Progression of Cannabis Extraction Methods: Growing Trends & Extraction Risks

By Nicole Skrobin
Published: October 22, 2018
Key Takeaways

Within the cannabis industry, there are many ways to create extracts. Some are riskier and potentially hazardous to human health than others, while some are safe. Nicole Skrobin breaks down the extraction methods.

Shatter, budder, wax, rosin, sugar, and sauce — what do all these substances have in common? They’re all cannabis concentrates that are extracted through different methods. In recent years, these types of cannabis concentrates have made their way into the mainstream cannabis industry while gaining significant popularity and attention along the way. There are various methods that extractors use to create cannabis concentrates, and they all possess their own pros and cons. Although there are several extraction methods to choose from, it’s important to understand one’s desired results and the main reasons for using extracts whether it’s for medical, therapeutic, or recreational purposes. Keep reading to learn more about the progression of cannabis extraction methods including the latest trends, developments in extraction methods, and different extraction risks.


Cannabis Concentrates/Extracts — The Basics

If you’re new to cannabis or if you haven’t ventured off into the cannabis concentrates realm yet, here’s some background information. Extraction is often referred to as a process that has been utilized for centuries with the intention of creating natural byproducts from different kinds of plants including cannabis. The main goal of extraction is to gather sought-after compounds like cannabinoids and terpenes. However, the purpose of cannabis extraction techniques is to separate cannabis compounds and remove them from the plant matrix in order to isolate desirable plant compounds for usage.

Nowadays, various cannabis extracts have grown to become high in demand and commonplace in the mainstream cannabis market. So far, there are different extraction methods that can be utilized to properly divide plant material into extracts. Regarding extracting different cannabis compounds, the main ones extractors look for are terpenes and cannabinoids that deliver numerous appealing flavors, scents, and effects. Now, which extraction methods are the best for our health, and which ones are potentially dangerous? Although there are several different methods available, some of them are quite risky, expensive, and difficult to conduct at home.


Solvent and Solventless Extractions

In addition, there are two major categories cannabis concentrates can be grouped into —solvent and solventless extractions. The main goal of solventless extractions consists of pure glandular trichome head isolation because trichome heads contain different terpenes and cannabinoids. Several solventless extractions include dry sift, ice water hash, and rosin tech. However, there are other solvent-free extractions that are more common such as kief, hash or hashish, and rosin.

In recent years, solventless extracts have become a growing trend, especially since they can be produced in the comfort of one’s home. Time, patience, and minimal equipment are needed to create solventless extractions. Specifically, rosin has become a well-known extract because it can be produced from cannabis flower, hash, or kief.

According to analytical testing, solventless extraction methods extract different cannabinoids and terpenes with zero risks of toxic solvents being leftover, which is significantly positive for consumers’ health. One major trend in the cannabis concentrate production category is solventless hash oil (SHO) or rosin tech, which is gaining much recognition.


Next, solvent-based extractions are unique for several reasons, including the fact they normally create concentrates referred to as oils. Several well-known solvents include butane, propane, CO2, and ethanol or alcohol. Now, which extraction methods do you think are the healthiest, most widely-used, and riskiest?

Cannabis Extraction Methods: Healthy, Simple Execution, and Risky

Over the years, different cannabis extraction methods have made their way into the mainstream cannabis industry whether they’re healthy, easy to execute, or risky. Let’s begin with one of the healthier cannabis extraction methods otherwise known as supercritical CO2 extraction.


Supercritical CO2 Extraction

Supercritical CO2 extraction is reliant on turning carbon dioxide into a supercritical liquid. This occurs by administering both temperature and pressure until a supercritical liquid form is attained. In general, CO2 cannabis extraction consists of removing cannabis compounds from the plant matrix with carbon dioxide rather than alcohol.

Oftentimes, CO2 is an extractor’s preferred medium since it squeezes past the ‘critical’ point at roughly 90°F. As a result of this, additional flavor and a clearer high can be created from CO2 -derived concentrates. Additionally, CO2 cannabis extraction results in higher yields. It’s economical, safer than propane and butane, and it lessens the need to get rid of waste.

This extraction method also guarantees no residual solvent will exist in the final product. Fortunately, consumers can rest easy knowing CO2 extractions can kill mold or bacteria that exist in the plant material used. Overall, CO2 extracts are safer to consume even though the process of making them can be costly.

Alcohol & Ethanol Extraction

One of the oldest extraction forms is alcohol extraction, which uses ethanol or Everclear. Unfortunately, alcohol extraction is time-consuming and risky because ethanol and Everclear are highly flammable. This method also presents the challenge of removing chlorophyll from the extract, which is essential because chlorophyll has a very bitter taste.

If the alcohol is filtered and purged (removed) properly though, alcohol-based concentrates are relatively safe to consume and make at home. When utilizing this extraction method, there’s little chance of toxic residual chemicals being leftover once the final extract is produced. This method even allows for extracting numerous desirable cannabinoids and terpenes, which is one reason why this extraction method is commonly used today.

Butane Extraction

One of the riskiest cannabis extraction methods is butane extraction. Although this method can be performed at home, it can also be hazardous. For example, butane burns very easily once it’s in its gas phase. Therefore, the temperature that’s used must be carefully managed and controlled because if it’s not, there’s an elevated risk of the gas exploding.

Overall, analytical testing should always be performed after a butane extract is created because butane is very toxic to humans if consumed. This danger often makes this extraction method less popular, especially if the extract will be consumed for medicinal purposes.

Nonetheless, for years, butane extraction has been commonly used because of its low running cost and minimal equipment needed. If you purchase shatter, budder, or other butane-based extractions in the future, try buying lab-tested butane extracts for safety purposes.

Propane Extraction

Propane extractions are nearly the same as butane extractions aside from replacing butane with propane. Propane extractions create concentrates known as propane hash oil (PHO) or budder. However, careful attention and care must occur when completing this process. Removing as much propane as possible is essential because the consumption of propane is harmful to consumers’ health just like butane. Therefore, this method isn’t utilized as much as others because of this health concern.

Hydrocarbon Extraction

Lastly, hydrocarbon extraction is known as the most popular cannabis extraction method. This method strips different cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis plant by using hydrocarbons. One main positive of this process is it’s clean and leaves behind nearly no hydrocarbon residue if it’s executed properly.

The end result consists of a highly concentrated extract, which is then used to produce hash, wax, shatter, glass, and cannabis oils. The final extract is not only clean and pure, but it also contains extremely high levels of different terpenes and cannabinoids.

Cannabis Extraction Tips

Overall, many cannabis extraction methods have their own risks, especially if extractors don’t possess analytical skills and proper lab equipment to perform the processes safely and effectively. It’s crucial for extractors to conduct these methods correctly to ensure a safe product is produced since it’s for human consumption. It’s also important for the extraction results to be reviewed and confirmed via professional analytical testing to ensure the extracts are safe to consume.

Hopefully, you now understand the cannabis extraction methods used in the past, today, and what may be available in the future. So, the next time you purchase a cannabis concentrate in the future, consider asking the seller how the concentrate was extracted. As a consumer, the more information you have, the better. However, if you wish to make your own concentrates, don’t forget about the potential risks and dangers associated with certain methods. At the end of the day, your health is what matters most, and if you don’t prioritize it, who will?


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Written by Nicole Skrobin | Writer

Profile Picture of Nicole Skrobin

Nicole Skrobin is a passionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated copywriter/content creator with a digital and social media marketing background who strives to create high quality and informative content that adds value to readers’ lives. When Nicole isn’t writing, she’s either doing yoga, spending time outside, cooking, or finding joy in the little things in life.

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