The cannabis extraction process uses a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) to separate the target chemical components (cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds) from the cannabis plant material, ideally (but not always) comprising the full spectrum of cannabis’s chemical content.
These VOCs are generally solvents or hydrocarbon solvents; theoretically, they are completely removed before consumption as a “solvent-free” final product.
The most common cannabis extraction method utilizes butane, propane, or hexane to wash the chemical components out of the plant material. The butane is then evaporated away, leaving only cannabis extract. This product is referred to as Butane Hash Oil (BHO) and it is the basis of an entire class of extracts which includes the very popular and widely available shatter and terpene sauce.
The use of carbon dioxide (complicated) and alcohol (simple) are also popular methods, creating subtly different end products. Even a fat such as butter or olive oil can be used to extract chemical component from plant material.
Once these chemical compounds are separated out from the plant material, they can then be further separated into their different constituent components through the use of precisely controlled heat. These components can also be remixed together to highlight the sought after features and known effects. This is how distillate, pure CBD isolate, pure THC-A crystals, or intensification of extracted terpenes is achieved.
This dissection of the chemical make-up of cannabis allows for the creation of high-terpene, full-spectrum extract (HTFSE) and high-cannabinoid, full-spectrum extract (HCFSE). Quickly becoming very popular, these “terpene sauces” are the finest blends of potency and flavor for the discerning consumer. These are often proprietary re-mixes of the extracted cannabinoids and terpenes.