Cannabis can be used and enjoyed in many forms. One of the most well-known methods to reap the benefits of the plant is smoking. Another form of cannabis that’s growing in popularity is cannabis extract. Extracts are more potent than the buds they’re made from and used for a variety of medicinal and recreational purposes.

What Is Cannabis Extract?

Cannabis extracts are substances that are extracted from the cannabis plant. The process involves removing the plant matter and leaving behind the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds such as flavonoids.

Extracts are popular for many reasons:

  • They’re stronger than the actual buds
  • They maintain the flavor and aroma profiles of the plants they’re extracted from
  • They provide the entourage effect

When extracts are made, unnecessary components are removed, leaving only the desired compounds. Depending upon the method used, however, desirable terpenes or flavonoids may also be removed. In such cases, these compounds may be added back in after the extraction process is complete.

Hydrocarbon Extracts

Hydrocarbon extracts are made using butane as a solvent. In some cases, the solvent is a mix of butane and propane. To make the extract, hydrocarbon gas is transformed into a liquid and passed over raw cannabis plant material. The cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other desirable compounds in the plant are dissolved, creating a liquid solution. The butane is then removed from the solution.

The hydrocarbon extraction process is used to make such products as:

  • Butane hash oil (BHO)
  • Propane hash oil (PHO)
  • Live resin (made from fresh flowers
  • that have been frozen pre-extraction)
  • Shatter (made from dried and cured flowers)

CO2 Extracts

CO2 extracts involve passing liquid CO2 through the cannabis plant material to remove the desired compounds. Temperature and pressure changes inside of the supercritical CO2 machine cause the gas to undergo phase changes. CO2 transforms from a gas into a substance that has properties of both a gas and a liquid. This substance penetrates porous solids and forces out plant compounds based on weight.

Using a supercritical CO2 machine, the temperature and pressure of the CO2 can be altered. This makes it easier to extract only the most desirable compounds inside of the cannabis plant. Unlike hydrocarbon extracts, CO2 extracts require little post-extraction processing.

cannabis extraction

Other Extracts

Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) is made using isopropyl alcohol or naphtha as a solvent. The cannabis plant matter is soaked in the solvent and then strained. The resulting liquid then goes through a distillation process to remove any lingering alcohol. The extract has a tar-like appearance and can be used topically or orally.

It’s also possible to create extracts without solvents. Rosin is made by applying pressure and heat to the plant material to extract the resin. The heat can be a problem, as it may destroy some of the terpenes in the cannabis plant. The biggest benefit to this method, though, is that you don’t have to worry about any residual solvents.

Cannabis extracts are an excellent option for those looking for a clean high. They’re also more discreet, allow for more accurate dosing, and absorb quickly. If you’re unsure of which extract is right for you, a budtender at your licensed dispensary can help to point you in the right direction.