Extraction Glossary

Supplement - Extraction Essentials

Your quick reference on extraction terminology.

August 27, 2018

Band Heater or Boiler: An apparatus that controls the temperature via electricity or through the application of warmed water/glycol mixtures, respectively.

Cannabinoid Distillation: This is often called fractional distillation, despite being a simple vacuum distillation technique intended to separate the cannabinoids from other components of refined cannabis oil. Cannabinoids are not efficiently separated from each other with this technique. This process diminishes the boiling points of the target components of the cannabis oil (i.e., cannabinoids) via the application of a vacuum and applies heat to vaporize them. That vapor is re-condensed in a different physical location and used in product formulation. Advanced techniques include wiped film and centrifugal distillation systems.

Chromatography: A process that is capable of isolating individual cannabinoids from a refined oil or distillate to 99-percent purity. There are many forms of chromatography including High-Performance Liquid Chromatography, Centrifugal Liquid Chromatography, Simulated Moving Bed Chromatography and Supercritical Chromatography. Each of these has individual strengths and weaknesses.

Clarification: The process where a winterized (de-waxed) mixture of cannabinoids/terpenes is further refined via the removal of chlorophyll and other pigments. This process usually incorporates activated carbon, activated earth clays, or amorphous silica. Closed-Loop System: An extraction system that is capable of reusing the solvent after the extraction and collection processes. Solvent used during the process is not lost during the process.

Collection Vessel: A cylinder or a series of cylinders usually made of stainless steel where solutes concentrate after the extraction process.

Crystallization: The isolation of cannabinoid crystals via the production of a supersaturated solution, rudimentary liquid-liquid separation, temperature change and solvent removal. Most frequently conducted to produce THCA or CBD crystals because of their propensity to crystallize.

Decarboxylation: The process that converts THCA to its neutral form THC through the application of heat and agitation. This process is often performed under a neutral atmosphere to avoid degradation. The temperature of decarboxylation is 105°C.

Distillate: The product resulting from the vacuum distillation process. This oil is fully decarboxylated, very clear and highly concentrated with cannabinoids. No terpenes are left in the oil after the vacuum distillation process.

Emulsion: A mixture of cannabis oil, water and an emulsifier. An emulsion is stable due to the interactions among the cannabis oil, water and the hydrophilic/lipophilic components of the emulsifier.

Extraction Vessel: A cylinder that is usually made of stainless steel where plant material is packed and where a solvent is injected to remove solutes from the parent material.

Extraction: The process that uses a solvent (i.e., CO2, ethanol, butane, etc.) to strip the parent plant material of the target compounds (i.e., cannabinoids, terpenes, etc.).

Full-Spectrum Oil: A product that undergoes minimal refinement—usually only winterization and clarification—that includes all of the major components of cannabis (i.e., terpenes, cannabinoids, fatty acids, flavonoids, etc.).

Isolate: A purified individual cannabinoid at 99-plus percent resulting from a chromatography process.

Nano Emulsion: An emulsion that contains micelles that measure within the nanometer range.

Pressure Regulator: An apparatus that controls the pressure of the solute in the extraction and collection vessels.

Recycler: A part of a closed-loop extraction system that conducts the solvent phase change and houses the recycled solvent prior to re-injection to the extraction vessel.

Refined Extract or Refined Oil: The product resulting from undertaking the winterization and clarification processes after the initial extraction. This is a cannabinoid-rich oil or sap that is usually yellow to red in color.

Separation: The second—or downstream—stage of the extraction process where the target compounds (i.e., cannabinoids, terpenes, etc.) are moved to a different physical location than the parent material. Some technologies have the ability to separate the compounds in multiple ways based on molecular weight (i.e. CO2).

Shatter: A refined extraction product that contains high concentrations of acid-form cannabinoids; it is crystalline and usually used for dabbing or vaporizing. It can also be consumed orally to obtain high dosages of acid-form cannabinoids.

Solute: A substance of interest in feed material (i.e., cannabis) that is to be removed from the feed material and isolated. In the cannabis industry, the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, etc., are the solutes of interest.

Solvent Recovery: The recovery of the winterizing and clarification solvent with the application of heat and vacuum. The most common techniques include rotary evaporation and falling-film evaporation.

Solvent: A substance with properties that promote the dissolution of solutes from the parent plant material. The most common examples in the cannabis industry are butane, carbon dioxide and ethanol.

Terpene Juice: A refined extract that contains large amounts of terpenes and a moderate concentration of cannabinoids. It is usually liquid or sap and commonly used for dabbing or vaporizing.

Vaporizing Oil: A product that can be derived from a full-spectrum oil or distillate formulation often used in a small vaporizing cartridge or larger vaporizer. Sometimes oil viscosity is manipulated with polyethylene glycol, propylene glycol, alpha bisabolol or medium chain triglycerides.

Wax or Crude Extract: The product first obtained from the extraction process. It contains all of the solutes extracted from the plant material (i.e., cannabinoids, waxes, terpenes, etc.). Mostly applies to products from carbon dioxide extraction.

Winterization: The process where crude extract is dissolved in ethanol at warmer temperatures (i.e., 40°C to 50°C) then cooled to between -20°C and -40°C to precipitate the fatty acids/waxes from the solution. Cannabinoids and terpenes are soluble in ethanol at the cool temperatures.

Mark June-Wells is principal owner of Sativum Consulting Group and a Ph.D. in botany/plant ecology (Rutgers University).