There are many benefits to extracting terpenes from cannabis: To benefit from their pharmacological activity; their synergistic effects with cannabinoids; and their ability to provide subtle variations in psychoactive effects among different cannabis varieties.
Terpenes are some of the most important components of cannabis. They are responsible for giving each strain its unique scent and flavor, as well as playing a role in the effects that each strain has on the body. Terpenes can be extracted from cannabis using various methods, but one of the most popular methods is ethanol extraction.
Why Extract Terpenes?
The cannabis industry has evolved over the years, producing increasingly higher quality products. Extracting terpenes is one way to create products that stand out from the competition. Here are some reasons why extracting terpenes is beneficial:
Understanding Terpinolene, Myrcene, Caryophyllene, and Pinenes
In order to understand ethanol extraction terpenes, it is important to understand the terpenes themselves. The primary terpene in ethanol extraction is terpinolene, with secondary terpenes being myrcene and caryophyllene, and tertiary pinenes. These terpenes are volatile and combustible compounds that contribute to the aroma and flavor of cannabis, as well as having potential medicinal properties.
What is Ethanol Extraction Of Terpenes?
Ethanol extraction terpenes involve the use of heat and an alcohol variant, such as ethyl alcohol, to extract essential oils from botanicals. Devices such as a film evaporator can be used to extract the alcohol from other components, leaving the terpenes behind. This method produces large quantities of terpenes but is riddled with problems, such as degrading the organic compound and reducing terpene quality.
Advantages of Ethanol Extraction Of Terpenes
Ethanol extraction is advantageous because it is fast, efficient, and can be done at room temperature. It does a thorough job of extracting everything extractable from the leaves/buds but may also extract contaminants, depending on the quality of the source material. The whitewashing process may bleach off most of the terpenes’ natural benefits.
Disadvantages of Ethanol Extraction Of Terpenes
The biggest disadvantage to ethanol extraction is that it can degrade organic compounds and reduce the quality of terpenes. Additionally, the flavor and taste components in the terpenes may be seriously battered without any possible remedy or reversal.
Another issue is that ethanol extracts almost all biomass from the terpene, so chemical contamination may be likely if using low-quality source material.
Comparison to Other Methods of Terpene Extraction
Steam distillation is slower than ethanol extraction, but does not require any additional chemicals, making it a more gentle method for preserving vital hemp terpenes. On the other hand, liquid-liquid extraction requires the use of additional chemicals but it produces a higher yield than other methods.
Lastly CO2 extraction does not use any additional chemicals or heat and yields a very smooth consistency that can be used for edible products with little further dilution or freezing required.
While ethanol extraction provides an effective way of separating terpenes from other compounds, measuring them can be difficult without specialized equipment such as HPLC or GC/MS. In most cases, lab results do not report on terpene levels due to this difficulty.
For those who want to measure their own levels of cannabinoids and terpenes, GC/MS is usually the better option since it is more accurate than HPLC but still not typically done on large batches due to cost concerns.
Ethanol extraction is a milder process than other methods for extracting terpenes from cannabis that leaves more of the plant’s essential oils intact. It is fast and efficient but may lead to degradation of organic compounds and reduced flavor/taste components in the terpene product.
Other methods of terpene extraction have their own advantages and disadvantages which should be weighed against each other depending on your desired product outcome.