When it comes to cannabis concentrates, it’s not all about THC levels. When some TLC is applied in the extraction process, more of the important compounds are preserved. In such cases, the ensuing high experienced can be quite different.
In this post, we take a closer look at just why higher levels of THC in distillate cannabis oil can often give an inferior high to concentrates such as shatter with lower levels of THC.
Entourage Effect – The Synergy of Cannabinoid and Terpene Ratios
Known as the entourage effect, the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids present in the cannabis plant all work together with an interactive synergy of sorts that render therapeutic benefits possible.
However when cannabis concentrates are formed, sometimes not all that goodness is extracted.
Extracting the Goodness from the Cannabis Plant
Extraction methods in the cannabis industry typically consist of two types – solvent-based and non-solvent extraction.
Non-solvent extractions involve the use of water, pressure or heat to extract the beneficial properties from the plant. While solvent-based techniques use chemical solvents to separate resin glands from the cannabis flower.
Solvent-based extractions often provide a more potent effect as they preserve the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes in high concentrations leading to a more intense flavor and high.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
The Problem With Distillate Cannabis Oil
Cannabis distillates often contain extremely high levels of THC. Concentrations upward of 90% are not uncommon.
Distillates are formed through vaporizing the cannabinoids at high temperature in a process known as ‘short path distillation’. It results in a pure solution, rich in cannabinoids, free of plant matter and solvents.
Distilling has advantages. One is ensuring that harmful particles like benzene and carbon monoxide are not present in the final product. However, the higher temperatures used mean there is a price to pay when it comes to terpene content. With a lower boiling point than cannabinoids, many of those all-important terpenes such as humulene are destroyed in the distillation process.
This, of course, negates the entourage effect we spoke of earlier and may render the oil less effective for recreational or therapeutic means.
Solvent-Based Extractions – Capturing The Full Spectrum
With solvent-based extractions, chemical solvents are used to strip the flowers of that potent resin. With temperature and pressure strictly controlled, the process results in the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes being preserved.
Let’s take a look at two forms of concentrates produced via solvent-based extractions to understand how they differ from distillates.
Shatter is one of the most popular forms of concentrate consumed. However, when comparing the THC content directly to distillate oils, you will often find more potent effects in shatter with a lower THC rating.
The reason for this is that the process by which shatter is created preserves the cannabinoid and terpene profile. Those high extraction temperatures associated with distillates are not required when it comes to producing shatter.
The vacuum purging process – required to remove residual solvent – is carried out at a temperature of only 45℃, well below the boiling point of the precious terpenes.
It’s the preservation of this complete profile with the terpenes that help deliver a high which may better serve your needs. You simply need these terpenes in the final product to help modulate the plant’s effects.
Rick Simpson Oil
Let’s take a look at another popular concentrate. Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) is one of the earliest forms of modern cannabis concentrates. It’s a whole plant extract, which means that the potential entourage effects of the chosen strain are maximized.
It can be made at home via a solvent-based extraction technique using alcohol. With the lower temperatures involved, the terpenes are preserved and the max temperature of 110℃ is enough for decarboxylation to occur. This results in a concentrate which provides a solid high and can be consumed orally as opposed to dabbing.
Remember that when choosing a concentrate, the extraction process is of paramount importance. Not all concentrates are created equally and some extraction methods render certain beneficial properties of the plant lost forever, like those precious terpenes.
It all goes a lot deeper than the concentration of THC. Whatever your intention, you’ll want the full spectrum of goodness from the plant and allow the entourage effect to manifest as nature intended!
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