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Monday November 26, 2018

By Nicholas Demski


We’ve been extracting cannabinoids for ages, yet there’s always a degree of difficulty in getting them all out of the plant effectively. And while we’ve been able to find what the best extraction methods are in both solventless and solvent-based categories (resulting in some amazing advancements in product selection and quality), there is a continuous need for innovation at both the consumer and commercial level. This drive for improvement has spurred a hash renaissance of sorts, creating cleaner products and a wider variety than ever before.

Most people have heard of closed-loop extraction, rosin presses and other forms of cannabis extraction by now, but there’s a new advancement in extraction technology on the market that might surprise you. Strangely enough, it involves a familiar piece of communication: sound.

We’ve explored the many ways sound interacts with cannabis before but now we’re going to shift our focus to the world of cannabis concentrates. Extractors are now using ultrasonic vibrations to create their concentrates and what they’re finding is that they can produce concentrates faster while securing a higher potency and more accurate overview of a plant’s compound profile. Here’s how it works:

Ultrasonic Cannabis Extraction: How Does it Work?

Unlike solvent-based extraction that utilizes chemicals (butane and propane most commonly) to strip cannabinoids from plant matter, ultrasonic extraction has given us a means by which we can utilize oils as an extraction medium instead of hydrocarbons. Through a process known as sonication, ultrasonic extraction can yield concentrates with higher potency and a more robust cannabinoid profile.

To fully extract the compounds without damaging them, an extractor must rupture the cellular walls of the cannabis plant without harming its components. This is a difficult task to do, especially with hydrocarbons.

Ultrasonic extraction conquers this issue by creating rapidly pulsating ultrasonic vibrations within the extraction medium (usually coconut or olive oil), making it possible to penetrate the integrity of the cellular walls without destroying the plant’s precious cannabinoids and terpenes. As an alternating sequence of high and low-pressured bubbles pulsate throughout the medium, the makeup of the cell walls is dissolved and the components are free to be collected.

Ultrasonic Extracted Concentrates Today

Through ultrasonic cannabis extraction, very little, if any, of the cannabinoids and terpenes are harmed during extraction. Essentially, ultrasonic cannabis extraction creates full-spectrum concentrates that have an almost identical chemical makeup to the original flower used for the extraction.

Ultrasonic extracted concentrates are known to provide effects similar to those of the flower they were extracted from.

Ultrasonic extracted concentrates are known to have the same smell and taste as the starting flower and even the same psychoactive effects. Of course, the concentrates have a much higher potency than flower, so consumers should be careful and start small. Ultrasonic extraction can yield about 15% of a bud by weight in concentrates, resulting in some potent products.

If you need some help getting started with concentrates, be sure to check out our “Tips for a Successful Dabbing Experience.”

Even more important than potency, the cannabinoid profile that ultrasonic extraction delivers is extremely robust. That means that you might feel increased effects and a different experience than you would when dabbing concentrates that isolate cannabinoids, like distillate and THCA.

Basically, when dabbing ultrasonic extracted concentrates consumers receive everything that flower brings to the table: cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and even basic plant material like chlorophyll. It all adds to the flavor and effect of your experience, and sonication brings it to you in one of the cleanest ways possible.

Is Ultrasonic Extraction the Best Way to Extract from Cannabis?

When discussing the best extraction methods, it really depends on the individual and what their personal preferences towards cannabis are. After all, cannabis affects everyone differently and some people might prefer a different extraction method over another solely based on the unique way cannabinoids interact with their own body.

For example, if a consumer feels only solventless concentrates help them achieve desired effects, then sonication would be off the table for them. However, since some solventless extraction methods utilize heat and pressure (like rosin), which we know can degrade the compound profile, a consumer might wish to compare the effects of ultrasonic and solventless extraction methods to see which results in a purer experience.

The best extraction method ultimately boils down to personal preference.

For consumers who have no qualms against using a solvent in principle, and only aim to avoid potentially dangerous solvents like butane and propane, then ultrasonic extraction might provide the best option. Coconut oil and olive oil both produce potent and flavorful products when mixed with sonication and are known to be less harmful than other chemical solvents.

Are There Any Downsides to Sonication?

As far as health is concerned, there doesn’t appear to be any negative health consequences to utilizing sonication as an extraction method at this time. That being said, it’s possible to use sonication with a solvent that may pose health risks, such as propane.

Ultrasonic extraction creates a clean product with minimal downsides during production. photo credit

At the industrial level, it can be difficult to scale up the intensity of the sonication to a full batch of product. Extractors either need to worry about overheating of the medium if it is not mechanically stirred around the cavitation instruments, or they need to battle the difficulty of distributing the sonication evenly throughout a medium. Either way, the need to keep the medium at a low-temperature during sonication is integral to ensuring the extract’s authenticity – which can be a difficult feat.

Final Thoughts

Ultrasonic extraction has been a huge leap forward for innovation in cannabis extraction. It’s healthy, time-effective and, most importantly, delivers a concentrate that is as close to the real flower as possible. And while we may not see ultrasonic cannabis extractions on a wide-scale commercial level for some time, it’s great to see advancements being made in the ever-expanding world of concentrates. We’re just excited to see what’s next!

Have you ever experienced ultrasonic extracted concentrates? Share your feedback in the comments below!

Photo Credit: geralt (license)


Nicholas Demski Nicholas Demski

As a former global educator, Nicholas uses his B.S. in biology to leverage his understanding of cannabinoid science into meaningful content for readers. For several years, Nicholas has written for several blogs, including Green Flower, and provided copywriting services for CBD and cannabis companies worldwide. He's also a Staff Writer for Terpenes and Testing Magazine, CBD Health and Wellness Magazine, and Extraction Magazine.

While Nicholas is a medical cannabis patient in Michigan, he has traveled from Spain to Colombia to Cambodia to see what cannabis is like around the world. He uses his background in science, world experience, and unique writing style to help people learn more about cannabis and cannabinoids at and on Instagram @Cannabiologist. You can also connect with Nicholas on his LinkedIn profile.

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