Using Isopropyl Alcohol

Use Isopropyl to Safely Make RSO? Yes You Can!

Isopropyl Alcohol has a much maligned reputation for being dangerously poisonous, and at worst, cancerous. In all controversies, there are facts and there are opinions. Its the muddled in-between ground that has become a vortex of misinformation. First, here are the facts about Isopropyl Alcohol. Knowing these facts will help frame the discussion around safely using Isopropyl to make RSO. The safe use of Isopropyl has been a priority when developing the RSO 2.0 process found on this website.


The following statements are quotes from official documents found on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website, the U.S. National Institute of Health, Oregon State website, and other sources.

What is Isopropyl Alcohol?

Isopropyl Alcohol, a.k.a., 2-Propanol, is an organic molecule with the formula of C3H8O. It is important to differentiate between Isopropyl and other products known as rubbing alcohol. Too often these two products are considered the same thing. Rubbing alcohol is a product name that typically contain other compounds such as oils, perfumes and colors.

Isopropyl is manufactured through means of a chemical reaction. Ethanol is created as the waste product of yeast. Yeast eats sugar, farts oxygen and pisses alcohol. Isopropyl comes together something like Milton The Monster. Nice picture, huh?

[BTW, you may encounter 1-Propanol on the FDA website. 1-Propanol is not Isopropyl Alcohol. It has the same set of atoms, but assembled into a different molecule, having different chemical characteristics. It's so different, it has a completely different manufacturing process. As a result, 1-Propanol is never sold under the name of Isopropyl Alcohol. The two are not interchangeable. The FDA has not approved 1-Propanol for food or topical applications, it has other uses.]

FDA has approved the use of Isopropyl in certain food products. This means the FDA approves traces amounts for human consumption. Think about that for a minute.

TITLE 21--FOOD AND DRUGS


CHAPTER I--FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


SUBCHAPTER B - FOOD FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION (CONTINUED)


PART 173 -- SECONDARY DIRECT FOOD ADDITIVES PERMITTED IN FOOD FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION

Subpart C - Solvents, Lubricants, Release Agents and Related Substances

Sec. 173.240 Isopropyl alcohol.


Isopropyl alcohol may be present in the following foods under the conditions specified:

(a) In spice oleoresins as a residue from the extraction of spice, at a level not to exceed 50 parts per million.

(b) In lemon oil as a residue in production of the oil, at a level not to exceed 6 parts per million.

(c) In hops extract as a residue from the extraction of hops at a level not to exceed 2.0 percent by weight: Provided, That,

(1) The hops extract is added to the wort before or during cooking in the manufacture of beer.

(2) The label of the hops extract specifies the presence of the isopropyl alcohol and provides for the use of the hops extract only as prescribed by paragraph (c)(1) of this section.


FDA has approved Isopropyl for topical use on the human body.

"The only active ingredients used in OTC consumer antiseptic rub products that are eligible for consideration under the OTC Drug Review are ethyl alcohol (referred to subsequently as alcohol), isopropyl alcohol, and benzalkonium chloride."

Isopropyl is widely available in consumer products and is the primary antimicrobial found in many rubbing alcohol products, hand wipes, hand sanitizer sprays and gels. The CDC says that a minimum of 60% alcohol in hand sanitizer is required for effective use against COVID19.

FDA classifies solvents into three classes. Ethanol, Methanol, Isopropyl (2-Propanol) and Benzene are solvents with different uses.

"Solvents in Class 1 (Table 1) should not be employed in the manufacture of drug substances, excipients, and drug products because of their unacceptable toxicity or their deleterious environmental effect.".

"Solvents in Class 2 (Table 2) should be limited in pharmaceutical products because of their inherent toxicity.".

"Solvents in Class 3 (Table 3) may be regarded as less toxic and of lower risk to human health. Class 3 includes no solvent known as a human health hazard at levels normally accepted in pharmaceuticals.".

Benzene is a Class 1 solvent known to cause cancer. Proctor & Gamble has had many public product recalls in the Fall of 2021 due to residual amounts of Benzene in consumer hair care and skin products.

