Cannabis extraction is similar to the processes used to decaffeinate coffee, produce vitamins and minerals, and create essential oils. In cannabis, the main compounds producers are looking to extract are cannabinoids (like THC and CBD) and terpenes – these compounds provide the aroma, flavor, and effect of the final product.
Concentrates are made using a variety of extraction methods and solvents in processes that utilize pressure in a safe, closed-loop system. Cannabis concentrates can be divided into two main categories:
- Solvent Extractions
Solvents strip compounds from the plant, leaving behind a highly potent liquid solution. Popular solvents include butane, propane, CO2, and alcohol.
- Solventless Extractions
Solventless extractions do not introduce any foreign substances. Although water is technically a solvent, ice-water extractions are typically classified as solventless extractions in cannabis.
Two types of bases or “carriers” are generally used when making cannabis tinctures: ethanol or oils (MCT, Grapeseed, etc.). These liquids serve as a vessel that THC, CBD, and other phytocannabinoids and terpenes can bind to. Most often, tinctures are extracted in alcohol because it acts as a more potent solvent compared to other carriers. Some herbs have a harder time releasing their medicinal qualities to solvents that are less potent, such as water, apple cider vinegar or vegetable glycerine. It's important to keep in mind that tinctures with an ethanol base will be absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly.