Crystalline Isolate is an extremely pure form of cannabinoid that is extracted using CO2 or butane/propane. Available in both THC-A and CBD, crystalline can contain up to 99.97% THC or CBD depending on the application.
For some this high-potency offering may seem excessive, but for many it is rather attractive. Medical marijuana patients are actively seeking the benefits of higher doses while veteran smoker may be looking for a new level of high. No matter the use, crystalline isolate is an exciting development within the chemistry of cannabis and the development of novel methods of consumption devoid of any harmful solvents and carcinogens.
Most people on Earth have never experienced what the purest hash this planet has to offer. Engineers have devised an extraction method that creates an extract that 99.96% pure. Here’s how they do it.
THC-A Crystalline Hash is the holy grail of cannabis potency. The process starts with a cannabis extract. Then, cannabis extract is mixed with acetic acid and hexane. Those chemicals work together to dissolve the plant matter but preserve the THC.
Once the extract, acid, and hexane are acquainted, they’re put through a traditional filter. The solution all goes in a rotary evaporator, which looks and sounds more complicated than it is. Rotary evaporators use varying degrees of pressure, heat, and motion to pull apart the different materials in a liquid.
By the time the rotary evaporator is finished its cycle, a mixture called Δ9 tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is left.
To refine the mixture more, a process called chromatography is needed. There are a few different kinds, but the purpose of chromatography is to remove impure elements from the solution. To do this, chemists add more chemicals to the mix. One called Sephadex-LH20, another called dichloromethane. Then good old-fashioned chloroform is added.
Once the hash has gone through chromatography, it doesn’t look much like any marijuana product you’ve ever seen, and more like something Walter White would be selling.
What is Crystalline?
Crystalline, also referred to as “crystals,” “THC crystals,” or “diamonds,” is a cannabis concentrate that comes in a solid state. It resembles coarse sugar, the kind typically used for decorating sugar cookies or glittering the tops of baked fruit pies. Crystalline is produced to be free of plant matter or terpenes, which are the distinct aromatic and flavor qualities of a cannabis cultivar, or strain.
What Cannabinoids are Available in Crystalline form?
Crystalline is produced to have just one cannabinoid. The only cannabinoids available in crystalline form are THCA, CBDA, and CBD. Anyone consuming THCA, CBDA, or CBD will not experience an intoxicating high, though THCA converts to THC when exposed to heat, making the crystalline intoxicating.
What is THCA Crystalline?
You may have heard the term “THC crystals” or “THC crystalline” used to describe crystalline, but THC, which produces an intoxicating high, is not available as crystalline; chemically, THC cannot hold a crystalline structure. In other words, what’s often referred to as “THC crystals” is not pure THC, but rather a form of pure THCA. THCA crystalline converts to active THC through decarboxylation at the time of consumption.
How Is THCA and CBD Crystalline Made?
Crystalline is produced from a cannabis extract. The starting material for THC crystal extraction can come from raw cannabis plants. Crystalline has a unique, subtle taste and smell, but it lacks the chemical compounds that give other cannabis Concentrates their aroma and flavor.
A number of methods are used for making THC Crystalline, but the essential crystallization principles are the same. One way to understand the crystallization process is similar to the making of rock candy. Hot water is supersaturated with sugar, then as the water cools down, sugar crystals start to form on a string or stick. Hot water allows more sugar to dissolve than under room temperature. As the unstable sugar solution is removed from the heat and allowed to cool, sugar crystals start to precipitate out of solution and will eventually begin to form on the stick. The THC crystal formation will grow over time until the final product is successfully achieved.
The process of isolating and collecting cannabinoids begins with an extract. Aside from primary cannabinoids, these extracts contain a number of other components that range from terpenes and flavonoids to fats, lipids, and a host of other particulates. In order to remove these compounds and isolate the cannabinoids, a series of washes and separations must occur.
The first wash is typically done with the popular extracting hydrocarbon hexane as well as acetic acid (think super-concentrated vinegar). Once mixed, these chemical solvents help to strip away plant particulates and impurities. In order to remove these chemicals, the slurry must be fed into a rotary evaporator, sometimes referred to as a “rotovap.” Rotovaps are designed to gently separate solvents from compounds through the process of slow heat introduction combined with pressure and rotational motion.
Once this first step is complete, the remaining cannabinoids must undergo further isolation through a separation process called “preparative chromatography.” In short, this form of chromatography is used to separate compounds by passing it through various mediums at different speeds. To isolate cannabinoids with this method, more chemicals are introduced which must be filtered out through yet another round of rotary evaporation.
How to Use Crystalline THCA and CBD
In order for crystalline THCA to become active and deliver intoxicating effects, it must be heated. However, THCA has medicinal and therapeutic properties despite being inactive, and can be supplemented in its raw form through several methods.
Crystalline cannabinoids work well for oral ingestion as they can be prepared into foods and even portioned into pills or capsules. Because these cannabinoids are so pure, they are easy to dose.
Those who wish to rapidly activate their crystalline cannabinoids often do so through vaporization and dabbing. By dabbing or vaporizing THCA, decarboxylation occurs near instantaneously, breaking down the inactive, acidic cannabinoid into THC.
Crystalline THCA and CBD have very little to offer in flavor, which is why many producers enhance these pure extracts with additional terpene blends. The combination of terpenes and cannabinoids can provide a more robust experience, not only by adding flavor, but also through more nuanced effects.