Cannabis extracts are oily products, more or less viscous, elaborated from the female flowers of the Cannabis Sativa L., compounds that mostly come from the precious resin, rich in bio-active molecules, produced by the plant.
In particular, they’re gaining more and more interest for their extraordinary chemical profiles which can be obtained by using different tecniques of extraction or different materials to begin with. The aim is to extract from the plant all the useful compounds, like cannabinoids and the aromatic molecules, without altering them or ruining them and especially guaranteeing the absence of contamination in the final product. Nowadays these extracts find use in a massive market, not only the recreational one, in countries which allow high levels of THC, but also in therapeutic ones for all the benificial aspects of the great range of molecules present in these products.
One of the main molecules of therapeutic interest present in the plant of cannabis is CBD (cannabidiol), a cannabinoid largely studied for its beneficial effects in the treatment of a variety of pathologies, like insomnia, stress and epilepsy.
The CBD extracts are highly useful and can be integrated into a healthy life-stile to improve sleep and to decrease states of anxiety in our every day life. To re-iterate, this molecule also has use in the pharmaceutical industry, an example being Epidolex, a medicine containing patented CBD by the English GW pharmaceuticals and approved already in a few countries which has use in rare forms of childhood epilepsy.
How is an extract produced?
Extracts in general are produced by the use of solvents, that are liquid or gaseous substances which thanks to their high affinity with the bio-molecules of interest present in the plant’s resin are capable of extracting these from the plant material. The end result, whatever solvent has been used, is an oily product, very perfumed with a unique profile. Recently, thanks also to new discoveries on the synergic interactions of some molecules (the entourage effect), the “full-spectrum” extracts are usually preferred, meaning those extracts which contain the biggest possible range of important molecules of the plant, like cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes.
The choice of the right product in this vast market is crucially based on the type of solvent used in the process of extraction. That’s right! There are solvents and solvents. Besides solvents with hydrocarbons or ethanol, CO2 in its supercritical state (gained with the use of particular temperatures and pressures) stands out for its great qualities: it can, in fact, extract a really high quantity of molecules with great precision without altering or degrading them and, in particular, it doesn’t leave any residues in the final product, so therefore it’s considered a safe solvent.
Always base your choice on the label
Before choosing to use a cannabis extract in treating a pathology or even more simply to decrease symptoms caused by stress or fatigue it’s good to know the aspects of a quality product.
As in all products for sale all the important information is written in the label. On it you should easily find information on:
– method of extraction used: it’s better to prefer products obtained by sophisticated methods using safe solvents, like supercritical CO2.
– properties of the starting material from which the oil has been extracted: it would be interesting to know how the plant has been grown (organic methods wthout the use of pesticides or chemicals are preferable) and the state of the material at the moment of extraction. A product obtained from a fresh plant material, preserved in the right way, contains a higher range of aromatic molecules with important beneficial effects on the body, than a product extracted from dry material.
– exact concentrations of bio-molecules: it’s the point of most interest, but it’s also the one with most inconsistencies between the label and reality. The concentrations have to be specified and, even better, if verified by external and independent laboratories.
The regulation of these products is still underdeveloped and this causes a risk in the choice of a safe and efficient product. Surely a good way is to rely on serious companies which underline the results of the tests in a clear, easy and explicit way.