Cold and Heated Cannabis Extractions

Medical cannabis is processed for administration in various ways; fresh, dried, and cold/heated extractions (or concentrates). In this session of the Substance Cannabis Class, we will be covering the different forms of cold and heated extractions.

Cold extractions/concentrates result in various products: 

  1. Kief: Powder of the trichomes that have fallen off the plant. May be ingested raw but is usually smoked on top of flower buds or ingested in cooked edibles.
  2. Slurry: Extraction using olive oil or alcohol. Usually ingested raw.
  3. Hash: Extraction using cold water and ice. May be ingested raw, smoked or used in cooking. Variety names reflect differences in the proportion of plant material to trichomes and how the variety reacts to heat.
    • Bubble = initially bubbles when exposed to heat.
    • Full bubble = continues to bubble throughout the heating process.
    • Melt = melts or turns into gooey oil when exposed to heat.
    • Full melt = almost pure trichomes; fully melts when exposed to heat, leaving little or no residue.
  4. Wax: Extraction using a solvent, most commonly butane, propane, CO2 or O2. Removal (“purging”) of the solvent may be through cold or heat evaporation (which changes the compounds available). Waxes are usually burned or vaporized, but may be used in cooking and in topical salves. Variety names usually refer to consistency. Examples:
    • Honeycomb/Crumble = dry, crumbly texture; often has small holes like a honeycomb.
    • Budder = more viscous, consistency like butter.
    • Shatter/Glass = consistency similar to hard candy.
    • Sap = sticky texture similar to honey.
    • Taffy = firmer than sap but not brittle like shatter.

Heated extractions/concentrates convert the cannabinoid acids into their neutral forms and usually removes most of the terpenoids. Various products include: 

  1. Tea: Extraction into hot water and then drunk.
  2. Tincture: Heated cannabis that is extracted in alcohol. Usually administered directly under the tongue (sublingually).
  3. Edible: Extraction into a fat (butteroil) and then used in cooking food.
  4. Oil: Slow heating of cannabis in olive or coconut oil. Usually used in food or topically on skin.
  5. Salve/Cream/Lotion: Low heating of cannabis oil with beeswax. Used topically on skin.

What Are Cannabinoids?

The Cannabis Sativa plant is known to produce over 480 chemical compounds. This includes over 100 known phytocannabinoids, commonly referred to as cannabinoids, that have not been found in any other plant. Cannabinoids can be used to treat a variety of ailments, long-term illnesses and diseases. They are known to mitigate the side-effects of heavy prescription drug use.

THC, CBD and CBN are the most tested and researched cannabinoids found in the Cannabis Sativa plant.

THC: Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis.

– How can it help me?  THC moderates pain, stimulates appetite, and reduces vomiting and nausea. It alleviates contractions in the lower intestine and suppresses muscle spasms.

CBD: Cannabidiol (CBD) is a primarily non-psychoactive cannabinoid.

– How can it help me? CBD, in addition to alleviating the symptoms listed above, treats psoriasis, reduces risk of artery blockage, slows bacterial growth, and relieves neuropathic pain in patients. Research now shows it can inhibit cancer growth.

CBN: Cannabinol (CBN) is a product of THC oxidation and forms after the harvested plant is exposed to oxygen.

– How can it help me? CBN is known to help alleviate insomnia and muscle spasms, as well as relieve pain.

While the aforementioned cannabinoids are currently the most researched, they are not necessarily the most important. Other cannabinoids, such as Cannabigerol (CBG) and Cannabichromene (CBC) work with the other cannabinoids to provide overall synergy and to optimize the health benefits of cannabis itself.