Processing / Manufacturing

The Art of Hemp Extraction

“The greatest scientists are artists as well.” – Albert Einstein

The marriage of science and art is a beautiful thing. There’s no left-brained, right-brained stereotypical debate here discussing dreamers and nerds. Rather, it’s a hybrid union that melds artistic expression with the scientific method and its various rigors. And hemp extraction provides a wonderful example of an initial blank canvas that requires meticulous diligence, process standardization, analytical chemistry, and appropriate safety measures when designing contaminant-free intermediate and end products.

When an extractor is constructing their palette, there are several key things to consider. What products will you create? What scale is needed? And what is the intended product direction from a certification vantage point? These are just examples. There are many more.

The Palette of Possibilities

As in the cannabis industry, products rich in hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) can be taken in several directions, such as tinctures, vaporizable products, or the CBD can be added to products as diverse as pillows and toothpicks. A topical product might be fashioned from crude or decarboxylated oil, as the plant waxes might add value. A tincture can be made from a crude or winterized or distilled oil. Carrier oils might include medium chain triglycerides (MCT) from coconut, hemp seed oil, or olive oil. Perhaps the end product will be a vape cartridge, where those waxes must be removed via winterization and distillation.

Pleasing Organoleptic Attributes

As the product is refined, your colors will sway in tandem with the chemistry. Crude hemp oil is black and thick like pasty mud or comparable to Rick Simpson Oil. Distillate ranges from honey-like amber to gold. And if you take a CBD-rich oil to its barest form, a white powder results.

The flavor of hemp oil, whether crude or refined, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. There can be vegetal and bitter tastes that may be off-putting to people that could benefit from the molecules therein. Therefore, some manufacturers strip away as much of the flavor via winterization for predominantly wax removal, and distillation for fractionating off a CBD-rich oil. These steps lead to the removal of terpenes and there will be lost cannabinoids too. These processes aren’t perfect, and so, every time the oil is refined in some way, losses should be expected.

External, botanical flavors like terpenes can be added back in to provide more palatable formulations while simultaneously supplementing key terpenes like limonene that have been lost throughout the product’s refinement.

There’s a lot to consider when developing your blueprints for product manufacturing via hemp extraction. We haven’t even touched on extraction solvents like ethanol or supercritical carbon dioxide, each with pros and cons that oscillate with cost and scale and sustainability, not to mention extraction time and yield.

Once your base ingredients are ready, you can flex your creativity by choosing from your palette with purposeful intent.

Image Credit: Ryan Bushby(HighInBC) / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)

About the author

Jason S. Lupoi, Ph.D.

Jason S. Lupoi, Ph.D.

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