CBD Extraction and Refinement
How Cannabis Compounds Are Isolated to Create Distillates
In order to isolate compounds such as CBD and THC into a pure and viscous oil, there are multiple layers of refinement that must first occur. Given that THC as well as other cannabinoids and terpenes are volatile and have varying boiling points, they must first be separated from the cannabis plant via CO2 solvent-based extraction.
This process removes the valuable and volatile compounds from the plant itself, while many fats, lipids, and other compounds remain. This necessitates further refinement through a process called winterization, whereby a solvent is used in order to remove these undesirable compounds.
Apart from winterization, isolated cannabinoids must also undergo decarboxylation, by which the compounds are heated enough to activate their potential. Finally, the material is run through a short path steam distillation or rational distillation chamber in a series of multiple passes to purify the desirable compound (typically THC or CBD) to its isolated state.
Molecules such as THC and CBD have higher varying boiling points. Short path distillation uses vacuum pressure, steam, and heat to manipulate boiling points so that compounds are subjected to much cooler temperatures when they pass through. Depending on the distillation process, these volatile compounds can either be fractioned individually or simultaneously for collection.
Through this process, volatile compounds are separated by their molecular weight and individual boiling point, leaving less volatile and undesirable compounds behind. A distillate may be passed through this process multiple times to create an even more pure substance. What remains in a THC/CBD distillation is a clear and translucent viscous sap that resembles ultra-refined honey in consistency and hue.
At Secret Nature we utilize Super Critical CO2 extraction methods in order to produce the highest quality hemp flower and CBD products. Our goal is to create cannabidiol extracts which are 100% pure and free of any foreign contaminants. All hemp plant material used in our extracts is grown 100% organically and pesticide free.
For our high-end vape pen products, we re-introduce real cannabis terpene profiles into our final product. We source our terpenes from the best cannabis growers in recreational markets across the USA.
Terpene re-introduction increases the aroma and taste, while giving a similar experience to using recreational marijuana flowers and oils.
Our cannabis terpene extracts are 100% pure terpenes and contain absolutely NO THC.
A mature cannabis plant is known to contain hundreds of identifiable cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, each responsible for playing a role in interacting with our endocannabinoid systems.
Through what is widely referred to as “the entourage effect,” these compounds interact with one another to give us the unique experiences we desire. When it comes to creating cannabis concentrates, cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are pulled from the vegetative material of the cannabis plant together though various extraction processes. In order to distill these compounds into their purest form, additional layers of refinement must be executed.
This process is known as “fractional” or “short path distillation,” and it is known to produce single compound oils that can reach upwards of 99% purity.
Fractionation and short path distillation in and of themselves are nothing new. In fact, these methods have been used for many years, both in the early days of cannabis distillation research as well as in other commercial industries alike.
For example, the fragrance and essential oil industries can be credited for piloting many of the same fundamental refinement principles that we see overlapping in today’s cannabis distillate manufacturing scene.
Steam distillation as well as fractionation are two common techniques that have been adopted from the botanical oil extraction markets by cannabis processors to make various oil distillates. These techniques work specifically for cannabis in the same ways they would for other botanical refinement systems ranging from fragrances to cooking oils.
1. What Is Steam Distillation Extraction?
There are a few different ways to remove cannabinoids from hemp during extraction. For years, the dominant method in the cannabis, essential oil, and fragrance industries was using butane as a solvent. As a petrochemical, however, butane has inherent issues, and butane-extracted oil (BHO) may contain toxic impurities.
CO2 extraction is significantly better, which is why we’ve adopted this method at Secret Nature. While there’s an ongoing debate regarding whether CO2 extraction is truly “solventless,” this substance is certainly safer than BHO.
Unlike BHO or CO2, steam distillation only involves water molecules, which means that it is entirely solventless and residue-free. CO2 still plays a critical role in the Secret Nature extraction process, but we try to rely on steam distillation as much as possible once we extract raw cannabis oils from our plants.
Used for decades in the essential oil industry, steam distillation is finally making an impact within cannabis circles. Pressurized steam is used to “volatilize” compounds in cannabis and condense them in a receiver.
A variety of methods of cannabis steam distillation have emerged so far, and they vary in levels of complexity. Rest assured that Secret Nature uses the most advanced, safest steam distillation equipment and processes ever devised.
Growing the best organic hemp in the world would all be for nothing if we didn’t treat our crops right in the processing stage, which is why Secret Nature has invested so highly into top-of-the-line equipment in every aspect of our operation. Our CO2 and steam distillation extraction processes preserve the quality of the cannabinoids we produce to the benefit of the end customer.
How Does It Work?
Since the various cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in cannabis all have different boiling points, it’s necessary to separate these compounds from each other during the extraction process. Afterward, cannabinoids like CBD, CBN, or CBG may be added back together to create a non-intoxicating hemp extract medley, and additional cannabis terpenes (that have been isolated the same way) may be added as well.
Steam distillation makes this possible by removing individual volatile cannabis compounds at their particular boiling points. Offering greater purity than other forms of hemp extract, steam distillation is the most natural method ever devised for refining cannabis oil into distillate.
2. What Is Steam Distillation Cannabis Terpenes Extraction?
Each cannabinoid, terpene, and flavonoid in cannabis has a different boiling temperature. As long as you determine the boiling point of the terpene you want to isolate, therefore, it’s possible to perform the same steam distillation process that is used with cannabinoids. In fact, it appears that terpene steam distillation predates cannabinoid steam distillation to the extent that some people still don’t even know it’s possible to use steam distillation with cannabinoids.
List of commonly added cannabis terpenes
So far, scientists have discovered dozens of different terpenes in cannabis, and each of these aromatic compounds has different uses and scent profiles. In the following section, we’ll provide you with some background on a few of the most popular cannabis terpenes and explain why you want them in your CBD products.
What do thyme, mango, lemongrass, and most strains of cannabis all have in common? Myrcene, the most common cannabinoid found in hemp. While some cannabis strains might not express myrcene, these phenotypes are in the vast minority. In addition to its unmistakably dank aroma, myrcene may also have potent neuroprotective properties.
Caryophyllene is one of the most well researched terpenes outside of cannabis, and it’s possible that this compound has both analgesic and anti-addictive qualities. Also found in black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves, caryophyllene certainly doesn’t smell fruity or dank. This terpene’s aroma is much more herbal, and in fact, it’s responsible for earthy, herbal smells in cannabis.
Limonene is only present in cannabis in small concentrations, but a little goes a long way. If you’ve ever sunk your nose into an orange peel or enjoyed the brightness of lemon spritz, you’re already familiar with the citrusy smell of this common cannabis terpene. Like other terpenes, limone appears to exert various health benefits via its antioxidant qualities, but this cannabis compound has also been heavily researched for its anti-cancer potential.
Humulene is mostly earthy and woody, and unsurprisingly, this terpene is found in the wood of many trees. Also present in ginseng tea, Eastern medicine has incorporated humulene as a natural remedy for thousands of years. Like other terpenes, humulene appears to exert powerful antioxidant and even potential anti-cancer effects.
Have you ever gotten pine sap stuck on your fingers? Then you’re already familiar with pinene, the dominant terpene in pine trees and certain phenotypes of cannabis. Expectedly, pinene smells very “piney,” and scientists believe this terpene can help with inflammation, pain, and anxiety. Interestingly, pinene also appears to help open your airways, and it may even prevent the memory loss commonly associated with THC use.
Terpinolene is the dominant cannabinoid in Dutch Treat and its subsidiary strains even if it's much less common in other cannabis phenotypes. This terpene was simply named “terpinolene” because its aroma doesn’t match any single type of plant on Earth. Instead, terpinolene smells like pine, flowers, herbs, and citrus all at once.
Found in lavender, birch bark, and some strains of cannabis, linalool is the aromatic compound responsible for lavender’s unique scent. This unique aroma, however, isn’t all that linalool has to offer. Like most (if not all) terpenes, linalool is a potent antioxidant, and this cannabis compound may also have antimicrobial properties.
3. What Is The Best Extraction Method For CBD?
Just as there’s enormous variation in CBD products, there are also a lot of different ways to extract this cannabinoid. Let’s explore some of the most common methods in this section and explain why Secret Nature extraction is better:
The only reason to extract CBD with butane is that it’s cheaper. This extraction method is clearly obsolete, and it has the potential to leave behind dangerous petroleum-based residue.
It costs more to build a CO2 extraction chamber, however, than it costs to extract cannabinoids with butane. Hemp concentrate extracted with butane is always less safe than CO2-extracted concentrate, and only low-tier CBD companies use butane to extract their cannabinoids.
Due to the disappointments and dangers of butane extraction, hemp producers and companies in other industries have long sought an alternative. Until the last few decades, CO2 extraction was too complicated and expensive to be practical at the small business level. These days, however, setting yourself up to extract with CO2 simply demands a slightly larger initial investment.
The payoffs are enormous. Not only is CO2-extracted oil clearly cleaner than the alternatives, but the process of extracting cannabis oil with CO2 is also safer and more repeatable. It’s an obvious fact, but it bears mentioning—butane is an incredibly volatile substance, which means any time you extract with this petroleum derivative, you risk blowing yourself and all your employees up in the process. While it should still be treated with care, CO2 is far less volatile even if extracting with this substance requires significantly more production infrastructure.
Using steam offers the best CBD distillation results available. Cannabis distillation has long posed a serious problem to producers, but by taking a leaf from the essential oil industry, certain forward-thinking CBD entrepreneurs learned how to transform their “crude” hemp extract into clear, viscous distillate using nothing more than steam.
You can’t perform the entire extraction process with steam alone, however. Steam distillation is only used to purify existing cannabis extract. Regardless, incorporating this extraction method into your production process is a big part of figuring out how to distill CBD.
Live Resin Extraction
Secret Nature CBD cartridges pens contain full-spectrum live resin distillate, which is slightly different from other forms of distillate. Like most purified CBD extracts, live resin has been highly processed for purity, but the cannabis it was extracted from was never decarboxylated. Let’s explain.
Cannabis flower naturally contains various plant substances that break down and dissipate under the right conditions. That’s why hemp producers usually dry and cure their flower before using it to make products, and rest assured that every Secret Nature hemp flower product is fully decarboxylated before packaging.
With our cartridges, however, we decided to do something different. In recent years, cannabis producers have suddenly learned that there’s no real reason to dry and cure their bud before making it into oil. Rather, processing hemp flower straight off the vine preserves the initial terpene richness that gives flowering hemp such an incredible aroma.
Now, with Secret Nature live resin cartridges, you can experience hemp extract the way that nature intended. Keep in mind that CBD isn’t the only non-intoxicating cannabinoid we offer in live resin cartridge form—you’ll need take a look through this product section for yourself to understand just how far the hemp industry has come due to our pioneering efforts in “fringe” cannabinoids.
(leafly.com "Cannabis Oil Distillate: A Different Kind of Concentrate"PATRICK BENNETT, May 30, 2017)