Innovations in the cannabis industry; how green extraction has changed the way companies isolate important plant compounds
In the 19th century, life was grim. A cut could be life-threatening, a sneeze could indicate the onset of a horrible disease, and infant mortality rates were staggering. Thankfully, science came to the rescue.
During the early 20th century, Sir Alexander Fleming was hard at work looking for ways to combat infectious diseases. As he painstakingly explored the natural world for a way to fight diseases such as pertussis and diphtheria, he could never have known that his work would change the world.
In 1928, his accidental and moldy discovery of penicillin led him to publish a paper on the actions of the antibiotic against B. influenzae.  That paper would go on to be cited 2552 times, to date, and lead the charge of the antibiotic revolution.
In much the same way, recent discoveries and technological advances have made it possible to improve the cannabis industry. Some companies have been developing ‘green extraction’ methods that are designed to minimize their environmental impact.
Green Extraction Principles
In 2012, a study that was published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, looked at the destructive nature of extraction processes.  In an aim to ameliorate them, they laid out “six principles of green extraction of natural products.” They are as follows:
- Innovation by selection of varieties and use of renewable plant resources.
- Use of alternative solvents and principally water or agro-solvents.
- Reduce energy consumption by energy recovery and using innovative technologies.
- Production of co-products instead of waste to include the bio-and agro-refining industry.
- Reduce unit operations and favor safe, robust, and controlled processes.
- Aim for a non-denatured and biodegradable extract without contaminants.
Of course, the ‘greenest’ and cleanest way to perform cannabis extractions is through solventless kief or hashish. However, today’s market has a need for premium products that require massive infrastructure (and solvent-based methods) for its production.
In an industry that’s constantly evolving and looking for new techniques for extracting phytochemicals in a way that’s clean and green, expect to see a race to the top.
References Fleming, A. “On the Antibacterial Action of Cultures of a Penicillium, with Special Reference to Their Use in the Isolation of B. Influenzae”, Br J ExpPathol. 1929, Volume 10(3): 226–236. [Times cited = 2552; Journal Impact Factor = N/A]  Chemat, F., et al. “Green extraction of natural products: concept and principles”. Int J Mol Sci. 2012; 13(7): 8615-27 [Times cited = 490; Journal Impact Factor = 3.687]