You’ve probably heard of the term “solvent extract” before, but what exactly does that mean? Where does it come from and how do you use it?
In this article we will delve a little deeper into exactly what the term “solvent extract” refers to, its uses, and effects.
EARLY CANNABIS EXTRACTS
As we all know cannabis has been used as medicine for thousands of years. Archaeologists have been able to unearth clues from their digs and ancient texts that date the use of the cannabis plant by humans to almost 10,000 years ago.
One of the first types of concentrates produced is still heavily consumed around the globe today – hashish. First produced by hand by rolling the flower between the palms of the hands and collecting the sticky resin to form into balls or snake-like strips.
For a long period of time hashish was the reigning cannabis concentrate, until about the 1800s when folks began using vegetable oils to extract the oil-soluble THC and make crude tinctures for various pharmaceutical needs. Throughout the 19th century scientists made great efforts to isolate the active ingredient contained within the plant.
It wasn’t until post WWII when scientists in the United States were able to refine their extraction process and create a THC acetate “serum” that was heavily used in the infamous “Project MK Ultra” program on prisoners and soldiers.
During the 1970’s a new product began appearing on the market called “hash oil”, produced in countries where the crop first originated from such as Afghanistan, Thailand, Vietnam and the Pakistani/Indian border. Hash oil produced during this time contained anywhere from 10-30% THC and provided a much more potent product than the vast majority of flower available on the market.
The 1973 publication of “Cannabis Alchemy: The Art of Modern Hashmaking” details the method of preparing the hash oil with activated charcoal and pure alcohol as the solvent of choice.
MODERN DAY EXTRACTS
Thanks to modern innovation and advances in the scientific method we are able to produce and procure premium cannabis oils with increased purity and potency.
Oftentimes folks will refer to these extracts as “THC Oil”. The term “THC Oil” is simply an umbrella term that refers to numerous types of cannabis extracts that require the use of cannabis flower and a solvent. Common solvents used can include, but are not limited to, alcohol/ethanol, butane, liquid CO2 (carbon dioxide), vegetable oil and even limonene.
The exact process can vary from producer to producer, but generally THC oils are produced by steeping the flower in the solvent to separate the cannabinoids from the plant material, then refining the mixture through the use of heat, pressure and a little bit of patience. Depending on the solvent used the THC oil will come out with different terpenes, texture and potency.
But what kinds of oils will each type of solvent produce?
COMMON TYPES OF SOLVENT EXTRACTS
Butane Hash Oil (BHO)
Butane hash oil, commonly referred to as “BHO” uses butane as the solvent. If you’ve ever tried more than a few concentrates, you’ve likely tried some BHO as it is a very popular product due to it’s simple production method, compared to some other methods of extraction, and it’s strength. Most times you will find BHO labelled as “Honey Oil” due to it’s light amber colour and extremely sticky texture.
BHO is very strong, but because of its production method, where you must heat and essentially burn off the butane, many of the terpenes and cannabinoids from the original plant are also burned off during the production process. This can be smoked in/on a joint or bowl, dabbed, vaporised and even consumed orally.
CO2 derived cannabis oil is considered by many to be the gold-standard of cannabis concentrates. Oil extracted via this method is some of the purest oil you can currently get your hands on. Carbon dioxide extracted THC oil contains most of the terpenes and cannabinoids that were present in the initial plant material and so retains much of the flavour and effects you would get from smoking it in it’s plant form. This type of oil is popular for use in vapes, for smoking on a joint or bowl, dabbing and oral consumption.
Rick Simpson Oil/RSO/Phoenix Tears
Phoenix Tears are a very popular medicinal cannabis oil originally produced by its namesake, Rick Simpson. Rick initially created the oil to treat cancerous cells forming on his skin. Phoenix Tears are generally produced using alcohol as the solvent, but CO2 oil can also be used. The resulting finished product is rich with terpenes and cannabinoids with a deep amber/green colour and tar-like consistency that is best suited for oral consumption and topical use.
THC Distillate refers to a processed cannabis oil that has had the vast majority of its initial terpenes and cannabinoids removed so as to leave as much isolated THC, and sometimes CBD, as possible. A still is used to further refine already extracted cannabis oil at various temperatures.
Once the oil has been turned to vapour from the boiling and condensing coil catches and then re-condenses the vapour back into a liquid, leaving an almost transparent yellow-gold oil. Distillates are popular for use in orally-consumed cannabis products, such as edibles and tinctures, and in vape cartridges due to its lack of strong cannabis flavour and potency.
WHY USE SOLVENT EXTRACTS?
THC Oils are used most often by folks wanting a bit more “oomph” than your average cannabis flower is able to provide.
Those with higher tolerances will appreciate the efficiency these extracts offer the user. Solvent extracts, while initially may have a larger upfront cost, tend to save folks money in the long run due to the ability to store them for a longer period of time without losing strength, and the amount needed to medicate is usually smaller than a grain of rice.
Oftentimes conditions treated by use of solvent extracts include, but are not limited to; pain management, depression, anxiety, and gastrointestinal issues.
Solvent extracted cannabis concentrates are also popular for recreational use as they are potent, but still discrete, the removal of some/all of the terpenes isn’t necessarily a bad thing in that case!
USE OF SOLVENT EXTRACTS
Cannabis oils are some of the most versatile cannabis products out there, with vaping and use in edibles being the primary ways people use their oils. With both of these methods we always recommend the “low and slow method” as the strength of these extracts can even creep up on more seasoned tokers.
Factors that can affect how, when and the longevity of the effects include:
- Body weight & metabolism
- Method of consumption
- Type and quality of plant used to make the extract
It is important to remember that everyone experiences things differently, and what might work for you might not work for others, your mileage may vary!
Solvent extracted THC oils have gone from a rare and expensive cannabis product since their initial inception to a popular and affordable option for those looking to medicate or just have a good time.
Now that society has moved away from the reefer-madness days of old, cannabis and cannabis oils have exploded in popularity worldwide leading to improved refining methods and increased quality. It’s safe to say that more innovation on the extraction front is sure to come as time goes on.
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If you are looking to buy quality solvent extracted cannabis oils you have arrived in the right place!