Everything you need to know about THC extraction

Do not try these techniques at home

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Ever wondered how THC extraction works or why people do it? Here is everything you need to know about the technique using butane, alcohol and CO2.

How it works

THC extraction is taking the best features of the plant to create a potent concentrate of THC. Extraction draws the flavonoids and terpenes out into a concentrate that is sometimes referred to as “dabs” or “shatter.” THC concentrate can give you a strong high. The process begins with the selection of the appropriate parts of the cannabis plant. High-quality concentrates are made with properly cured and dried cannabis. It is important that the plants have not been treated with pesticides so dangerous chemicals are not concentrated with the THC.

Extraction isn’t just about getting high. Concentrates can also be made from CBD-only extractions or a high CBD and low THC blend. The choice or strain dictates the potency of the concentration. THC (or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (or cannabidiol) are both cannabinoids found in marijuana. THC is known for its psychoactive effects whereas CBD contains much fewer psychoactive properties.

The process of THC extraction is delicate and complicated. Making your own concentrates is not advised as it can be dangerous. The process is dangerous because it can start a fire. The results can also be deadly as improper extraction can leave behind butane which is unhealthy to consume.

THC extraction with butane

Butane is a gas that smells like petroleum and is colourless. It’s used for fuel in items like cigarette lighters – definitely something you don’t want to consume or play with – but it helps with extraction.

Butane can be used in THC extraction. The process is rather simple: a tube is filled with the plants, butane is introduced, the cannabis and butane create a solution that drips into a bowl through a screen or filter that separates the plant material from the solution. This solution still contains butane that then needs to be eliminated. The process of ridding the butane from the solution is tricky. It involves heating the solution so the butane escapes through a hot water bath concoction as a gas. 

As you can imagine, releasing gas into your space is risky. And if you don’t release the butane from the concentrate, it is risky to consume. That’s why this THC extraction method is not recommended for at-home practice. It is also important to not buy from someone who uses this method as inhaling butane-coated shatter is incredibly unhealthy.

THC extraction with ethanol

THC extraction with ethanol is a common extraction method that has existed for a long time. The process is simple: soak the cannabis plant in ethanol and then remove it from the ethanol. People often use machines that force the evaporation of liquid like hot water baths. While using ethanol is much safer than butane, it is still not very healthy and it creates a pretty nasty-tasting concentrate.

While THC extraction with ethanol seems safer and healthier (after all, we use ethanol to produce the wine we drink), it is still not recommended. Ethanol is flammable and toxic depending on the dose.

THC extraction with CO2

CO2 (carbon dioxide) is as necessary for human and plant life as oxygen. The colourless and odourless gas also draws out cannabinoids. It works at a lower temperature so it’s safer to use than other methods and produces concentrates that are potent and better-tasting. 

The process is straight forward: the cannabis plants are placed into a vessel and liquid CO2 is introduced with force. The temperature and pressure cause the terpenes and cannabinoids to separate. Then, the separated compounds are collected. While this method may seem simple, it is quite delicate and complicated. The exact amount of pressure and temperature required and knowing how to separate the wax requires expert knowledge. This knowledge allows extractors to modify flavours and enhance certain tastes. CO2 extraction lets extractors create concentrates that offer a specific type of high. 

Don’t try this at home

Dabs create a potent and lovely high, but THC extraction with butane, ethanol and CO2 can be dangerous. None of these methods are recommended for at-home use. Some things are just better left to the professionals! Always be careful who you buy from and the methods they use. Even if you aren’t extracting THC and risking your house burning down, the end result can still be hazardous to inhale.

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