Do you know which cannabis extraction method gives the best results?
Whether you're interested in investing in extracts, or buying and using them yourself, the way they're made makes all the difference. Recreational cannabis is now legal in 10 states, and many more have permitted medical cannabis and are on their way to recreational legalization.
To get in on this industry as a producer, consumer, or anything in between, you need to know what you're working with. What's the difference in BHO vs CO2 extraction? Is one better than the other? In this guide, we have your answers - read on to find out how to get the best extracts in the cannabis world.
What are Extracts?
Extracts offer a different way to take cannabis. Depending on how they're made, they can range from solid to liquid consistencies. They also contain different cannabinoids, such as more THC or CBD, depending on the strain used to make the extract.
Trichomes, or the little crystals around the edges of the marijuana plant, are what give cannabis its psychoactive and medicinal properties. They're actually external glands of the plant. Extraction processes remove the molecules from the trichomes to isolate the active parts of the plant - that's why extracts are so potent.
Depending on the extraction method used, the extract can take different forms, and meet different standards of quality. BHO and CO2 are two of the most common forms of extraction - let's take a look at how they compare.
What is BHO Extraction?
BHO is short for butane hash oil, a cannabis oil that comes from using butane as a solvent. It's one of several solvent-based extraction methods.
The solvent removes the trichomes from the rest of the plant, preserving the flavors, scents, and active properties of that strain. BHO extraction typically results in a soft, yellowish wax, which turns to oil if you heat it. Very pure BHO extract is called "shatter," thanks to its hard consistency.
The BHO Extraction Method
To make BHO extract, the plant matter is "washed" with butane. As it passes over the plant, the solvent carries chemical compounds like terpenes, cannabinoids, lipids, and more from the plant.
Once this step is complete, more work is needed to remove the butane solvent from the final product. A vacuum pump or oven, or heat, is used to separate the cannabis wax from the butane.
Pros and Cons
BHO extraction has long been a popular method, mainly because it's fast and inexpensive. The materials to make BHO extract are cheap and easy to get, so many people use this method to make extract at home. The finished product can be done in an hour or less. It also tends to come out with a high THC content.
However, they say that you get what you pay for, and that's the case when it comes to making cannabis extract too. Although BHO is cheap and easy, there are many drawbacks to this extraction method.
Although many people try it at home, the process is actually very dangerous, especially for amateurs. And even if every safety precaution is taken, the finished product has dangers of its own. There's no way to get all of the butane solvent out of the extract. Consumers who smoke or ingest BHO are also taking butane into their bodies, posing a health hazard that they might not even be aware of.
What is CO2 Extraction?
CO2 extraction uses carbon dioxide (CO2) to separate the trichomes from the cannabis plant. CO2 is what's called a supercritical fluid: the gas turns into a liquid under the right amounts of pressure. The liquid form of CO2 becomes a solvent that can be used to make extract.
The results of this method are a clear, yellowish oil that's very pure.
The CO2 Extraction Method
Specialized equipment is needed for this method - it can't be done at home by amateurs. For CO2 extract, the gas is converted into a liquid. Then, the pressurized solvent is washed through the cannabis plant material, carrying the trichomes with it. In this step, the CO2 works as a solvent just like butane does - but the results are different in some important ways.
When this step is done, removing the CO2 from the extract is as simple as letting it turn back into gas. The heavy, liquid cannabis oil that's left behind is completely clean and free of solvents.
Different temperature and pressure settings can be used to change the results of this extraction method. Depending on the settings, you can reduce the extraction of less-desirable compounds, like chlorophyll. You can also increase the extraction of the desired compounds.
Pros and Cons
CO2 extraction works at lower temperatures than BHO. That makes this method better at preserving CBD and terpenes, or flavors, of the plant. This often makes the finished product more desirable.
CO2 extraction is also much better for the environment. CO2 gas is natural, so if it escapes into the air during extraction it won't do any harm. It can also be recycled, making this method much more sustainable.
Since the solvent isn't toxic, people working with this extraction method don't face any health risks. And the extract left behind is pure and solvent-free, so there's no risk to consumers, either.
The only drawbacks to this method are that it can be time-consuming and expensive. It takes longer to make CO2 extract than BHO: there's no way around it. However, since the CO2 is recycled, the cost of making the extract can be greatly reduced. The only major cost is the up-front price of the equipment.
BHO vs CO2: The Verdict
In the debate between BHO vs CO2, there's no question which method is the winner. BHO may be fast and cheap, but the results are less pleasant for consumers, and can even be dangerous. Clean, tasty CO2 extracts have quickly become more desirable for cannabis consumers. Whether you're an investor or a consumer, turn your attention to CO2 extraction to get the most for your money.
Curious about how CO2 stands up to other popular extraction methods? Don't miss this post.