Last updated: November 22, 2021

What Does Solvent Mean?

A solvent is the dissolving medium of a solution.

When one substance dissolves into another, a solution is formed. A solution consists of a solute dissolved into a solvent. Solutions can be formed with many different types of solutes and solvents. Solvents range from simple water, to a variety organic compounds, to various hydrocarbons. A solvent is usually a liquid but can also be a solid, a gas, or a supercritical fluid. The ability of one compound to be dissolved into another is described using terms like soluble or solubility.

In terms of cannabis extraction, a solvent is used to separate cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis flower. Hydrocarbon solvents like butane or hexane are used to extract butane hash oil (BHO) which is then used to make various extract products such as shatter or full-spectrum extracts (FSEs). Other solvents can also be utilized to create a variety of extract products such as alcohol, olive oil, hexane, ethanol, and a class of supercritical fluids including CO2 and tetrafluoroethene.

Cannabis extracts with all of the solvent removed are known as solvent free while cannabis concentrates that do not utilize a solvent during the concentration process are known as solvent-less.


Maximum Yield Explains Solvent

Solvents such as butane, CO2, and ethanol are used in the extraction of cannabis. Varying types of solvents effect the color, taste, and the consistency of the end product. For example, butane-extracted products can result in stable shatters and sticky saps, while CO2 makes for oily products.

There are currently four main methods of solvent-based extraction in the cannabis industry:

  1. Hydrocarbon Extraction (butane, propane, hexane, acetone, ethyl ether, and methyl ethyl ketone).
  2. Alcohol Extraction (ethyl alcohol [ethanol] or isopropyl alcohol)
  3. Super-Critical Fluid Extraction (CO2)
  4. R134a Terpene Wash (tetrafluoroethane [TFE])

Solvents find various applications in chemical, pharmaceutical, oil, and gas industries, including in chemical syntheses and purification processes. Water itself is the most common solvent on earth. With that being the case, the term solvent is also very important in the context of horticulture.

In a plant's growth and circulatory systems, water carries dissolved nutrients as a solution. As well, nutrient solutions utilized in hydroponic growing use water as a solvent for controlled nutrition. For example, powdered nutrients are solutes, which must be mixed with/dissolved in water, the solvent, before they can be used. The nutrient solution then travels to the plant cells through the process of osmosis.


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