Super vs Subcritical Hemp Extraction: Capturing CBDa for Increased Health Benefits

Super vs Subcritical Hemp Extraction: Capturing CBDa for Increased Health Benefits

Current cannabis research and positive consumer results emphasize the importance of raw CBDa as a critical  and unique healing component of hemp-derived cannabis products. The particular type of hemp extraction used is crucial when focusing on maintain the raw nature of the plant.

CBDa has a different chemical composition and working mechanism in the body, with ongoing research showing different, and even more powerful health benefits than CBD alone. Together, they even have more positive health benefits.

For the best health results, a low temperature extraction method can safely capture the raw components in hemp like CBDa, a wider range of cannabinoids, volatile essential oils, and terpenes.

Commercial hemp extraction methods vary in cost, safety, equipment needs, and most importantly, the quality of the end yield, with a general industry shift towards CO2 extraction.

Why do we care about the difference between subcritical and supercritical?

The first CO2 extraction type is subcritical extraction operating at a temperature maintained below 88 F and pressure below 1083 psi. In this range, the CO2 is a subcritical liquid.  The liquid CO2 has less extraction power and requires more time to complete. But experiments comparing results between supercritical and subcritical extraction (1100 psi @ 89.5F to 2000psi @ 110F) demonstrated that lower temperature and pressure runs yield a product of higher purity and more raw compounds.  

Supercritical is the second type of CO2 extraction, with processing temperatures 88 to 140+ degrees F, and the pressure from 1083psi to 5000 + psi . At these levels, CO2 has properties halfway between a gas and a liquid at the same time, allowing it to effuse through the material like a gas, while retaining the solvent power of a liquid. In this state, CO2 is a stronger solvent and extracts a wider range of materials from hemp for a more complete extraction, a higher percentage of yield, and in a shorter time span.

The downside of the higher yields include extracting less desirable compounds.  These yields may require further refinement through processes such as a winterization  process of mixing the yield with alcohols, freezing it, then filtering it. Some yields also require distillation to reach the desired end-products.

Higher heat has several negative effects on raw hemp compounds. It can activate or decarboxylate CDBa into CBD, and THCa into THC.

Supercritical’s higher heat and pressure can also reduce the safe extraction of a percentage of the total 113 available hemp cannabinoids. The amount and types of terpenes and volatile oils in hemp with their unique health benefits can also be lost.

The loss of some of these vital compounds reduces the entourage or heightened health effect achieved from holistic or naturally occurring compounds in a plant working together. Learn more about the entourage effect and full spectrum CBD by clicking here.

There is also risk of  the supercritical heat levels degrading or denaturing the cannabinoids. When heated above 100 degrees F, the proteins can become denatured, turning from a 3-dimensional structure into a 2-dimensional protein string no longer able to fully activate the body’s related receptors.

A benefit of CO2 extraction for both processes is the pressure reduction below the  600psi range allows the CO2 to separate as a gas, leaving the extracted oils and compounds behind without the contaminants found in other methods such as ethanol hemp extraction.

In conclusion, not all CO2 extraction methods are created equal

Hemp extraction methods are always a balance between quantity and quality, the market demands, and overall profitability. However for maximum health benefits, subcritical CO2 extraction, with its low temperatures and decreased pressure clearly provides an  optimal method for capturing the desired CBDa and other raw hemp compounds.

Learn more about the benefits of CBDa in our blog here.

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