Cannabis extraction, methods and practices


Cannabis extraction is the art of concentrating cannabinoids and other beneficial compounds present in the plant, while discarding unwanted plant matter. This process is essential for producing potent and effective products and has become increasingly popular in therapeutic applications, both in medicinal and recreational cannabis.

Types of cannabis extraction

Cannabis extraction encompasses various processes that concentrate cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant, while removing plant matter. They are divided into mechanical cannabis extraction, which uses physical methods to separate trichomes, such as dry sift, ice-o-lator, and rosin, and chemical cannabis extraction, which employs solvents to isolate compounds, such as BHO, RSO, and CO2 supercritical extraction. These methods have gained interest due to cannabis legalization and its therapeutic applications, with cannabinoids and terpenes being the most studied compounds due to their impact on the flavor and effects of the plant.

Mechanical cannabis extraction

There are several devices and tools that can be used for home cannabis extraction, allowing for a faster process than traditional methods. From containers with screens for sifting marijuana to machines like the Pollinator, designed to extract resin in an automated and efficient manner. Mechanical cannabis extraction harnesses physical processes to separate cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant, without using chemical solvents.


Rosin involves applying heat and pressure to flowers to extract solventless resin of high quality. It is an extraction method that utilizes pressure and heat to obtain resin from marijuana flowers.


This is done with special pressing machines that apply high pressure and control temperature to produce a high-quality product. Although it is mentioned that rosin can be made at home with a hair straightener and parchment paper, this approach generally yields mediocre results and is not recommended.

Dry sift involves sifting flowers to separate trichomes from plant matter, producing high-quality kief. Ice-o-lator uses water and ice to make trichomes separate more easily, creating bubble hash or water hash.

Charas and sieve hash

Within mechanical cannabis extraction, there are traditional methods such as charas and sieve hash. Charas, used for centuries in India, Nepal, Morocco, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, involves rubbing buds between hands to collect resin-filled trichomes, which are then molded into hashish.

On the other hand, sieve hash, typical in Morocco and Afghanistan, is obtained by tapping marijuana on a sieve to collect filtered resin.

Both methods produce concentrated cannabis extracts, known as kief or hashish, which can be verified for their high quality by observing if they bubble when heated, indicating a high content of cannabinoids and terpenes.

Other mechanical cannabis extraction techniques

Another mechanical technique for cannabis extraction is ice extraction, known as Ice-O-lator, Fresh Frozen, or Water Hash. In this process, ice and water are used to freeze the plant without drying it, and different mesh screens with various pore sizes are used to filter impurities. Although it is common to do this with specially designed washing machines, it can also be attempted at home.

For home extraction with cold, a bucket with ice is required. It is important to have a special kit that includes screens of different sizes to obtain the best results. The process involves filling the bucket with cold water and ice, placing the buds inside the submerged screens, and agitating the material in cold water for a specific time. Then, the bag is carefully removed, and excess water is gradually eliminated. Once dehydrated, the product is molded into the desired shape.

Chemical cannabis extraction

Chemical cannabis extraction, also known as solvent extraction, involves using a substance that acts as a solvent for cannabinoids, such as gases or alcohols. The process involves dissolving trichomes, where cannabinoids are concentrated, in the liquid solvent. The mixture is then filtered and purged in an oven or with a vacuum pump to remove any traces of the solvent in the extract, ensuring it is solvent-free and allowing for greater precision and concentration of specific compounds.

Within these methods, homemade cannabis tinctures are very popular among medicinal cannabis consumers. This is done by submerging decarboxylated cannabis flowers in alcohol for several weeks, periodically shaking, and then filtering the mixture.


On the other hand, homemade cannabis oils are another popular option for obtaining marijuana oil at home. In this method, instead of alcohol, a edible oil is used to macerate decarboxylated cannabis buds. After heating the oil with the buds, it is left to rest in a glass jar for several days in complete darkness.

Chemical extractions use solvents to extract cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant. BHO, which uses butane as a solvent, and RSO, which uses ethanol, are popular methods for obtaining highly concentrated extracts. However, the most prominent method is supercritical CO2 extraction, known for its efficacy and safety, as it leaves no toxic residues. It requires specialized equipment and specific knowledge and cannot be done at home.

On the other hand, homemade cannabis oils are another popular option for obtaining marijuana oil at home. After heating the oil with the buds, it is left to rest in a glass jar for several days in complete darkness. It produces different types of extracts such as Shatter, Sugar, Crumble, Wax, Cookies, Amber Glass, Moonrock, or Budder, which vary in texture and consistency.


BHO (butane hash oil) is a chemical cannabis extraction method that uses butane as a solvent to extract cannabinoids and terpenes from cannabis flowers. Although efficient, its safety is a concern due to the flammability of butane. It produces different types of extracts such as Shatter, Sugar, Crumble, Wax, Cookies, Amber Glass, Moonrock, or Budder, which vary in texture and consistency.


RSO (Rick Simpson oil) uses ethanol as a solvent and is known for its high potency and versatility. It is a full-spectrum cannabis oil that concentrates a wide variety of cannabinoids, with THC and CBD being predominant. This method was popularized by Rick Simpson, who used it to treat his own illness and distributed it for free.


Chemical cannabis extraction with supercritical CO2 uses carbon dioxide in a supercritical state to selectively extract compounds without leaving residues. It is preferred in the cannabis industry for its efficacy and safety, as the CO2 reverts to gas and does not remain in the final product.

Therapeutic and recreational applications

Cannabis extraction offers a wide range of therapeutic applications, both for medicinal cannabis and recreational use. From oils and tinctures to more potent concentrates such as shatter or wax, products derived from cannabis extractions provide options for diverse users and needs.


It is important to note that, while cannabis extraction offers numerous benefits, it also carries risks and safety considerations. It is crucial to follow best practices and, in the case of solvent cannabis extraction, to perform the process in a controlled and safe environment to avoid accidents.

The art of cannabis extraction is a fascinating field that combines tradition with innovation. With a wide variety of methods and techniques available, growers, consumers, and cannabis experts have the opportunity to explore and experiment with different extracts to find the option that best suits their needs and preferences.