Cannabis extraction is the process of extracting the desired therapeutic compounds, such as cannabinoids and terpenes, from the plant material. Cannabis extracts are also called concentrates.

The term extraction refers to the removal process of the trichomes from the plant material, which is then used to create various cannabis-based products. This process involves separating the trichomes, which contain therapeutically active cannabinoids and terpenes, from the rest of the plant material. 


What extraction methods are utilised in medical cannabis production?


The most common form of extraction for cannabis-based medicines is called CO2 supercritical extraction. This method uses pressurised carbon dioxide to extract the active compounds from the plant material and does so with an exceptionally low risk of contamination.

Other methods include solvent extraction, which uses a chemical solvent (such as ethanol or butane) to extract the compounds, which is then purified through a distillation process. This method is cheaper and faster than CO2 extraction but carries a higher risk of contamination and may not produce as pure of a product.

Non-solvent methods, such as a rosin press or ice water extraction, involve separating the trichomes using heat and pressure or cold temperatures. These methods are often used in the recreational cannabis scene, but rarely for medical products.


What are trichomes?


Trichomes are the small, hair-like structures found on cannabis flowers and leaves. They contain the highest concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes, which is why they are targeted during extraction processes. They also give the plant its characteristic sticky and resinous texture.


How do I know which extraction method is used in my medical cannabis product?


All medical cannabis products in the UK must come with a COA that identifies the extraction method used. It is important to read and understand this information, as different extraction methods can affect the potency and purity of the product. You should speak with your prescribing specialist for any concerns or queries about the extraction methods.

To find out more about cannabis-based medicine extraction methods, click here

If you would like to learn more about medical cannabis in the UK, Releaf is here to help.