Of the many types of cannabis extract, butane hash oil (BHO) stands out for its unmatched THC concentration, containing levels as high as 90%. It gets its name from its use of butane, using it as a solvent in the extraction process. Common products made using BHO are plenty and include waxes.
In addition to high cannabinoid concentrations, this process also excels at extracting terpenes, another type of compound found in cannabis plants that have therapeutic effects. So, how exactly does BHO separation work?
The process begins with cooling the butane down to a liquid state. Since this chemical is a gas at room temperature, getting it into a liquid state requires a significant temperature drop. Many processes tend to operate around the -40o C region, a temperature that also helps to preserve terpenes in the final product.
The cold butane is then passed over the cannabis, dissolving and extracting cannabinoids and terpenes without leaving behind other, undesirable compounds. This solution is then collected to proceed to the next stage: purging.
The purging process is what removes the remaining butane from the final product so it is safe for consumption. While butane can be easily evaporated with heat, too much heat could also damage the cannabinoids and especially the terpenes. Instead, a vacuum is just as effective at evaporating out butane without the possibility of damaging the product. The butane-free product is then ready to be processed into a ready-to-consume product.
Safety Concerns with Butane
Although the BHO extraction process has been around since the 70s, it was unpopular for most of that time due to safety concerns, particularly over the butane itself. Butane is highly flammable, gaseous at room temperature, and heavier than air. This combination makes it an extremely dangerous hazard to work with.
Since butane is heavier than air, if the BHO extraction equipment leaks then it will settle along the floor of the room it is in. If the butane is then exposed to any ignition source at all, even something as minor as plugging a device into an outlet, it will violently explode. Fortunately, recent advancements in extraction equipment have made BHO extraction sufficiently safe to regain popularity.
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