A lot of people talk about cannabis and alcohol in the sense of whether or not they should be mixed. There are a lot of conflicting opinions about this topic, but we’re here to tell you that cannabis LOVES alcohol... 200 proof ethanol alcohol that is!
In the world of inhalation, ethanol alcohol (EA) is generally at the bottom of the list of preferred extraction solvents because most terpenes and some minor cannabinoids are lost in the extraction process. Since terpenes don’t play the same role through digestion as they do through inhalation, ethanol extraction is perfect for CBD isolate and THC distillate products, which are generally used for edibles and other non-inhalable cannabis products.
EA is used for many food grade products and is considered safe for human consumption. However, the potency is a lot higher than that of your favorite whiskey and ranges from 190-200 proof when used in an extraction lab. Never drink this high of proof alcohol, as it can cause serious cases of alcohol poisoning. In fact, you can even experience alcohol poisoning if you get enough high proof EA on your skin!
EA isn’t a very selective solvent at room temperature, meaning that it extracts a bunch of different compounds from the plant, including undesirables like chlorophyll. In order to make EA more selective, it is repeatedly rinsed over the plant material at temperatures ranging from 30-50°C. Even at these super low temperatures, EA extraction still requires a lot of post production which is ultimately what degrades the terpenes.
After the EA is washed over the finely ground cannabis material, it is then filtered to remove large particles, winterized if needed, distilled for solvent recovery, decarboxylated, then distilled again to increase the potency, and sometimes even further processed depending on the final product. All of this processing is what deteriorates the terpenes and minor cannabinoids. This Is why EA is perfect for CBD isolate and THC distillate labs that manufacture non-inhalables.
So next time you’re enjoying an edible, topical, transdermal, suppository, or even some inhalables, think about the fact that alcohol could have played a big role in manufacturing the product.
Ethanol alcohol solvent recovery in table top rotovap - Provided by Superior Molecular