Alcohol Extraction

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Industrial alcohol extraction in progress

Alcohol extraction is a way to extract and concentrate CBD from hemp plants using ethanol. This is by far the most common way to extract CBD from hemp. Other solvents can also be used, like CO2 or butane, but these are uncommon.

In an alcohol extraction, clippings of the plant are typically submerged in ethanol for roughly 24 hours. After that, the plant matter is removed and discarded. What’s left is a mixture of alcohol, oils, terpenes, and other extracted compounds, like chlorophyll. Since alcohol is able to extract so many different compounds, the resulting mixture is often very bitter.

At this point, most companies will heat the solution to the boiling point of alcohol. This not only concentrates the extract, but it allows the company to recover almost all of the alcohol so it can be used in the next extraction. However, because of the heat involved, many of the more fragile compounds, like terpenes, may be lost, since they have a boiling point that’s similar to or lower than alcohol. The result is a hemp oil concentrate that can be standardized and diluted in a commercial tincture.

Some of the drawbacks of this extraction type is that not only can you lose some of the more valuable compounds, but you also extract a number of things that you don’t want. For example, chlorophyll will make the resulting extract very bitter. In fact, there are over 400 different compounds that have been identified in hemp plants. Not all of these compounds are useful in a tincture. In fact, some can even be detrimental to people.

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