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Cannabis extractions methods, what consumers should know

There’s a lot of hype about subcritical CO2 vs. ethanol extractions vs. pure isolated CBD. Due to companies' marketing strategies extraction methods have turned into a “red flag” terminology. Here’s the scoop with extractions.

First, the company starts with biomass, which comes from the hemp farm. The key issues in this stage is whether or not the hemp was grown pesticide free, non GMO and using organic methods. Hemp is a bio-accumulator and known to suck up toxins and pesticides out of the soil. In fact, it cleans the earth and has been used to clean up toxic spill sites like Chernobyl.

While that is a neat fact about hemp, consumers don’t want to buy hemp that was used in the phytoremediation (cleaning up) of a nuclear disaster site. (They may find a way to make this safe in the future but for now…)

After the extraction company has good quality biomass they can move forward with the extraction process. A lot of companies use subcritical CO2 which is a very clean way to extract a lot of biomass quickly. Ethanol alcohol extraction is another method and it is also very clean, companies tout CO2 extraction because there are no solvents left in the extraction. Here’s the issue: either method used leaves you with non-winterized crude.

If you read our email about terpenes, flavonoids and minor/other cannabinoids you will remember there are over 200 active ingredients in the hemp plant. The problem with non-winterized crude is the product would have a very strong cannabis flavor and have a lower percentage of cannabinoids per weight. Therefore, the non-winterized crude is winterized to remove lipids, waxes, fatty acids, plant chlorophyll, and terpenes.

Winterizing crude oil involves putting the raw cannabis (hemp is cannabis) oil through an ethanol alcohol wash. (So alcohol is used in either extraction method). After the alcohol washes the product it is frozen and the waxes, lipids, fatty acids, plant chlorophyll, and terpenes are separated and removed.

When working with a winterized crude oil you can expect above a 65% CBD potency to be left in the final product. At Arcanum we like winterized crude because there are more of the other active ingredients left in the plant. Companies just need to make sure that the solvents used are remediated properly.

The next step would be to distill the winterized crude oil. This process refines the cannabis oil by taking away a lot of the leftover chlorophyll making the oil lighter in color, like honey. This also makes for a tastier product if you’re making edibles! It must be mentioned here that the more you distill the oil the more active ingredients you lose.


I’ve been seeing companies tout giant milligrams serving sizes, to the tune of 1,000 mgs per serving.vTo achieve these giant numbers companies are using isolates. A debate rages amongst the CBD enthusiasts. On one side of the fence there are the CBD isolate pushers, touting 99% pure CBD. On the other side of the fence, are the entourage effecters, pushing the whole plant and all the active ingredients working as nature intended.

I think everyone knows where we stand, Arcanum believes in the whole plant as nature intended. We are entourage effecters. However, we recognize that there are some very specific issues that pharmaceutical companies are working on that must be done with pure CBD in order to properly do a scientific study.

While cannabis has been around for thousands of years and is considered relatively safe, extracting the plant specifically for CBD and creating giant doses is fairly new. Next, there are a lot of extraction methods to get broad spectrum or full spectrum CBD products. Some of these extraction methods use ethanol alcohol as a solvent, even if producers don’t get all this solvent out it is still relatively safe in small quantities. The chemicals that are used to produce isolated cannabidiol are NOT safe!

Isolates are made with chemicals like pentane, heptane, and hexane, these chemicals are then remediated from the final product. Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens and will make you sick. Especially if you are taking megadose! Furthermore, with the lack of regulation in the CBD industry these companies are required to garnish consumers with a third-party test for these types of solvents.

To sum this up - try to stay as close to the natural product as possible and be very careful with isolates. Furthermore, overdosing with cannabidiol may have negative side effects so go low and slow! Additionally, if you are working on a specific health issue work with a doc, not a hemp salesperson!

Until next time, stay healthy my friends

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