Botanical Extraction

Critical Water Extraction: The Future of “Green” Extraction for Cannabis?

Written by Mell Green

Cannabis flower has dominated the market for quite some time now. However, the sale of topicals edibles and concentrates are seeing massive growth and are following closely behind. Depending on the specific cultivar, concentrates predominantly contain the two most well-known and well-studied chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), in high concentrations.

There are various processing methods, but cannabis extraction is generally grouped into two categories: solvent-based and solventless. Critical water extraction is a newer method of cannabis extraction and is considered a “green” solvent extraction because it only requires clean water to carry out the process. But what exactly makes critical water extraction different from the other types of extraction? Not only is it cost-effective, but it offers an exceptionally high terpene content without producing carcinogenicity, waste, or polluting the environment from byproducts. This form of extraction utilizes two different processes: supercritical and subcritical that converts water into a solvent that allows the extraction of cannabinoids, but at different consistencies.

Subcritical extraction has an oil-like consistency and typically contains fewer plant lipids and more terpenes. Therefore, dewaxing is not required – concentrates are nearly ready to be dabbed or used in vape pens. On the other hand, extracts processed using supercritical extraction have a more solid consistency with a lower terpene and higher plant lipid content, which most certainly requires dewaxing before it being vaped or dabbed. Though, both can be used for edibles.

For each extraction method, you can get different results. Extraction is the first step in any process of purification, however, it comes down to how important purity is to a company. That said, when looking at the costs of operation for utilizing critical water extraction and the quality of the end product, extractors have the opportunity to produce an above-standard quality product utilizing this “green” method.

Image Credit: Qualtrax

About the author

Mell Green

Mell is a published writer and advocate of the legal cannabis movement who’s dedicated to all things wellness. You can catch her work in a number of publications including Plant People,, and the Weed Blog. She’s a proud volunteer of the National Hemp Association and enjoys consuming cannabis medicinally and recreationally.