If you’re sitting on a fat stash of highly concentrated, hemp-derived extract, rich in cannabinoids, primarily CBD… congratulations! You’re likely the new owner of a bunch of CBD distillate.
You might even be a farmer who survived the recent biomass crash by taking your product further into the supply chain than originally planned, making it more valuable (and making more work, but also more reward).
Distillation has been around a long time. Crash course: generally, it’s done under a vacuum with heat, which vaporizes those cannabinoids and catches them in a condensation. This increases both potency and purity, and through the heat, your distillate will get decarboxylated, activating certain cannabinoids so that they are ready to be absorbed into the body.
The final result has a highly viscous, beautiful amber color… but there’s just one problem.
It’s not a product yet!
This is where a lot of people get stuck, and depending on what kind of CBD distillate they end up with, you have some options.
Let’s look at a few different kinds of CBD distillate, what they’re good for, and what kinds of products you can hire a product formulator to turn them into.
“Full-spectrum” simply means that all of the cannabinoids that were found in the input material made their way into the distillate. In other words, there is a “full-spectrum” of cannabinoids present in your distillate.
Generally, when we’re speaking of full-spectrum, THC is the primary cannabinoid that’s in focus. In other words, THC is always present in full-spectrum extracts, along with CBD and other minor cannabinoids such as CBG, CBN, CBC, and over 100 others.
Depending on what state you live in, this may or may not be what you’re after. Enter the COA: knowing what’s in your distillate is important not just for potency and purity, but for legal compliance.
If you are looking to build a product but you are sitting on full spectrum CBD distillate, you may need to get the THC levels adjusted depending on what state you’re in. Navigating this is a critical part of a product formulator’s job, and something we’re doing all the time: helping NuSachi clients stay compliant.
“Broad-spectrum” generally means that the THC has been removed, but the rest of the spectrum is still intact. It will still have minor cannabinoids present, despite the absence of THC. It’s possible for this to start all the way at genetics, working with strains that are low-THC right out of the ground.
While many companies are working on genetic selection in their products, most genetic alterations still produce THC in some levels. And when you go through processing, all cannabinoids are concentrated, so the THC will be concentrated as well. This usually requires a further processing step after getting your CBD distillate to refine to broad-spectrum.
One way to isolate and remove THC from the extract and create a broad-spectrum distillate is with chromatography. This is an extremely intensive process with solvent use, labor, and resonance time. It’s not a very efficient process to remove the THC, and it’s quite difficult.
Many different processes exist to remediate THC and further concentrate the other cannabinoids in the distillate very efficiently, with or without the use of solvents. Broad spectrum can be formulated into a wide variety of different products, including gummies, oils, topicals, and food and beverage products.
“THC-Free” (sometimes referred to as “T-Free”) and “Broad Spectrum” are usually interchangeable when talking about distillate. They both refer to distillate that has gone through a THC remediation process. T-free has everything from the original plant, except for THC.
This would ideally be used to create products that needed to be 100% THC-free for any number of different reasons. Perhaps it’s a branding thing, perhaps it’s a legal thing, or perhaps it’s for a specific medical outcome or purpose. Whatever your reason, if you need to create a T-free product, you’ll want to start with THC-free distillate.
Back to your stash of CBD distillate: You might be an old pro at this, or you might be just entering a new world of “process” that requires some education. Here’s a simple walkthrough of CBD processing you can compare your experience against, just to make sure you’ve checked all the boxes:
Your cannabinoids were likely extracted from biomass using either supercritical CO2 or ethanol as solvents. Under supercritical conditions, CO2 becomes a liquid and will solvate those oils from the plant. This creates “crude” extract, generally with about 50-75% potency, and this crude carries a lot of other lipids and waxes.
Winterization is a common method to remove waxes and lipids, which are not good for forumation into products.
After the crude oil is extracted, it is usually solvated again in ethanol, at a very cold temperature. This process is referred to as “winterization,” in which those fats and lipids will solidify and fall out of the ethanol solution. Think of it like what happens after cooking anything with fats in a cast iron pan. When the pan cools off, the fats solidify and you can easily separate them from any other liquid in the pan.
What remains after the winterization is called a “winterized crude,” which has a potency between 60-75%.
The winterized crude is a very dark color, and it’s usually very bitter and acidic. This cannabinoid acid-rich, winterized crude is next heated, or activated, also known as “decarboxylation”.
Some processors choose to heat-activate and decarboxylate their winterized crude in order to put it on the market, indicating it is “decarbed, winterized crude oil.” It’s important to understand that even though this is a valuable product, it’s still not CBD distillate. There’s one more step.
After decarboxylation, the crude is ready for distillation.
There are two main distillation styles. One is called short-path distillation. The other is called thin film or wiped film distillation. Both methods vaporize the cannabinoids under a vacuum, and then recodense them into a full-spectrum distillate that carries between 70-90% potency. It’s much lighter in color and highly viscous.
Once you have a full-spectrum distillate, in order to filter it down into a broad-spectrum/T-free product, it’s usually run through chromatography, where it is resolvated and passed through some machinery that isolates cannabinoids and selectively removes them.
CBD testing is a part of cannabinoid testing. It’s usually done with high-precision liquid chromatography that identifies and quantifies the levels of cannabinoids in your extract. Generally, higher potency yields a higher value.
A lot of extractors and distillate owners look at CBD potency as what drives the core value of their extract. This is why it’s critical for product formulation. All formulators need to know their CBD potency so that they can properly formulate it into relevant CBD products.
CBD potency is a part of the cannabinoid potency analysis in a Certificate of Authenticity (COA).
A COA can include information as simple as potency, or as complex as a full panel. Usually extracts come with a potency analysis. The potency analysis is what a COA most often refers to, and it tends to carry the most value. (e.g. A 90% CBD distillate will carry more value than a 70% CBD distillate.)
A “full panel” COA means that it’s not only been tested for potency, but it’s also been tested for other potentially harmful contaminants, like heavy metals, mycotoxins, microbials, and pesticides.
Full-panel COAs are valuable because, throughout the distillation process, while the potency of cannabinoids rise, so too does the potency of anything potentially harmful in your product. If there are pesticides in your flowers, there will be higher levels of concentrated pesticides activated in your crude oil, etc… and this holds true for all undesired substances.
This is what a professional product formulator will want to see, so that they can ensure that your product does not contain any concentrated, harmful contaminants.
Formulators, product developers, retail brands, and wholesale brands are all trying to source the best CBD distillate they can. They’re looking for high quality CBD distillate at wholesale pricing.
They want fully traceable, safe, and pure products. So if you’re sitting on a stash of CBD distillate, you have two options: sell it wholesale, or get it formulated.
If you want to sell it wholesale, let us know. We might buy it from you.
If you want to get it formulated into world class, premium products, we can help with that too.
And if you’re feeling stuck, like you’re missing the last piece of the puzzle, and need some professional help getting your product created and brought to market, fill out the form below and book a call with a NuSachi Growth Advisor.
We love helping CBD brands go to market with safe and reliable products, and we’d love to hear from you.