Cannabis 101: What’s the Deal with CO2 Extraction?

If you’ve spent any time exploring the Kynd website, you’ve likely read about our supercritical CO2-extraction process. Ever wondered what that is, or how CO2 and BHO extractions differ? Well, wonder no more.

Cannabis Extractions

Extractions are nothing more than concentrated cannabis oils. It’s this essential oil that contains all of those beneficial cannabinoids that we know and love. In a cannabis plant, oils are typically concentrated on the exterior of the female plant’s flowering bud, and sometimes in the fan leaves.

Separating the oil from the plant material is typically achieved with the use of solvents, which essentially melt away the resin glands, or trichomes. As fats, trichomes can’t be dissolved or removed with water. Instead, they require substances like butane or carbon dioxide to strip oils into concentrates.

CO2 vs Butane

Butane hash oil, or BHO, is popular thanks to the variety in its textures and consistencies. It’s also a consistently strong product, often testing between 60 and 90 percent THC. But it has been associated with a few problems. First, the BHO extraction process can be dangerous, requiring the use of a closed-loop system to minimize any risk of explosion. Word of warning to the DIY extraction crowd – making these at home in open air is a great way to blow up your place!

BHO is also more likely to contain leftover solvents that aren’t so awesome for the lungs. And as a petroleum product, it’s not particularly eco-friendly. The good news is that the latest technology in BHO extraction is pretty darn sophisticated, so the concern about residual solvent is quickly becoming a non-issue.

So what about CO2? The process of supercritical CO2 extraction is widely considered a safer, cleaner, faster way to remove botanical oils, including cannabis. Using CO2 as a solvent means that no toxins, heavy metals, or hydrocarbons come in contact with the oils. There are no residual solvents in cannabis oils extracted with CO2, and CO2 is also non-flammable and doesn’t contribute to atmospheric CO2 levels. And then there are the nitty-gritty details, like the fact that CO2 extractions can be done at room temperature, which minimizes thermal degradation to both the plant material and the oils; and that solvency power can be easily adjusted via temperature and/or pressure, creating unique extractions like waxes, oils, and shatters.

One of the potential drawbacks to CO2 extraction can be fewer terpenes in the finished product. Some manufacturers circumnavigate this by re-introducing native terpenes, which can be stripped during extraction. Here at Kynd, we always strive to provide a naturally-occuring, full-plant extract. As well, CO2 extractions are usually lower in THC, measuring between 50 and 75 percent, though some products can test higher.

While the choice, ultimately, is the consumer’s, it’s never a bad idea to ask your favorite budtender for recommendations.

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