3 Technologies Clapping Back at Hemp’s Solvent Problem

3 Technologies Clapping Back at Hemp’s Solvent Problem

Research from Vantage predicts America’s CBD market will reach $47.22 billion by 2028. People use hemp-derived CBD on their skin, in drinks, and even give it to pets. While hemp oil is safe, is it created safely? 

Hemp oil extraction often involves chemical solvents such as butane or ethanol — both are flammable and potentially explosive. Once extracted, any remaining biomass must be discarded as hazardous waste. 

These solvent-based processes, while popular, are not the only way to derive CBD from hemp. More sustainable and eco-friendly options are starting to find a place in the commercial market.

Oil Infusion for a Cleaner Concentrate

Left Hand Technologies in Boulder, Colorado recently started offering infusion equipment to hemp farmers. This process requires zero solvents and captures 90% of the phytochemicals in the plant while preserving the terpene profile. Left Hand’s systems use a medium-chain triglyceride carrier oil, such as coconut or sunflower oil. This room-temperature oil circulates throughout the biomass, collecting trichomes and cannabinoids.

The infusion process doesn’t leave residual solvents and eliminates the potential for an explosive work environment. The tech does have limitations, as it’s unable to produce vape-able oil. 

It’s best suited to topicals and edibles.
For consumers 65-years and older, savory edibles are a largely underdeveloped market. This tech lends itself well to cooking oils and finishing oils.

Put It on Ice

Ice-water extraction is gaining popularity for its clean, potent results. The whole plant is frozen, then bathed in cold water. This process relies on trichomes (the sparkly jewels on hemp flower) being denser than water. 

Trichomes sink to the bottom during the separation process and are available for extraction. It’s an eco-friendly process, but it does use a fair amount of energy and water. However, it is not explosive and won’t leave any residual solvents in the hemp oil.

The drawback of this method is its scalability. Until recently, there were few methods for commercial-grade ice-water extraction. Growers now will find several equipment manufacturers with large-scale machines, such as Whistler Technologies, Hashtek, and others. 

Feel the Squeeze

Rosin extraction, or solventless hash oil, is a simple, inexpensive way to distill hemp oil. Heat and pressure are applied to the hemp biomass, squeezing out terpenes and cannabinoids in a thick resin. The drawback of this method is mold and pesticides present in the source material can stick to the resin and become concentrated. Clean, pesticide-free hemp is essential to this process. 

It’s also vital to keep the temperatures below a certain threshold to prevent degrading the CBD compounds. GoPurePressure is one company offering commercial-grade rosin extraction equipment.

Solving the Solventless Problem

Commercial-grade CBD is finding its way into a widening array of products. As consumers become more educated about how CBD oil is made, they’ll start asking for safer, more eco-friendly extraction methods. These solventless systems may be a niche for now, but don’t expect them to stay a secret for long.

  • Ebby Stone is a freelance writer specializing in cannabis, with a focus on the innovators and businesses shaping the industry.

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