CO2, Cannabis, and Terpenes Extraction Information

Cannabis Extracts Guide from BHO to RSO

cannabis products
Cara Wietstock
Written by Cara Wietstock

Cannabis extracts consistently get more popular in dispensaries from medical to recreational states.

Vaping cannabis has been popular for quite a while, but dabbing is a newer cannabis culture phenomena. Essentially dabbing is the ultimate way to vape bud. While those who have been dabbing since 2010 terms like solvent-free or crumble can be confusing. This post is meant for the new patient that might be interested in dabbing but a bit overwhelmed with the cornucopia of extraction products on the shelves.


Let’s hash out the difference between the various types of cannabis extracts and get to the bottom of how many different cannabis extractions there really are.

An extraction is a cannabis concentrate that is created using a solvent to strip the plant material of its chemical compounds. These extractions usually have highly concentrated levels of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. When the cannabinoids and terpenes are separated from the plant they are usually in the form a crude oil. The secondary processes that follow are what dictate what the finished product will look like.

At this point in the extraction industry, there is an intersection of cannabis extraction artists who have taught themselves and pharmaceutical chemists who have worked with many botanicals but have finite experience with cannabis. The real success in cannabis extracts is had by those who spend time working with the plant because it truly behaves like no other plant.

Aside from creating highly concentrated, longer lasting effects cannabis extracts can offer isolated cannabinoids or terpene profiles to patients.

cannabis extracts

Butane Hash Oil (BHO)

To make BHO extractions butane is passed through cannabis flower or trim to extract cannabinoids and terpenes. The butane is pressurized and then washed over the flowers and stems in columns. The crude oil is then purged of any residual solvents in a vacuum chamber. It is  in this phase that any dangerous butane is removed from the cannabis extracts. Finished BHO products vary in their viscosity. They can be brittle or soft, and it is this difference that generally deciphers between each. Despite the consistency of the end product, most cannabis extractions test between 80-90% THC. This high THC content is what makes this ideal for patients attempting to replace the heavy, long lasting effects of opioids.

Other Hydrocarbon Extractions

Some extractors use propane or hexane to create similar products. Changing the solution changes the look and flavor of the finished extraction. There are even some extraction artists who prefer to use a blend of gases which creates a signature product unique to their brand. Despite the type of extraction, if the brand is unfamiliar only purchase cannabis extracts that are accompanied by lab results. Impure hydrocarbon extractions could contain residual solvents, contaminants, and even pesticides. So be a conscious cannabis consumer and ask for lab results before deciding on a cannabis extraction.  Food-grade ethanol is a commonly used hydrocarbon solvent. The final product of an ethanol extraction is called a full extract cannabis oil (FECO). Methods like QWISO make it possible to create shatter using ethanol.

BHO and Hydrocarbon Extracts can be called:

  • Shatter

  • Live resin

  • Wax 

  • Budder

Supercritical or Subcritical CO2 oil

The name of this extraction refers to the solvent used in the extraction method. Generally CO2 compressed at high heat and pressures to create supercritical fluid. There are many claims that CO2 extraction preserves the trichomes and doesn’t damage the terpene content. However, connoisseurs claim that these extractions tend to have less flavor, a trait delivered by the terpene profile. Most times, CO2 oil is the consistency of molasses. Usually it will test between 60-80% cannabinoids. This is often a preferred method to butane because of a bad rap due ‘open blasting’. Now, butane extractions are generally done in a lab space with close loop systems.
cannabis extracts

Photo by @chewberto420

Isolates and Distillates

These are exceedingly popular, especially CBD distillates. This name refers the singling out of one cannabinoid. All of the cannabinoids show up in their own form. CBD distillates are often crystallized. Isolates are commonly combined with terpenes for customer choice when dabbing. With distillates and terpene extractions, we can combine whatever flavor profile with a specific cannabinoid for choice properties (i.e. inflammation relief, anxiety & stress relief, etc.).

Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)

This extraction became popular in 2003. It is named after its creator, Rick Simpson. Simpson claimed that he treated his own skin cancer with a homemade remedy made from cannabis. He used pure naphtha or isopropyl alcohol and soaked cannabis to slowly draw out the terpenes and cannabinoids. The mixture has the consistency of molasses and requires absolutely no smoking. Just add a blob to joint or place directly into the mouth between the inside of the lip and outside of the gums. Most of today’s RSO is made from alcohol.


These are the most popular types of cannabis extractions that use solutions. What is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.

About the author

Cara Wietstock

Cara Wietstock

Cara began working in the retail cannabis industry of San Francisco, CA in 2011 and continued in that sector for years. In 2015 she dedicated herself to writing full-time. Her passion for the written word and deep respect for the healing properties of the plant have brought her to Terpenes and Testing magazine. She now helps keep us on the cutting edge of scientific cannabis discovery as the Editor-in-Chief of the print publication.

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