Over the last couple of years, there has been a huge movement toward the acceptance and destigmatization of cannabis and its related products. The public has seen a global relaxing of laws and regulations around the herb and more and more media coverage into the healing qualities of the products.
The medicinal use of cannabis has become legal in a number of countries globally. Countries like Canada, Georgia and South Africa have gone as far as legalizing recreational use too. But why has there been such a turn-around to favoring cannabis and its products? Studies have shown that cannabis is incredibly effective for the easing of symptoms of many chronic illnesses and diseases. People suffering from cancer, Alzheimers, diabetes, joint and muscle pain, acne and skin-related diseases have claimed that cannabis has alleviated the symptoms and pain that comes with their affliction.
People are not just smoking cannabis or using CBD oil droppers to treat their symptoms, there are a number of products on the market that people can choose from. Currently, CBD oils have been merged into various products including oils, balms, vape pens, bath salts, edible food products and dropping oils to suit anyone’s personal needs and tastes. If you are looking to join the CBD trend too and begin selling your own products, we thought we would take a look at how you can extract CBD from cannabis, and in particular, how you go about THC remediation.
What Is The Difference Between THC And CBD?
The first thing that we need to cover are the differences between these two cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are compounds in a cannabis plant which hold various properties. In fact, 113 types of cannabinoids have been identified in cannabis plants. The two most important, and what we are going to focus on are THC and CBD.
The CBD component is known for its natural health benefits, while THC is known for its intoxicating qualities. So, when you get high from cannabis, that is THC working in your body. But many products that are currently sold are produced without THC so that they just exist as natural healing products.
If you are wanting to produce THC-free distillate, you will need to go through the full extraction process. Distillate refers to the runny translucent oil that is left over after the full cannabis extraction process. In this article, we will go through the full extraction, distillation and remediation processes.
Step One: Extraction
There are three types of extraction processes that you can choose from.
Alcohol extraction is also known as ethanol extraction. The cannabis plant is soaked in alcohol for a period of time, the plant is then removed and the alcohol is filtered. The alcohol is evaporated to leave behind the desired compounds.
The CO2 extraction process pressurizes carbon dioxide in tanks to such a point that they become supercritical (liquid and gas). The fluid then extracts the right compounds from the cannabis plant and is separated from the oil, shatter, and budder.
The hydrocarbon process refers to the use of butane or propane in the extraction. It is passed through the plant to collect the cannabinoids and terpenes. It is then heated and pressurized to evaporate the propane or butane and leaves behind the extract. In essence, the vacuum that is created when it is pressurized removes the excess propane and butane.
Step Two: Distillation
The product of the extraction is usually a waxy, tarry and contaminated substance which will need to be distilled. Winterization will be the next step where you essentially freeze the fatty substances off your product. You will know that when you freeze substances, they will automatically separate fats from lighter oil substances. You can mix the extract with ethanol and freeze it for 48 hours.
Next, heat, steam and vacuum processes are used to extract the terpenes and flavonoids, leaving behind the cannabinoids. In order to further refine the CBD oil, you can put it through a short path distillation. Here, the product is heated and each element is separated to isolate each one as they all have different boiling points.
Step Three: Crashing
Crashing refers to the process of taking your distillate and precipitating the CBD out in the form of crystals. This means that you will be causing the liquid substance to deposit the cannabinoids in solid crystals. This is usually done with a crystallization vessel or crystallization reactor and actually increases the THC levels for you to extract them. This can be a highly dangerous process to do, so make sure you take all precautions before doing it.
You will be dissolving the oil in pentane and then heating that up to its boiling point which is 36℃. It will release a lot of toxic vapors that you will need to protect yourself from. The vessels will heat and stir the substance until you find various crystals. You can do this several times and make sure you keep your crystals cold.
Step Four: Remediation
The last step is to remove the THC element from your distillate, also called THC remediation. You will be doing this using a technique called chromatography. Because CBD and THC boil at such similar temperatures, you are only able to separate them physically. You can only do this by sending through a columned structure at different speeds to actually separate them.
CBD is more polar than THC, so, CBD moves more with the solvent while the THC moves more with the column. Because of this, it will stay in the column longer and give you time to extract it. You can use either a liquid or gas solvent to help you in this process. Choices of liquids include alcohol, water, hydrocarbons or any of the acetate groups.
What you will need to keep in mind throughout this whole process are your health and safety. Each one of the steps can be hazardous as you are dealing with heat, steam and vacuuming processes which if you are not careful, can be dangerous to you. Make sure you have protective clothing and gear and go through various safety steps before simply kicking off.