and poorly grown/extracted CBD oil. While often harmless to humans, they can pose a significant risk to those who are immunocompromised.
All Equilibria products are full-spectrum and third-party lab tested. You can find the lab test results on each of their product pages. They’re constantly updated as well, so consumers know exactly what they are putting into their bodies. The more you know, the better your cannabis journey will be!
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