Distillates are, in essence, cannabis extracts that have been purified and processed to separate the cannabinoids, such as CBD and CBC, into precise amounts. They’re made from cannabis extracts that have been winterized, decarboxylated, and then distilled.
The process typically starts with crude oil extraction, which is any process where the cannabinoids are separated from the cannabis plant material. A crude extraction involves either a physical means of separation or a chemical means of separation. At Extract Labs, we use exclusively CO2 in our extraction process! Whether the cannabinoids are separated by physical or chemical means, the crude extract produced contains impurities that must be removed before the oil can be separated into its individual cannabinoids.
The next major step in producing distillate is called winterization. It is a method to purify the crude extract of byproducts: plant waxes, fats, lipids, and chlorophyll. The crude extract is mixed with ethanol. The solution is then placed in a very cold environment for 24 to 48 hours. The impurities coagulate in the cold temperature and precipitate, or separate, falling to the bottom of the container. This is similar to baking a chicken: the excess grease and juices drip down into the pan and thicken when cooled.
The crude extract and ethanol solution is then passed through a filter. After filtering, the ethanol is removed. Ethanol can be removed using a variety of techniques, such as a rotary evaporator or a falling film evaporator.
The extract at this point wouldn’t be very potent. CBD, for example, is the well-known compound and active cannabinoid that consumers use to achieve wellness goals. However, it’s cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), that’s found at this stage. CBDA becomes CBD after heat is applied. This process is called decarboxylation.
Decarboxylation is the process of removing the carboxylic acid from a cannabinoid’s chemical compound. A cannabinoid is decarboxylated when it’s heated to the point of eliminating the carboxylic acid. By removing that acid group, the cannabinoid can readily interact within the body and bind to the receptors in the nervous system — specifically, the cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptors.
The final steps for making this cannabis oil involves the actual cannabis distillation process. Using vacuum pressure and heat, individual cannabinoids and terpenes can be separated from the decarboxylated extract according to their unique boiling points and molecular weights. In a vacuum environment, where the pressure can be strictly controlled, the boiling point of can be achieved at much lower temperatures to help prevent the loss of potency.
Is Distillate the Same as Oil?
Distillate is one of the most commonly made types of cannabis oil, often coveted by consumers for its potency. And because it has been stripped of virtually everything other than cannabinoids, it is extremely versatile, capable of being consumed on its own or as the base of numerous other cannabis products.
While all distillates are oils, not all cannabis oils are distillates. A cannabis oil is only a distillate if all other materials and compounds have been systematically stripped and it has not been combined with a carrier oil such as coconut oil.
Distillate is considered broad spectrum, meaning there is no THC in the extraction. Full spectrum CBD refers to extracts that contain less than 0.3 percent THC, the legal limit in hemp plants.
How is Distillate Used?
Distillate is extremely versatile to work with. It can be consumed in its raw form or combined into a wide range of custom formulations. The only limit is your imagination!
You can use distillate to make edibles or topicals. In edibles, distillates provide a quick way to work desired cannabinoids into a recipe. For edibles prepared at home, the oil should be introduced with low doses, about 5 milligrams per serving, then slowly increase the dosage for the desired potency and taste.
Distillates can also be consumed on their own and taken sublingually, or under the tongue. This type of oil can also work in topicals, which are applied transdermally, or applied to the skin and absorbed.
Distillates can be consumed using a portable vaporizer rated for concentrate use. You can also vape them using a distillate cartridge and vape pen. Dabbing or vaping distillates yields a nearly odorless vapor, depending on whether it’s been flavored, with their effects typically being experienced instantly.
Regardless of how you are choosing to use your distillate, here are a couple of handy tips!
- Since distillate is so pure, it may have a solid texture upon opening its container. To make it more friendly to work with, simply warm it up by placing its jar in a hot water bath or by heating the jar in an oven at a low temp (~150F)
- When working with Distillate, the tools you choose can make your life easier. Extract Labs recommends using silicon or stainless steel. Depending on your purpose, a small spatula or pick will work great!
What is transfer loss?
Transfer loss occurs when moving raw extracts from one container to another. When emptying a container, it can be difficult to get the entirety of the contents out. We recommend gently heating distillate jars in a warm water bath to thin the distillate when preparing to transfer it. It may also help to use a tool such as a rubber spatula to scrape the inside of the jar clean.
All raw materials are quality checked prior to shipment to ensure accurate weights and contents. When purchasing raw materials, each jar will come labeled with a tare weight. The tare weight will display how much the empty jar (with lid) weigh in grams prior to filling. To confirm you received the correct amount of raw material, set a scale to grams and zero it. Then place the jar with lid on the scale. Subtract the weight displayed on the scale from the tare weight. This will tell you the weight of raw material you received.
Where Can I Buy Distillate?
As a leader in the hemp industry, Extract Labs strives to produce the cleanest products on the market. The distillates offered on our website represent countless hours of method development and process optimization. Whether you are consuming cannabinoids directly or looking to easily work them into your home formulation, our distillates will be clean and consistent.
Jamie Evans, aka The Herb Somm, is a trained wine scholar turned cannabis connoisseur. She was in the beverage industry for over 10 years and