What is Fractional Distillation of Hemp and Why Does it Matter?

What is Fractional Distillation of Hemp and Why Does it Matter?

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Hemp is believed my many people to be one of the oldest domesticated crops in existence. What originally emerged as a crop that was used for its durable fibers and usefulness in fabrics eventually became something that humans are continually finding new ways to consume. The hemp industry, which has been rapidly expanding over the past few years, has become more efficient than ever before.

One of the processes that has been a driving force behind this sort of efficiency is known to industry experts as fractional distillation. Fractional distillation is a process that makes it easier for hemp farmers to isolate the most essential chemical compounds (known as cannabinoids) and to create new extracts of hemp that can satisfy a very specific set of needs. This article will briefly explore the fractional distillation process and discuss how this process has revolutionized the hemp industry.

What is fractional distillation?

Fractional distillation is a process that has been proven to be useful not only for those involved in the hemp industry, but also for numerous other chemically-driven industries all around the world. Essentially, the goal of the fractional distillation process is to separate chemicals from an original mixture. In many ways, fractional distillation can be considered the chemical reverse of mixing different things together.

The chemical compounds that you will find in most mixtures—such as the cannabinoids that are found to be present in hemp—will typically begin to vaporize at distinctively different boiling points. As the temperature of the mixture is gradually increased, some chemical compounds will begin to vaporize while other compounds remain in their original liquid form. This makes it possible for chemists to separate these compounds and then contain them in an isolated state.

There are many different chemical compounds that occur naturally in the hemp plant. The ones that are able to effectively interact with the human body are known as cannabinoids. Common examples of cannabinoids include THC, CBD, CBN, and many others. Fractional distillation is used in the hemp extractors to help separate these cannabinoids (who have different boiling points). 

What are the different “fractions” that can be found in the hemp plant?

The adjective “fractional” in the term fractional distillation comes from the fact that each of the different chemicals in the original mixture represent only a fraction of the mixture’s total contents. There are currently 113 known cannabinoids that can be found in the hemp plant. Though some of these cannabinoids are more present and useful than others, what remains clear is that liquefied hemp is something that is clearly composed of many different “fractions.”

The most commonly known cannabinoid is called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This particular cannabinoid is recognized for its natural psychoactive properties and the intoxicating effects that it can have on its consumers. THC extracts are created by isolating THC via fractional distillation and producing the most THC-heavy contents possible. On the other hand, many people do not like the effects of consuming THC. Using fractional distillation to remove THC from the original mixture is also something that is frequently practiced in the industrial hemp industry.

The second most commonly known cannabinoid is called CBD (cannabidiol). CBD is believed to have several different wellness uses (ranging from pain management to relieving anxiety), but at the same time, does not have the psychoactive effects of THC that many users find to be undesirable. Like THC, CBD can be extracted using a the fractional distillation process. Other common cannabinoids include CBN, CBC, CBG, and many others.

How is fractional distillation improving the hemp industry?

The use of fractional distillation has improved the hemp industry in many different ways. Whereas in the past, consumers of the plant would have to consume a given strain with an “all or nothing” mentality, the fractional distillation process makes it much more possible for producers to focus on preserving the aspects of a strain that consumers actually want while removing the cannabinoids that are not legal, and or desired.

As time has gone on, fractional distillation—as well as processes used for cannabinoid extraction and isolation—has made it possible for producers to offer a wider variety of CBD concentrates. Not only are there currently more strains of hemp products available than ever before, these products can also be found in an increasingly diverse variety of forms. 

What are the different types of hemp extracts that are currently available?

Since CBD extraction & distillation has become a mainstream process throughout the hemp industry, consumers are finding themselves to have more choices than ever before. Here are some of the most common hemp extracts:

  • CBD Isolate: this particular kind of extract is made with a specific focus on keeping CBD levels as high as feasibly possible. CBD is a cannabinoid that is believed to be among the most useful for wellness purposes. Naturally, these extracts have become quite popular.
  • THC Free CBD Distillate: though most CBD isolates and full spectrum extracts will have a very low level of THC, there will likely still be at least some THC content remaining. Extracts that are 100% THC free go through the extra step of removing these trace amounts. Though these extracts will often cost significantly more than their comparable counterparts, some people believe that the price is worth it.
  • Full Spectrum CBD Distillate: these extracts are believed by many industry experts to be the most intrinsically valuable. Essentially, a full spectrum extract will still be made using similar processes, but, it will be made in a way that features many different cannabinoids. CBD, THC, CBN, and all other cannabinoids can be controlled in a way that produces that exact kind of product the consumer might be looking for.

Ultimately, the fractional distillation process has made hemp products more dynamic and useful than ever before. As the various producers in the industry continue to improve their skills and processes, it seems that consumer choices will inevitably continue to increase.