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Extracting Only Valuable Plant Substances for Pharmaceuticals, Food Supplements or Cosmetics

Winterization is one of the most critical and time-consuming steps in hemp extraction process. Skipping winterization step, while extracting only useful substances from the plant might help to significantly save your production time.

From Growing to Full Spectrum

A good quality hemp oil starts with farming. It is important to grow hemp organically in a controlled surrounding, as this plant soaks the toxins out of the soil, which can result in toxins in the final product. Harvesting hemp is also a critical stage for oil production because there are several factors that can significantly decrease the value of hemp biomass. It is important to monitor the bud visually and harvest before the trichomes on the bud become of a milky white color, to avoid the appearance of moulds in the crop. Once hemp is harvested, growers should immediately move the wet crop to their drying facility. It is worth mentioning that quality seeds for hemp growing are needed to maximise the output of the harvest.

After drying, the product undergoes extraction process, and this is where the broad field of cannabidiol oil sorts open. Crude oil, also known as full-spectrum – is the oil extracted from the whole plant, which contains all plant compounds. It has been studied, that hemp oil works best in conjunction with other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. However, crude oil may contain high THC level, whereas less than 0.3% THC is considered federally legal, as it cannot get you high. To  purify the crude oil after extraction and to separate the also valuable terpenes, the distillation process takes place.

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Cold Ethanol versus Carbon Dioxide Extraction

A solvent is needed in extraction process to separate the essential oil taken from the plant and to concentrate  resin into a product of its own. Ethanol, butane, and CO2 are the most common solvents used for oil extraction. However, ethanol and CO2, are safer to use for pharmaceuticals or consumers products, as these solvents can extract resin from psychoactive hemp varieties and non-intoxicating hemp cultivars alike.

Cold Ethanol Extraction

Ethanol extraction method uses a purity of this solvent of 96 %vol. In order not to solve any unwanted compounds like fats, waxes, or chlorophyll, ethanol is cooled down to -40 °C or below. The plant is then soaked in ethanol to – over time – separate the extract from the biomass. In a different vessel, the ethanol is evaporated and separated from the material. Ethanol can be easy to scale as this solvent is more cost-effective at a higher volume. In general, with a ‘warm’ ethanol or CO2 extraction, waxes, lipids, and fats are still present in the oil. This then calls for winterization step, which allows to remove unwanted compounds from the oil by using alcohol. Cooling the ethanol down to a temperature of -40 °C or even lower, allows to skip winterization step in the extraction process and extract pure crude oil, without unwanted waxes. It saves on production time and makes extraction process more efficient.

CO2 Extraction

CO2 extraction method uses pressurized carbon dioxide to pull the desired phytochemicals from a plant. In a supercritical state, CO2 acts as both, liquid, and gas to penetrate and dissolve plant derivatives in the CO2 solvent.  In this process, that is considered very safe, carbon dioxide is put to work when exposed to the correct temperature and pressure conditions (supercritical). Pressurized carbon dioxide is pumped into a chamber with plant material. Mostly, there are three (or more) chambers; one to pressurize and cool down the CO2, one that holds the plant material and another one to create a closed-loop system and recapture the CO2 at the end. This extraction method eliminates the need for other solvents that might be less healthy. It is supposed to be risk-free when it comes to toxicity. Another advantage is that this method results in a more aromatic extract, compared to other ways of extraction. However, CO2 solves some fats and waxes from the plant, which makes a further winterization step necessary afterwards.

What Happens after Extraction?

After the extraction of crude oil, distillation process is started.  The “full-spectrum” oil can further be purified, as it has a residue in the form of terpenes and other impurities. Nevertheless, it still allows to gain some of the beneficial impacts of the entourage effect, where plant compounds act synergistically. However, it is also possible to create a pure oil called “Isolate”, where compounds get isolated and separated through a crystallization process. Isolate oil is a pure oil that does not contain THC and other derivatives and terpenes. It might be good for those who would like to try the oil without ingesting any of the psychoactive compound.

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Meet Quality Standards with GMP Compliant Technology

Cannabidiol professionals and users alike, everyone wants hemp products to be effective, of good quality and safe. GMP guidelines (and good practices) regulate this, for example by asking for clean manufacturing processes. This can be achieved by making sure production machines are GMP compliant, which gives the cannabidiol professional one less thing to worry about.

GMP compliant machine manufacturers will make sure the design of the machine is completely up to par with any necessary standards. Not only this, there will also be an extensive test to see if the equipment can operate under peak operating conditions to ensure measuring and safety features perform as supposed to. The manufacturer might also be able to assist in ensuring a qualified installation and make sure the operation of the machine is in line with GMP guidelines. This will make sure the machine operates as it should within all ranges.

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