What is CO2 Extraction?

CBD oil products

While a lot of cannabis users smoke marijuana or CBD flower, many consumers of cannabis prefer their products in some processed form. Wether it be tinctures, capsules, edibles, concentrates, or one of multiple other forms.

However, many health-conscientious CBD consumers—you included, perhaps—prefer to avoid all together inhaling residual petroleum particles from butane hash oil into their lungs. We couldn’t agree more.

So how do you avoid all of these harmful additives and hydrocarbons? There words: Supercritical CO2 Extraction.

This is how Lake+Lassen extracts all the great endocannabinoids from the plant matter and gets theist the products you love. That way, you don’t have to burn your marijuana to reap all the medicinal benefits. 

And best of all for those health-conscious users out there, this extraction method doesn’t leave behind trace amounts of toxins in the finished product. Now that’s something to get excited about.

This post breaks down the basics behind supercritical CO2 extraction and the biochemical benefits of CO2 extracted cannabis concentrates.

The Added Value of CO2 Extraction

CO2 extracted Products
Source: analyticalcannabis.com

In addition to CBD, Supercritical CO2 is increasingly being used as a recyclable, and environmentally safe industrial solvent for creating high quality:

  • Coffee
  • Vanilla
  • Tea
  • Fruit and nut extracts
  • Fruit and nut aromas
  • Omega-3 oils
  • Fragrances
  • Perfumes
  • Tobacco extractions for e-cigarettes
  • Hop-oil extraction for beer
  • Oil extractions from algae (as an alternative energy source)

Thats a heck of list. So why exactly is CO2 extraction so popular?

  1. Our bodies naturally produce carbon dioxide (CO2) when we breathe so it’s a “natural” product. This is in comparison to chemicals like the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) found in hairspray and other products.
  2. It is considered safe by the FDA which is why CO2 is used, among other things, to keep our soda pop fresh.
  3. CO2 is nontoxic and CO2 extraction processes do not contribute toward carbon emission increases in our atmosphere.
  4. CO2 extraction doesn’t bring any flammable solvents like butane or ethanol into contact with our products. This removes the danger of explosions from the CO2 extraction process as well as potentially harmful particles from the final product.

So now that you understand why CO2 extraction is such a great process, let’s delve into the science behind how it works.

CO2 Extraction 101

CO2 extraction machines cool and and compress CO2 gas into a “supercritical” state. But, what is a supercritical state you ask?

Carbon Dioxide is commonly found in 2 forms, gas and solid. Gaseous CO2 is everywhere. is is created though human respiration and is used by plants for their gas exchange. Solid CO2 is commonly found as dry ice. A supercritical state is achieved with pressure and a reduction in temperature to where the CO2 is between a gas a a liquid state.

With special equipment, you can change CO2 gas into a liquid state by increasing the pressure to 73-75 pounds per square inch and decreasing the temperature below -69 ℉. This is the starting point for our CO2 extraction.

From here, the temperature and pressure are both increased to achieve supercritical. That special place between being a liquid and a gas. We won’t get into the numbers because we’re not all chemists after all. Just know that when you increase the temperature and pressure of liquid CO2, the fluid becomes supercritical. 

This allows the CO2 to adopt properties of both a gas and a liquid at the same time. Crazy, right? A supercritical fluid can fill a container like a gas while still maintaining its density like a liquid.

This supercritical property of CO2 is great for chemical extraction because it is “gentler” than other compounds and won’t cause damage or denaturing (making unfit for consumption). And because the solubility in CO2 varies with pressure, supercritical CO2 can be used to extract selected compounds (rather than a combination of all compounds) with just a few small adjustments.

So now that you have a passing understanding of what supercritical CO2 is, we can turn our attention to how it’s used to make CBD extracts.

Using Supercritical CO2 To Make CBD Extracts

Supercritical CO2 Extraction Process
Source: extratex-sfi.com

The supercritical CO2 is then passed through industrial hemp biomass in an extractor (left). At this point, the CO2 pulls all of the desired endocannabinoid and terpene oils and waxes out of the plant material.

As shown in the diagram above, you start with liquid CO2 (bottom right). You raise the pressure and temperature of the liquid CO2 via a pump and heater (bottom center).

This solution (the supercritical CO2 and all the CBD goodness) is then passed through a separator (middle) and pressure is reduced. 

The extract is collected in a container while the, now gas, CO2 is passed through a condenser and cooler (top right), where it is turned back into a liquid. This liquid is then sent to the storage tank where it can be used to restart the process.

By using CO2 and reducing the pressure on the extract, the CO2 is completely pulled from the extract. Some of this escapes to the atmosphere. Which is completely harmless mind you. Most of it is recaptured and recycled for future extractions. This is what makes co2 extraction the cleanse, must pure, and most environmentally friendly extraction technique.

Related Article:

Do You know The Quality of Your CBD?

Why Supercritical CO2 Is So Great

Supercritical CO2 extraction is amazing for the future of the cannabis community because the process gives concentrate makers the ability to isolate, capture and scientifically understand, not just CBD and THC, but the more elusive cannabinoids like cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabicitran (CBT).

In other words, CO2 extraction is the key to understanding the hidden medical benefits of every cannabinoid and how they work together (a process known as the entourage effect) as well as individually.

This cooperation between chemicals within the cannabis plant produces some truly unique mental and physical effects that can’t be achieved by taking the pieces by themselves.

The combination of all the cannabis compounds together makes the treatment of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), arthritis, and tension headaches possible. The individual cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemicals by themselves don’t result in these same effects. 

Yes, you can treat certain conditions (like nausea and chronic pain) with just CBD, but other illnesses may go untreated. 

In the words of the great Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This is known as compounding and has been shown to be sure across all aspects of medicine.

If you extract only THC or only CBD, you miss out on all the other beneficial cannabinoids that can be found in the whole plant. The absence of these substances can cause the medicinal value of your marijuana to be greatly diminished.

Additional Extracted Value

Another benefit of CO2 extraction is that running supercritical liquid CO2 through CBD flower kills any microbial bacteria, mold, mildew or insect mites that shouldn’t be there. While we always start with the highest quality materials, this extra assurance serves as piece of mind.

A final benefit of supercritical CO2 extraction is that there’s no need to use potentially harmful chemicals in the process. For example, in other extraction processes, ethanol alcohol is used to winterize (soaking the extract in alcohol and freezing it in order to separate the residual products) and butane is used to de-wax, or extract, the cannabis oils.

The Supercritical Conclusion

Supercritical CO2 produces CBD products that are much safer, cleaner, less toxic and more aromatic than butane hash oil products. CO2 oil is a superior way to produce en masse and more customizable in terms of its cannabinoid content for the consumer. It allows for the production of the highest quality products.

CO2 extraction is the cutting edge of the cannabis industry.

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