What are solvents and how do they work?

The term solvents is derived from the Latin word that roughly means “to loosen.” In chemistry, solvents are the name of a broad group of chemicals used to dissolve, suspend, or extract material from its source, usually without changing the chemical makeup of either the original material or the solvent. 

In the hemp-derived product industry, solvents are used to extract CBD and other cannabinoids from the original hemp plant material. Learning about how these solvents are used and how products are tested once they are created will give you a better understanding of the process. It could also help you guard against purchasing unhealthy items if you use hemp-based products that feature cannabinoids like CBD and Delta 8 THC.

The Solvent Extraction Methods

Two solvent extraction methods are commonly used to release the phytocannabinoid-rich hemp oil from the harvested hemp plant.

The Chemical Solvent Extraction Method

The chemical solvent extraction method uses a common liquid solvent – like ethanol, alcohol, or isopropyl – to remove the hemp oils rich in cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids from the plant matter. First, hemp flowers and plant trimmings are soaked in the solvent. The solvent then disintegrates the plant’s natural waxes, leaving behind only the beneficial hemp oil. The plant matter is then filtered out of the mixture to separate it from the hemp oil further. The final step is an evaporation process that eliminates the residual solvent remaining in the mixture, leaving nothing behind but the concentrated cannabinoid oil.

The Hydrocarbon Solvent Extraction Method

Butane or propane is used in the hydrocarbon extraction method because of its low boiling point. This allows the extraction to take place without a higher heat that may harm the delicate terpenes in the hemp extract. The extraction process follows the following steps:

Step 1: The cold, liquified hydrocarbon (or blend of hydrocarbons) washes over the hemp plants. The hydrocarbon then works to dissolve the cannabinoids, terpenes, lipids, and waxes within the plant.

Step 2: There may be additional refining methods in step two, depending on the final product that is to be created.

Step 3: After the extraction and additional refinements have been completed. The solution goes into a collection chamber where most of the solvent is removed and collected for use again in the next extraction cycle.

Step 4: The extracted hemp oil solution goes through an additional purging process to eliminate any remaining hydrocarbons. Once this is completed, the remaining phytocannabinoid-rich hemp oil is ready to be made into a final product.

Because this method uses propane, butane, or other explosive gases, it is the most dangerous of the extraction processes and requires specialized equipment in highly controlled environments.

How Delta 8 THC Is Created

Delta 8 THC is found in less than 1% of the adult hemp plant. Therefore, unlike CBD, you would need to process a significantly large number of hemp plants to get even a small amount of Delta 8 THC. D8 must be created in mass quantities for it to be economically viable. To do this, common and more abundant cannabinoids like CBD have to be converted into Delta 8 THC through a chemical process. This process also includes the use of solvents. Here are the most commonly used steps that are followed to create D8 THC.

Steps Used in Converting CBD into Delta 8 THC

Step 1: The process starts with a CBD isolate. This isolate then must be dissolved into a solvent. The conversion requires a non-polar organic solvent like heptane, which is an alkane.

Step 2: Acid is added to the solvent mixture and stirred. The mixture’s temperature must be maintained at 100 degrees Celsius and continually stirred for up to 18 hours. Lewis acids such as p-toluenesulfonic acid and hydrochloric acid are the most popular choices for this step.

Step 3: Once the reaction is completed and the solution turned to Delta 8 THC, it is washed to neutralize the solution. One of the most common washing solutions is sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3).

The Importance of Testing

When you understand what solvents are and how they are used in common extraction methods and processes, these solvents and chemicals can potentially remain in the final product. It takes painstaking steps to extract the cannabinoid solution properly and then remove all solvents, no matter the type. Unfortunately, not all processors pay close enough attention, and residual solvents or hydrocarbons end up in the final product.

The hemp-derived product industry has no government oversight from the FDA or any other agency to compound this problem. This means that there is no monitoring of the purity of the products or the accuracy of those products’ labeling. The only way for the consumer to be protected is for the distributors to have their products tested by an independent laboratory. Third-party lab testing not only reports any toxins in the final product but also confirms the potency of that product. By inspecting this lab report, a consumer could protect their health by confirming the absence of toxins. Still, they could also verify that the potency of the cannabinoids and other elements displayed on the label are actually in the product. Sadly, many CBD and Delta 8 THC distributors choose not to have their products tested for financial or more unscrupulous reasons. 

We Believe in Independent Laboratory Testing

At The Hemp Doctor, we are aware of the possibility that various extraction methods and processes may leave unwanted residual solvents, chemicals, or toxins behind. This is why we insist on having everything in our inventory tested by a third-party laboratory. We want to ensure that our products are pure and contain nothing but the natural ingredients you expect in a holistic wellness product.

But we go one step further. We at The Hemp Doctor make the Certificate of Analysis (COA) available to you, our loyal clients. The COA is the report issued from the laboratory that proves the absence of any solvents. It also shows the lack of other toxins and the product’s potency. We invite you to protect your health by inspecting our reports. We at The Hemp Doctor are providing you with only the purest hemp products on the market today. You can also confirm that our products contain exactly the potency shown on the label with our lab reports.

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