How to do your cannabis oil
There’s lots of ways you can distill and process cannabis oil, but for Medicine Box there’s really two ways: you can either go for volume or go for quality. Since we’re working to make people well, not high, there really is no choice at all.
Sure, “from soil to oil” may appear to be a clever punchline at first, but encapsulated in that slogan is the solution to the final problem we’re focused on for this month: how do you ensure a contaminant-free concentrated product that truly embodies the healing properties of the plant itself? The cannabis oil industry at large is so obsessed with scaling their products to get into as many stores as possible that the majority of the good stuff ends up on the cutting room floor.
I personally feel consumers are owed nothing less than the plant, the whole plant and nothing but the plant. Taking ownership of the entire process ensures them and you will get actual relief, rather than some placebo cloaked in THC. That’s not to say our way is the ONLY way to slice the apple; as my mentor Michael Hollister would say, there is no right way or wrong way, just different ways. But it’s important to know what those ways are and what the products created from them can and can’t do for the individual. That way, people won’t be so confused when they walk into the dispensary for the first time.
What different types of oil extraction mean for the consumer
The industry has come a long way since the days of hash and hash oil, as we know. Walking into the shop, you are likely to see a lot of vape cartridges claiming to be processed using a “proprietary extraction method.” Well, take a look at this list, because below are really the ONLY extraction methods anyone out there is working with and none of them are proprietary.
- Heat and pressure (CO2)
- Cold Water
- Steam Distilled
Depending on what you’re looking for from the extract, some are more preferable than others. Ethanol has begun to trend above other versions because it’s cheaper, and some extraction artists swear by it. However, I have backed Supercritical CO2 because it preserves the full spectrum of the plant, including the fats and the lipids where some of the more obscure cannabinoids are found. Remember, for Medicine Box, it’s all about the Entourage Effect, which products like Equanimity rely upon for their effectiveness. Plus, CO2 is air, so you don’t have to purge for residual volatile solvents like hexane or butane afterwards.
A steam-distilled extraction removes these terpenes and cannabinoids and centers THC. While it is not appropriate for the sort of medicine I make (and speaking as an alcoholic in recovery, working with ethanol does chafe uncomfortably against my personal values), it can serve others. Cold water extractions or rosin presses are gentler forms of extraction that capture more of the full aroma of the plant for adult-use cases. I will not wade into the choppy waters of the volatile solvents debate. These sorts of arguments can get extremely heated very quickly. Again, there are different ways, not right or wrong ways, so the issue is not with the technique, more often than not, but with the corner-cutting that inevitably happens before the product comes to market.
Preserving the plant in the abstract
For the past few weeks, you’ve heard us go off about factory farming and its many problems. Particularly concerning to me are the issues with pesticides. One of the few things the supply chain got right are the higher standards set on pesticides. It’s especially important to minimize its presence in the plant, since relatively trace amounts of it are magnified in the concentrate stage to health-threatening levels. The larger a cultivation site is, the more difficult it is to maintain acceptable levels of pesticides upon your plants. Yet another reason we source our cannabis from small-batch co-operatively run farming operations – the permacultural methods Medicine Box stipulates for growth are far easier to maintain when you treat the plant as a plant, rather than an “input.”
Of course, it goes far deeper than mere pesticide controls. Creating a proper soil medium for a healthy rhizosphere to flourish and giving it optimal sun and water allows for the plant to truly and fully express itself. Moreover, we extract from the whole flower, rather than leaves, which contains far fewer active compounds. Overall, it makes for a far superior product than the bargain bag of shake that generally serves as the raw material for the extraction industry.
Being able to trace all the cannabis in your extraction to ONE source and ONE process creates the sort of transparency consumers increasingly demand in their consumer goods. It’s often been said that the best fertilizer is a farmer’s shadow. So if you can vouch for the farmer’s methods, you can also vouch for his crop as well.
Extractions of the future
Of course, there’s always room for improvement. Again, the changes I’d like to see have less to do with the techniques, since those are different strokes for different folks. I look forward to a more educated consumer base instructing the farmers and growers on the sorts of effects they are looking for, and customizing the plant to better fit their needs. Currently, we’re giving them too much of one thing – namely CBD and THC. Cannabis is more than those two compounds, and as the consumer learns more about the plant, we can start learning more about what you want. I look forward to working with you all on this project.
On the extraction side, I would like to see the methods become more streamlined. Ideally, it would be more like making fresh-squeezed orange juice, because the more complex the extraction process is, the more you lose of the plant. An extraction technique which captures the truest expression of a specific cultivar at its peak harvest time, taken directly off the plant itself, made immediately into an oil, under a full moon – that’s the goal. But one step at a time, of course.