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Tucked inside the cellular structure of the cannabis plant are some quite powerful chemical compounds—but how can you access it all without lighting up? From runners to those with sensitive lungs, there are plenty of people who would prefer another method. The answer is a cannabis extract.

Cannabis extracts are the result of a scientific process, normally done in a laboratory, using specific equipment and methods to remove the chemical components that reside within the flowers, leaves, and stems of the cannabis plant. Extractions can also isolate and concentrate specific compounds that can be used both recreationally and medicinally.

While it is possible to perform extraction at home, you must take care as safety equipment is required. Understanding the process and results can help you make a more informed decision when you see these products at your local dispensary.

Why Consider a Cannabis Extract?

Before diving into the how, consider the why: Extracts allow the user to bypass the fibrous material of the plant and enjoy the benefits more efficiently. Cannabis contains more than 100 different cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, as well as other beneficial components like terpenes and flavonoids.

Whether you’re interested in an isolate or a whole-plant extract that contains all the benefits of cannabis, this process creates an effective method of delivery. If you purchase a tincture or cream, it’s easier to measure serving sizes. In addition, you can take it discreetly whenever you wish. If you wish to enjoy wax or shatter, you’ll find that you won’t need as much to feel the effects.

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What Methods are Used?

There are a number of ways laboratories extract the chemical compounds from cannabis plants. They include:
Soaking in alcohol, then filtering the liquid and evaporating the alcohol for a final product.
Using carbon dioxide, heat, and pressure to separate the chemicals from the plant matrix.
Combining cannabis with liquid butane in a pressurized, heated system, then removing the butane, to create wax or shatter.
Soaking the plant structure in lipids like coconut oil or MCT oil.
Special grinding techniques to separate the crystalline formations on the flowers.
Freezing the cannabis and breaking up the buds using a screen to form hashish.

Are Some Extraction Methods Better than Others?

It depends on what benefits you’d like from cannabis. If you are interested in medicinal benefits, you may wish to look for products that are made from the alcohol or lipid extraction methods. If you want to simply have a more intense and euphoric experience, consider wax, shatter, or hash.

For enthusiasts considering extraction at home, be aware: some methods are dangerous. Fume hoods and other safety equipment are required for some methods, while others allow for the possibility of inhaling unwanted chemicals if done incorrectly.

The simplest method for home extraction is soaking cannabis in oil. This requires a rice cooker or a distilling device, as well as other specialized equipment. Take note of the color of the oils. The darker the color, the more beneficial compounds have been extracted into the substrate.

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