What is Spagyric Extraction for CBD?

Spagyric extraction involves the burning of spent hemp biomass (for CBD oil production), as a means to harvest the plant’s mineral salts. These salts are added back into the raw extract, drastically increasing the abundance of cannabinoids and other constituents. 

I find it funny when I see “full spectrum” and “broad spectrum” CBD products made from distillate. Is there really any meaningful amount of native compounds in distillate to be honestly labeling these products as full spectrum and broad spectrum?  

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My processing partner in Colorado has been producing herbal remedies for nearly 20 years, so they have particular know-how in processing herbs for medicinal purposes. They started working with hemp when it emerged as the next big thing in the wellness industry. 

To our surprise – and seemingly overnight – the industry was inundated with new players making claims of all sorts and sizes. It was and continues to be troubling. These new players appeared to be chasing riches built on self-hype, little to no science, and questionable business plans. Who are these people, these “cowboys,” as we now refer to them?

As the hemp industry gathered momentum for the production of CBD products, it became clear to us that players from the marijuana industry were influencing and misguiding the approach to processing hemp. Before anyone knew what hit them, processing methods from the marijuana space were adopted as best practices in the hemp industry. Putting this cat back in the bag has proven to be a seemingly insurmountable challenge – and for good reason.

The level of investment backing hemp-processing businesses has been enormous. At this point, no one wants to hear that they made a bad bet. No one wants to hear that they got it all or mostly wrong. It’s just better if everyone keeps marching forward without calling out the white elephant in the room or feeling ethically compelled to admit to this huge mistake. 

So, what does any of this have to do with wellness? Well, if CBD has become known as the great elixir of our time, the cure-all for every ailment under the sun, as some continue to shamefully claim, then why are so many product developers using hemp-derived extracts (and isolates) that are anecdotally inferior to others? “Because that’s what we’re producing and selling,” said one extractor to me when discussing this issue a while back. There you have it. 

Manufacturing methods in the marijuana industry were developed and evolved to serve a recreational market. THC distillate, for example, is produced to provide product developers with a high-THC-content material they can use to produce all sorts of recreation-oriented products such as vape cartridges and gummies. Distillation makes sense if you consider altering the appearance, aroma, and taste inherent to the hemp plant serves a good purpose. In the case of products found in marijuana dispensaries, THC distillate does help product developers produce products that deliver a high without a robust aroma, a spicy taste, or a dark-green appearance.

Now, let’s think about the typical consumer of CBD products. He or she is primarily seeking to alleviate an ailment – not to get high. CBD, and more specifically, the compounds found in hemp are therapeutic, medicinal if you will. It is the hemp plant that offers the goodness of these compounds to consumers seeking physical and/or emotional relief. So, to think that the CBD products he or she consumes and depends on are made from extracts that have been over-processed and distilled, imagine the results they would feel from products made from minimally processed whole hemp extracts that have maintained all of the plant’s goodness. 

So why are product developers keen on using CBD distillate to create “full spectrum” and “broad spectrum” products? In my opinion, they simply have been misguided by people who do not have their best interests in mind. No different than the extractor who told me, “Because that’s what we’re producing and selling.” 

The compounds that are responsible for efficacy are largely destroyed when over-processed and distilled. I find it funny when I see “full spectrum” and “broad spectrum” CBD products made from distillate. Is there really any meaningful amount of native compounds in distillate to be honestly labeling these products as full spectrum and broad spectrum? 

A consumer who consumes CBD products to alleviate pain or anxiety, for example, doesn’t really care about aroma, taste, or appearance – as long as the stuff works. Too many product developers are worried about these attributes – and I get it. In an ideal world, everything would be available in your favorite colors, taste like your favorite desert, and have an aroma of your favorite flower. The reality is, medicine’s purpose is to cure or alleviate. In the case of hemp-derived remedies, they ought not be altered for the wrong reasons – taste, aroma, and appearance. 

