HEMP & CBD FAQ’s
Alcohol versus CO2 Extraction – Why is Alcohol Better?
The two most common CBD extraction techniques use either CO2 (carbon dioxide) or alcohol (ethanol) as a solvent. Ethanol is a commonly used alcohol that is derived from plant fermentation and has been designated safe for human consumption by the FDA.
CBD oil extracted with ethanol can be certified organic. CBD oil extracted with CO2 cannot.
One of the most important differences in the two solvents is that CO2 only extracts non-polar, oil-soluble compounds. This results in a very limited extraction and many valuable components of the hemp plant are left behind. Ethanol, on the other hand, because it is both polar and non-polar can extract a much wider range of water and oil-soluble molecules, that includes almost all of the plants medicinal oils, polysaccharides, carboxylic acids and other beneficial compounds. This gives you a more complex extract which is especially important in hemp since it contains a very broad range of beneficial substances that work together in an entourage effect.
Alcohol extraction maintains the original cannabinoid and terpenoid ratios found in the plant. CO2 extraction does not.
A normal downside of using ethanol, or any polar solvent, is that at room temperature it will also extract chlorophyll. Hemp extracts containing chlorophyll will be dark colored and have a bitter, grassy flavor – which is undesirable. To avoid this, we use subzero temperature ethanol. By super-chilling our ethanol it eliminates the extraction of lipids and significantly reduces the extraction of chlorophyll. This proprietary method creates pure ethanolic extracts, without compromising the complex spectrum of the cannabinoid and terpene profiles.
While the CO2 method does not extract chlorophyll, it does extract undesirable lipids and waxes that later must be removed in extra steps called winterization. This lengthy extra purification process can adversely affect the final cannabinoid and terpenoid profile.
Another important benefit of ethanol extraction is the esterification of organic acids. That sounds like a mouthful of chemistry, so let’s break it down to what it actually means and why it is important. When an organic acid (like CBDa) combines with alcohol, an ester is formed. Esters are water-soluble, making them easier to be absorbed by the human body.
85% to 95% of the CBD in raw hemp is in the form of CBDa or Cannabidiolic Acid, which is an organic acid. When it is extracted with ethanol, the resulting water-soluble ester formed is CBD, which is a more bio-available form.
Bioavailability is extremely important when it comes to CBD extracts and this is another area where CO2 extraction comes up short. CO2 derived extracts are oil-soluble, more difficult to digest and must be broken down by the body’s acids and enzymes to be absorbed, reducing their potency in the process.
We feel that our cryogenic (super-chilled) ethanol CBD extraction is superior to any other method of extraction for four key reasons:
1. The ability to extract both water-soluble and oil-soluble compounds from the plant, results in a broader spectrum, more complex extract with a wider range of beneficial compounds. It also preserves the cannabinoid and terpenoid ratios and supports the entourage effect.
2. Ethanol extraction avoids the additional extensive purification process of winterization, required in CO2 extraction to remove lipids and waxes, which can affect cannabinoid – terpene ratios and quality.
3. Esterification of the organic acid form of CBDa to CBD during ethanol extraction, results in a highly bioavailable, more effective product.
4. The ethanol removed from the finished concentrate can be reused in multiple extractions, which effectively eliminates the production of chemical waste.