What Makes CO2 Extraction Better than Other Extraction Methods?

Jun 1, 2022 | Cannabis Blog

Have you ever tried raw hemp? Hemp’s leaves and flowers are edible and you can use them in your salads and drinks just like you would with lettuce and other greens. You will immediately taste the chlorophyll and other aromas of raw hemp.

To enjoy the full benefits of cannabis this way, however, you would need to eat a lot of hemp leaves and flowers compared to other options available.

That’s where extraction falls in place. CBD and THC manufacturers extract CBD and other cannabinoids from hemp or cannabis to produce a concentrated form. Instead of munching through mountains of hemp leaves, you only need to take a drop of extracted oil.

Once the cannabinoids are extracted, they are then mixed with a carrier oil and used to produce CBD and THC oils, gummies, and edibles, as well as topicals and other products.

The three most common methods to extract cannabinoids from hemp and cannabis are CO2 extraction, solvent extraction, and oil infusion.

What Is CO2 Extraction?

CO2 extraction uses carbon dioxide to extract the cannabinoids from hemp or cannabis. Alcohol, Butane, and other gaseous extractions don’t use renewable resources and worse, they leave impurities you may not want in your dabs or oils. 

The benefit of CO2 is that it can have both a liquid and gas form. When a manufacturer wants to extract the beneficial compounds of hemp and cannabis, they pressurize carbon dioxide at very low temperatures—as low as minus 69 degrees Fahrenheit! Under such pressure and at these temperatures, CO2 carries the qualities of both liquid and gas.

Hemp and cannabis leaves are then introduced to the pressurized CO2. Carbon dioxide removes and suspends the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids from the leaves and flowers, leaving behind only plant matter that can be forwarded to the compost heap.

Once all the desirable ingredients have been removed from the raw material, CO2 is warmed again, allowing the cannabinoids suspended in the liquid to be only what’s left that’s left in the vessel or chamber, and the CO2 returns back to its gas form and captured in a chamber for future use. That’s right, it’s renewable too on top of clean.

Once the cannabinoid profile has been thus secured, the concentrated product is mixed with a carrier oil such as MCT, coconut oil, avocado oil, hemp oil, or olive oil. The resulting oil, which is rich in cannabinoids, is then used to produce oils, pills, capsules, gels, gummies, edibles, and other products.

What Other Extraction Methods Are There?

Solvent Extraction

Some manufacturers choose solvent extraction, usually with a type of alcohol like ethanol. The leaves, flowers, and stems are exposed to ethanol, which strips them of their beneficial compounds. The mix is then heated to evaporate what alcohol they can, leaving behind an oily compound that is CBD or THC concentrate.

Oil Infusion

Other manufacturers use oil infusion. The plant parts are placed into a carrier oil, such as MCT, olive oil, or coconut oil, and then heated gently to infuse it with the cannabinoids. This method is often used at home, as it is perfectly safe even in your kitchen. The results, however, can vary, leading to dose variances and inconsistency in the desire effect.

Unfortunately, while oil infusion is a great way for home extraction, the end result contains very few cannabinoids and terpenes. The potency of the final product is low and the shelf life is very short.

If you want to experiment with extraction at home, this is the perfect method for you, as long as you keep in mind that it’s not the optimal one.

Which Method Is Better?

CO2 Is Safe, Efficient, and Tasty

The gold standard for the cannabis industry is CO2 extraction. It is more expensive and requires specialized equipment and professional know-how, but delivers superior results and safer products.

CO2 is perfectly safe and widely used in the food industry because it has no taste, flavor, aroma, color, or odor and leaves no residue behind. Coffee manufacturers use CO2 to extract caffeine from coffee: that’s how we make decaffeinated coffee. CO2 is also used to extract vanilla from vanilla pods to produce vanilla extract. Finally, CO2 is used to make carbonated drinks and is the reason why your soda is fizzy.

Additionally, CO2 extraction is quick and efficient. It extracts the cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes found in cannabis without stripping the grassy plant matter. This makes the taste less pungent and grassy.

In contrast, ethanol extraction strips the chlorophyll alongside the cannabinoids, flavonoids, and other cannabis compounds. CBD and THC extracts made with oil produced through ethanol extraction carry the characteristic aroma of chlorophyll. This puts off many consumers, as it feels like they are grazing their lawn.

The same is true of oil infusion, as the oil absorbs chlorophyll along with the rest of cannabis’ compounds.

No Traces

A drawback of ethanol extraction is that it can leave behind traces of solvent residue in the final product. Many processors rely on dangerous explosive chemicals (like butane), which may not only carry its flavor but may also be harmful.

CO2 extraction leaves no residue behind, therefore CBD and THC produced from CO2 extraction are cleaner and safer for consumption.

Oil infusion ends up with a product that has absorbed all of the cannabis’ compounds. Cannabis is a phytoremediation plant, which means it is often used to clean up dirty soil. Therefore, you should only use marijuana that has grown in soil that is clean of heavy metals, pesticides, and other pollutants.

Customizing the Cannabinoid Profile

CO2 extraction will pull all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids from the plant material. By precisely tweaking the pressure level and temperature, the manufacturer can adjust the cannabinoid profile of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.

CO2 extraction methods offer manufacturers more freedom and greater control over the type of product they want to make. Whether they want full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolates, cannabis manufacturers can deliver various features of cannabis in a controlled and reliable environment.

Environmentally Friendly

CO2 extraction is environmentally friendly. CO2 is recovered in chambers and recycled for future use instead of being thrown away. Nothing is left over and there is no need for expensive and dirty disposal protocols.

Unlike solvent extraction, which releases harsh chemicals in the air, oil infusion is a green extraction method, ending up with nothing but plant matter that you can use for compost.

Choosing the Best Extraction Method

CO2 extraction offers the strongest cannabinoid aromas without an off-putting chlorophyll aftertaste. The presence of all the natural cannabis compounds offers the most potent benefits.

Here at Hillside Natural Wellness, we like to give our customers the best of the cannabis world. That is why we work with Glacier Extracts, a marijuana processing and manufacturing operation located in Anchorage, Alaska.

Glacier Extracts uses the most cutting-edge, high-end cannabis extraction technologies. The Glacier Extracts lab team creates high-grade extractions by utilizing a terpene-preserving subcritical liquid CO2 extraction process.

This process delivers a maximum cannabinoid profile with the optimal level of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. There is no solvent residue left behind and the end product is clean and safe for human consumption.

Visit Hillside Natural Wellness

Hillside Natural Wellness is your marijuana dispensary in Anchorage.

Order your marijuana products online or visit our shop at 8639 Toloff St. Anchorage, AK 99507 to tell our friendly budtenders about your needs and wants. We love meeting new customers and welcoming back returning customers who appreciate our dedication, passion, and amazing selection of cannabis products! Contact us with any questions!