When I went out searching for a new extraction partner, I limited my search to well-established companies that had extensive experience in processing botanicals – not just hemp. During the process, it became rapidly obvious to me that I was immersing myself in a different type of culture than the one I purposely walked away from. The individuals behind these operations never lose sight of the missions they set forth and principles that guide their businesses: to develop and produce wholesome ingredients and remedies that help consumers live healthy lives. 

While many CBD brands have the right intentions, it’s astonishing to me how many of them continue to follow a herd mentality when it comes to selecting the right extracts for the production of their “efficacious” products. I’m not going to say the selection of genetics is unimportant – it is. But I find it interesting that such a great deal of emphasis is placed on strains and so little thinking goes into processing beyond the everlasting ethanol vs. CO2 extraction debate. There is so much more to processing hemp if you really want to produce truly efficacious CBD products

Take for example, Spagyric extractions. I bet you I can randomly line up 100 well-established hemp processors throughout the country and ask them if they know about the Spagyric extraction method. Maybe a few have heard of it, but none will actually know anything meaningful about it. This goes to show you that processors – who, by the way, claim to be the shit – don’t appear to know shit about making medicinal-quality extracts. 

Spagyric extraction is an ancient method used to make medicine that we’ve applied to hemp with great success at Craft Batch Botanicals. It entails burning expended biomass down to ash to make available the plant’s mineral salts. These salts are added back into the raw extract, which dramatically increase the abundance of compounds in the extract.

The chromatographs below compare a conventional extraction and a Spagyric extraction of the same exact hemp biomass. As you’ll observe, the abundance of cannabinoids between the two extractions is a night and day difference. Increased cannabinoid abundance leads to higher bioavailability, a superior entourage effect, and improved efficacy.

Conventional Ethanol Extraction

Tincture Chromotagraphy

Spagyric Extraction

Spagyrics Tincture

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According to a chemical and biological engineering scholar at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who wished to remain anonymous for this provocative article, “It is very difficult to analytically and/or biologically determine what is happening with the salts. My best hypothesis is that there is a synergistic effect (entourage effect) that is taking place. It is also possible that the salts are reacting with the cannabinoids to create cannabinoid salts.”

Processing a Spagyric extract any further beyond reclaiming the ethanol used in the extraction only destroys compounds and the goodness that comes from them. Phytocannabinoids found in this whole hemp extract display unique therapeutic effects that contribute meaningfully to the entourage effect that drives efficacy. Unfortunately, I don’t believe product developers are being made aware of the fact that these compounds are destroyed by the excessive processing necessary to produce crude and distillate oils.

One other important benefit of minimally processed extract is its content of cannabinoids in their native acid forms (CBDA, CBGA, CBCA, etc.). There is growing evidence that cannabinoids in their acid forms are promising, efficacious compounds. View Dr. Rafael Mechoulam’s (godfather of CBD) keynote address on the chemistry behind cannabinoid acids (skip to minute 9:20).

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Lastly, as I’ve gone back to read this article repeatedly to make edits, I’ve become self-aware that I may be unintentionally offending honest and hard-working professionals in the industry. I assure you, I’m not interested in offending anyone. My sincere apologies if I have. However, when I was asked to write a meaningful article, I decided I would write one to make a positive impact, despite being as provocative as I’ve been.

About the Author

Erik Kuhn
Lead Herbalist at Craft Batch Botanicals
Boulder, Colorado 80302

Erik grew up in rural Tennessee, amidst rolling hills lined with agricultural farms. He took an interest in all things nature early in his life and eventually decided to dedicate his career to herbology. Erik intertwined his studies with travel, spending time in over 30 countries, reaching the far corners of the world. These experiences have shaped his perspective on herbal medicine, which has been the focus of his work for over 30 years. Erik is lead herbalist at Craft Batch Botanicals in Boulder. In his spare time, he tends to his impressive beehive apiary in Northern Colorado. 

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