Here at San Benito, we like to refer to our whole-spectrum Natural Absolute CBD oil as “fresh-squeezed” and “fresh-pressed.” But what does that mean, exactly, and why is our method of extraction superior to others?
The end goal of any method of extraction is to separate cannabinoids and terpenes from cannabis plants. CO2 extraction typically accomplishes this via a three-chamber process that manipulates CO2’s tendency to behave as a liquid or as a gas depending on temperature and pressure conditions.
In the first chamber, CO2 is cooled and subjected to enough pressure to convert it from a gas to a liquid. Next, it’s slowly heated and pressurized until it reaches its “supercritical” state, in which it expands like a gas but remains concentrated like a liquid. Now it’s pumped into a second chamber containing hemp plant matter, where it separates the desirable oils from the plant material. Finally, the oil and CO2 enter a third chamber, where the residual CO2 evaporates.
CO2 is good at extracting CBD and terpenes, but it’s also good at extracting the cannabis plant’s naturally occurring lipids and waxes, which have to be removed in order to keep the oil from solidifying. This process, called winterization, often relies on solvents like ethanol, isopropanol, or methanol, and also subjects the oil to terpene-destroying heat levels.
During ethanol extraction, cured plant matter is soaked in ethanol, which is great at stripping CBD from plants. Unfortunately, sInce it’s a polar solvent, ethanol is also really good at extracting other water-soluble compounds, like chlorophyll, which can lead to undesirable effects on flavor, aroma, and effectiveness. CBD oil extracted with ethanol is subjected to a terpene-destroying refinement and filtration process that is expensive in terms of both labor costs and its high carbon footprint.
In this method, butane is passed through raw plant matter, where it isolates terpenes and cannabinoids. The mixture is then heated until any remaining butane evaporates. In an open-loop system, the highly combustible butane gas is simply released into the atmosphere. In a closed-loop system, the butane is collected and reused. While butane does a better job of leaving behind lipids and waxes, it’s also famous for its other popular use: lighter fluid.
If both of the above methods sound complicated, expensive, and dangerous, that’s because they are. Testing is meant to guarantee that any CBD oil on the market is safe and solvent-free, but if you could extract the oil without adding solvents in the first place, why wouldn’t you?
Think about the difference between a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and a glass of orange juice from a store-bought carton. The stuff from the carton looks and tastes different for a variety of different reasons. It’s likely been subjected to extremely high heat during the pasteurization process, and that heat destroys a lot of what makes the juice so special in the first place: terpenes.
Terpenes are aromatic compounds that are present in almost every single plant that smells (and tastes!) good to us. Citrusy lemons and limes, peppery basil and rosemary, soothing lavender, even vanilla: all owe their unique scents to the presence of various terpenes.
As CBD oil continues to grow in popularity, research increasingly shows that terpenes play a large role in what’s known as the “entourage effect,” or the idea that terpenes work with other compounds, like cannabinoids and flavonoids, to produce a variety of beneficial and therapeutic effects.
Our method of extraction relies on pressure, not heat, to separate plant oils from plant matter. Our goal is to handle our hemp plants as minimally and as gently as possible, thereby preserving the terpenes, cannabinoids, and other delicate compounds that make our whole-spectrum oil the most effective in the world.