Cannabinoids
3 Ways to Extract THC From Cannabis

3 Ways to Extract THC From Cannabis

xiong
Written by
Xiong Attwool

Data Strategist at Simply Green

Amsterdam
17/03/2022

To get the most from cannabis, you need to extract its compounds. In this article, we’ll explain how the psychoactive element of cannabis, THC, is extracted. However, before we get into the details, it’s important to state that this isn’t a guide. We’re not telling you how to extract THC. Licensed professionals should only do this. We’re simply here to educate and explain how companies take the cannabis plant and turn it into the products we sell at Simply Green.

What is THC?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis. In simple terms, it’s the chemical within a cannabis plant that interacts with the brain and body to cause a high. However, it’s not the only compound present in cannabis. In fact, there are at least 112 other cannabinoids in the plant, many of which aren’t psychoactive. Indeed, the key ingredient in the products sold on Simply Green contains cannabidiol (CBD).
When you delve into the chemistry of both compounds and do a CBD vs. THC comparison, you’ll see that the former has similar properties to the latter. However, the fundamental difference between CBD and THC is that CBD isn’t psychoactive. Therefore, it can offer a variety of physical and psychological benefits without the “high” you get from psychoactive compounds like THC.

Why Do We Extract THC from Cannabis?

Extracting THC and separating it from other cannabinoids is necessary if you want to create a general-purpose CBD product. Without extracting the psychoactive component, CBD products enter a different area of the market. In general, CBD products either contain a small amount of THC or they don’t contain any.
Depending on whether they do or they don’t will determine their legal status and how they’re marketed. That’s why we used the term “general purpose” CBD product. This is because products that contain THC have to get additional medical and legal clearance.
Therefore, the extraction process is important because it allows manufacturers to not only remove the compound but separate it from CBD. At this point, they can decide whether they want to produce a CBD product with or without THC.

Extraction methods

3 Ways to Extract THC From Cannabis

There are many ways to extract THC from marijuana. A paper by Lazarjani et al published in the Journal of Cannabis Research reviewed 93 studies into extraction methods. Lazarjani et al concluded that using organic solvents was the “most convenient” method for medical cannabis extraction.
However, it’s also important to consider the environmental impact, cost, potential toxicity, and efficiency when considering the best ways to extract THC. With all of this in mind, here are three effective ways to extract THC from cannabis:

1. Water Extraction

This is a solvent-free way of extracting THC. That means it’s a safe way of removing a lot of unwanted toxins and impurities. Before you start, the cannabis plant must be frozen. From there, the plant is plunged into cold (almost freezing) water.
You then stir the plant in the water until the trichomes (the small crystals that cover the buds) fall off. The water is then passed through a mesh screen/bag. This helps to separate them from the water (the trichomes should sink to the bottom because they’re denser than water). This results in a liquid that has between 50% and 70% THC levels.

Ice water THC Extraction2. Isopropyl Oil Extraction

This method requires you to soak dried cannabis flowers in isopropyl alcohol. Once the flowers are submerged, they should be gently moved around the container. This will remove the trichomes from the flower.
The liquid then gets passed through a mesh into a dish, where the solvent is removed using a vacuum oven set to <181 degrees. Once the solvent has evaporated, the oil that’s left behind will contain THC.

3. CO2 Oil Extraction

This non-toxic way of extracting THC uses the same methods seen in the coffee and tea industry. The process involves passing hot supercritical CO2 (carbon dioxide in a liquid state) through the cannabis buds.
The liquid is then put through a separator to remove the CO2 gas. The result is a liquid containing trichomes and terpenes. This THC extraction method requires sophisticated equipment, but it produces a liquid that’s free of any toxins.

CO2 extraction proccess

Infographic Credits: Eden labs

The End Results: What You Get After THC is Extracted

Extracting THC should only be done by authorized professionals. Indeed, it’s the only way CBD companies can produce legal, safe products for the general public. These are the products you’ll find on Simply Green. From CBD oils to creams, there are plenty of THC-free products you can buy thanks to extraction techniques developed over the years.

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