Botanical Extraction Cannabinoid Extraction

Fractional Distillation Of Crude Cannabis Extract

Fractional Distillation Of Crude Cannabis Extract
Written by Jason Collins

In recent years cannabis has become an essential part of people’s lives, recreationally or medicinally. Like other plants, cannabis has numerous beneficial compounds that make it a valuable ingredient in many therapeutic or cosmetic products.

Yet, many of the componds present in cannabis, like cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, wouldn’t be present in medical and recreational products without different extraction methods. These methods have improved rapidly in the last ten years, and fractional distillation is considered by many one of the most effective methods for cannabis crude oil extraction. 

What Is Distillation?

Distillation is the process used to separate the different components from a mixture by applying heat at different boiling points of compounds. Although many different ways of separating mixtures exist, the distillation method is one of the most accessible and reliable. 

The distillation technique has been used for centuries in refineries and chemical laboratories and has since crossed over to cannabis production. Yet, it should be noted that distillation is primarily used to separate components from liquid solutions. 

What Is Fractional Distillation Of Crude Cannabis Extract? – The Process

Fractional distillation is also known as short-path distillation, and when done correctly, it produces premium-quality cannabis distillate. Unfortunately, fractional distillation of crude cannabis extract is limited in production capacity and scalability, but it is a reliable and trustworthy technique small producers and home growers can use.

Yet how does one use fractional distillation to refine crude cannabis oil? The process is relatively simple but does carry some risks because individuals are dealing with high temperatures and flammable solvents. Common laboratory glassware can be used to  and to perform this technique.

A boiling flask containing the crude cannabis oil is heated while the mixture is agitated by a magnetic stirrer. The crude oil components are then separated into three factions: main, heads, and tails. The main faction will contain the major cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), the heads fraction, the highly volatiles like terpenes, and the tails faction, high boiling point cannabinoids. 

These compounds will be extracted at different points in the process using different temperature points. The compounds will be separated in the oil using heat until they become a vapor. These vaporized compounds are chilled back into a liquid and then added to a receiving flask using a condensing coil. 

Unlike other distillation methods, distillates don’t have to travel far between an evaporation vessel and a condenser during that extraction method.

Downsides And Benefits Of Fractional Distillation To Collect Crude Cannabis Extract

Although fractional distillation is one of the best methods to collect pure cannabis extract, it is complicated by the inconvenience of thermolabile molecules degradation. Fortunately, this issue can be addressed by conducting fractional distillation at a lower pressure via vacuum apparatus. 

When a vacuum is used during this process, the exposure to higher temperatures is minimized, allowing maximum high-quality yields. This is because lowering the pressure in a distillation vessel reduces the compound’s boiling temperatures.

With this downside addressed, there are many benefits of using fractional distillation besides it being a cost-effective solution for small-scale growers. 

For example, the equipment required for fractional distillation needs significantly less space in a warehouse or lab where space is a valuable commodity. Unlike other methods, this one can achieve yields of up to 99.9% CBD and THC, without needing large amounts of space for the equipment and tools. 

Why Is Fractional Distillation Important For Cannabis Extraction? 

One of the primary reasons why it is important for cannabis extraction is because it allows cannabis growers and farmers to isolate the most vital chemical compounds like cannabinoids. It also enables cultivators to create new extracts of hemp that can be used to satisfy various needs in recreational and medicinal environments. 

Additionally, fractional distillation allows to isolate terpenes and terpenoids, which are organic hydrocarbons found in cannabis responsible for the aromas and flavors of plants.
Terpenes and terpenoids can be considered as side products if the producer wants to isolate pure cannabinoids. Nevertheless these aromatic molecules have some major health benefits which can act together with other cannabis components to produce an improved therapeutic effect. 

Fractional distillation of crude cannabis extract lets growers perform difficult separations from cannabis constituents with relative ease, with over 99% purity achievable in distilled products. 

Wrap-Up On Fractional Distillation Of Crude Cannabis Extract

Evidently, fractional distillation of crude cannabis extract is important. This distillation process offers many benefits and few disadvantages to small-scale growers. In fact, this distillation technique has made cannabis products more dynamic and useful. So those wanting to create high-quality cannabis vape cartridges, edibles, lotions, oils, and pills should consider utilizing a fractional distillation system. 

About the author

Jason Collins