Extraction of naturally occurring cannabinoids: an update

Phytochem Anal. 2021 May;32(3):228-241. doi: 10.1002/pca.2987. Epub 2020 Sep 7.


Introduction: Organic molecules that interact with the cannabinoid receptors are called cannabinoids, which can be endogenous, natural or synthetic compounds. They possess similar pharmacological properties as produced by the plant, Cannabis sativa L. Before cannabinoids can be analysed, they need to be extracted from the matrices.

Objective: To review literature on the methods and protocols for the extraction of naturally occurring cannabinoids.

Methodology: An extensive literature search was performed incorporating several databases, notably, Web of Knowledge, PubMed and Google Scholar, and other relevant published materials. The keywords used in the search, in various combinations, with cannabinoids and extraction being present in all combinations, were Cannabis, hemp, cannabinoids, Cannabis sativa, marijuana, and extraction.

Results: In addition to classical maceration with organic solvents, e.g. ethanol, pressurised solvent extraction, solvent heat reflux, Soxhlet extraction, supercritical fluid extraction, ultrasound-assisted extraction and microwave-assisted extraction, are routinely used nowadays for the extraction of cannabinoids from plant materials and cannabis consumer products. For the extraction of cannabinoids from biological samples, e.g. human blood, and also from food and beverages, and wastewater, solid-phase extraction and its variants, as well as liquid-liquid extraction are commonly used. Parameters for extraction can be optimised by response surface methodology or other mathematical modelling tools. There are at least six US patents on extraction of cannabinoids available to date.

Conclusions: Irrespective of the extraction method, extraction temperature, extraction time and extraction pressure play a vital role in overall yield of extraction. Solvent polarity can also be an important factor in some extraction methods.

Keywords: Cannabis sativa; biological samples; cannabinoids; cannabis; extraction; marijuana.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cannabinoids* / analysis
  • Cannabis*
  • Liquid-Liquid Extraction
  • Plant Extracts
  • Solvents


  • Cannabinoids
  • Plant Extracts
  • Solvents