There are many different and fascinating uses for CO2 oils. Whether you're interested in going into business or just extraction for home use, it's helpful to know all the different ways to use CO2 oils. With the increasing popularity of extracts in today’s cannabis market, there is a growing demand for a cleaner product, produced without the use of toxic organic solvents.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extracts are made by passing liquid or supercritical CO2 through cannabis tissues at high pressure, then reducing the pressure to separate the extract from the CO2. CO2 becomes a supercritical fluid when its temperature and pressure surpass its critical point. At this point, the liquid and vapour phase can coexist, and the fluid has the ability to dissolve solutes like a liquid but also diffuse through solids like a gas. Depending on the specific temperature, pressure, and duration of each extraction run, the resulting extract can vary in colour, viscosity, and content of cannabinoids, terpenes, waxes, and lipids. The extract can then be further processed depending on its consistency and the intended form of the end-product.
There are a huge variety of products on the market today that are made using CO2-derived extract.
CO2 Extraction Oil
Oil can generally be described as a “liquid” form of a CO2 extract. Oil can be smoked, dabbed, used in edibles, or vaporized. Generally, though not always, there is some form of separatory step to isolate the oil from the waxes and lipids that remain. The most common separatory method is called winterization. In winterization, the extract is dissolved in pure ethanol and the mixture is cooled, which pulls out the waxes and lipids. The ethanol is then removed via a vacuum oven or rotary-evaporator. The oil that remains usually contains anywhere from 45-80% THC. By using subcritical extraction conditions, manufacturers can make usable oils without winterization. Extracts made under subcritical conditions contain fewer waxes and lipids and are less viscous than supercritical extracts, which affects their usability.
Vaporizers, or vape pens, have quickly become a popular method of oil vaporization for those looking for an easy, quick, clean, and discreet solution. Vape pens are filled with 0.25 – 1 ml of oil and come as either one-time-use or exchangeable oil cartridge variants. Every vape pen or vape pen cartridge model will work differently with different viscosities of oil. Some are designed to work well using just winterized oil. Others require a less viscous oil that can be made by mixing winterized oil with a carrier oil such as glycerin, a naturally derived terpene mixture, or both.
Distillation is the process of separating components of a liquid mixture by selective evaporation and condensation. The distillate remains when CO2 extract or winterized oil is distilled, and the THC is precipitated out of solution- this will result in anywhere from 80-99.0 % pure THC. Like oil, it can be smoked, dabbed, used in edibles, or vaporized. Distillate itself is too viscous for use in a vape pen until it has been mixed with a carrier oil.
Edibles are commonly made by mixing oil or distillate with fat; olive oil, butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, and bacon fat are all popular options. Other popular options involve honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, or glycerin. The mixture can then be added to any food as desired.Popular examples of cannabis-infused edibles include cookies, brownies, gummy candy, juices, sodas, and lollipops. By mixing with fat, the CBDs or THC will be transported to and broken down by the body’s lipid metabolizing system, resulting in a “body high” that assist with pain relief and other such conditions. For this to work, cannabis oil must first be heated for decarboxylation to occur. THC molecules exist in cannabis mostly as THC-acid, known as THCA. THCA is non-psychoactive, though its therapeutic effects are poorly understood. THCA must be heated to approximately 105 °C (220 °F) under ambient pressure to turn it into its psychoactive successor THC through decarboxylation. Thus, edible producers must de-carboxylate their oil before or during the process of making edibles.
Oil or distillate, mixed with a carrier oil as described above under “Edibles,” can also be placed into capsules for easy consumption. The capsules can vary in potency depending on the potency of the original oil, and the amount of carrier oil added. Capsules provide and quick and easy solution for self-medication.
CO2 tinctures are extracts made by infusing oil or distillate with alcohol. The greater the alcohol content, the greater the number of CBDs that are extracted. The finished tincture is usually placed in a dropper vial with which doses can be applied onto or underneath the tongue. As with edibles, the oil must be decarboxylated prior to ingestion to achieve any psychoactive effect.
CO2 wax, shatter and crumble
Wax, shatter, and crumble are highly concentrated THC products (30-99.9%) that can be smoked, dabbed, or vaporized. Traditionally, these products were made using butane hash oil (BHO), and BHO derivatives. As these methods are incredibly dangerous, CO2 extract manufacturers have begun crafting similar products using SFE. The process involves first producing the right consistency of oil by varying the extraction conditions, then using evaporation and/or separation techniques to achieve the desired product form. Depending on the oil consistency and level of agitation provided during solvent removal, either shatter, crumble or wax is formed.
When applied topically, the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties are seen rather than the psychoactive effects. Cannabis-infused topicals are made by mixing cannabis or cannabis oil, cooking oil (coconut oil is probably the most popular), and wax together with heat. The cannabinoids can either be decarboxylated or left in their original acid forms.
CBD suppositories are often made by infusing fat (vegetable oil, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.) with cannabis or cannabis oil and use is intended to achieve the psychoactive effects of THC. As with edibles, the THC must be first decarboxylated to achieve a psychoactive effect. Cannabis suppositories work very quickly and are a viable option for those who cannot ingest or inhale cannabis. Once inserted, absorption of CBDs into the bloodstream begins immediately as suppositories come into direct contact with the intestinal wall. Suppositories are the most efficient way of absorbing cannabinoids, with upwards of 70% CBD being bioavailable.
These are just a few of the most common uses for cannabis oil - there are many more, and new research uncovers new possible uses for cannabis each year. These top oil applications are a great way to get started with supercritical fluid extraction. All you need to make these different kinds of oil is the right system. We make top-of-the-line extraction systems - learn more about them here.