Methanol is a Class 2 solvent known for its toxicity and for making people go blind. The FDA has published a list of banned hand sanitizers found to contain methanol.

Both Ethanol and Isopropyl are Class 3 solvents with low risk to human health. But only Ethanol is considered GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) for human consumption. Isopropyl is approved only in trace amounts, as seen above. Its not something you should drink as it causes major gastric problems.

The State of Oregon legislation approves Isopropyl as a solvent for Cannabis extraction.

In section OAR 845-025-3260 Cannabinoid Concentrate and Extract Processor Requirements,

(3) Cannabinoid Concentrates. A processor with an endorsement to make cannabinoid concentrates:

(a) May not:

(A) Use denatured alcohol.

(B) If using carbon dioxide, apply high heat or pressure.

(b) Must only use or store dry ice in a well-ventilated room to prevent against the accumulation of dangerous levels of carbon dioxide.

(c) May use:

(A) A mechanical extraction process; or

(B) A chemical extraction process using a nonhydrocarbon-based or other solvent, such as water, vegetable glycerin, vegetable oils, animal fats, isopropyl alcohol or ethanol.

(C) An extraction process using the solvent carbon dioxide, provided that the process does not involve the use of heat over 180 degrees (Fahrenheit) or pressure.

The City of Portland Oregon restates it clearly in 14B.130.020b:

B. “Cannabinoid concentrates” means a substance obtained by separating cannabinoids from marijuana by;

  1. A mechanical extraction process;

  2. A chemical extraction process using a nonhydrocarbon-based or other solvent, such as water, vegetable glycerin, vegetable oils, animal fats, isopropyl alcohol or ethanol;

  3. A chemical extraction process using the solvent carbon dioxide, provided that the process does not involve the use of high heat or pressure; or

  4. Any other process identified by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission or the Oregon Health Authority, by rule.

A second issue that must be addressed, is the question of purity. What Isopropyl products are safe to use?

That depends on the application. A grading system has long existed in the chemical industry to designate levels of purity. Ethanol is available in multiple grades, so is Isopropyl alcohol. These grades range from from Technical Grade at the bottom, to ‘ACS Grade’ at the top. The bottles of 70% Isopropyl Alcohol found at the neighborhood drugstore are Technical Grade. For the consumer at home making RSO, the USP-NF and higher grades are safe in food processing for consumption, within the limits of the FDA exposure guidelines.


Can you drink Isopropyl Alcohol?

Definitely not. Though it's not cancerous like Benzene or toxic like Methanol, it still is a bad thing in the body even in low quantities. Here is the NIH on medical training of Isopropyl Toxicity from a health care perspective. Its not a drink, its a solvent. If it trickles down your throat, its going to hurt you. Don't do that.

What is the benefit of using Isopropyl over Ethanol for making oil?

Isopropyl chemical properties are slightly different than Ethanol with these benefits:

  1. Isopropyl is 1/3rd less polar than Ethanol. This directly translates into 1/3rd less power to pull unwanted compounds out of the plant.

  2. Isopropyl is much faster in dissolving oils. The faster the extraction time, the less time is given to pull unwanted compounds out of the plant.

  • Isopropyl can remove 80% of the oils in 20 seconds at any temperature, from room temperature down to -55c/-67f.

  • Ethanol needs 3 minutes to accomplish the same thing, same temperature rules apply, but can only cool down to 50c/-58f

  1. Isopropyl has a magic power with table salt that Ethanol does not.

  • Adding table salt to Isopropyl separates the alcohol from water. Isopropyl forms the top layer, water forms the bottom. This is known as "Salting Out".

  • Ethanol requires Potassium Carbonate to accomplish this, but it radically changes the water's pH which affects the Cannabinoids; don't do this.

  • "Salting Out" Isopropyl opens a new door allowing extractions to be run across a full range of temperatures. Extractions can run as cold as 48c/120f and as high as 100c/212f. All the Isopropyl will evaporate at low or high temperatures. For example, to save the acidic state (CBDA vs CBD), you must not decarb the cannabinoids. You can skip the Decarbing step, then run the Distilling step at 65c/150f and remove all the Isopropyl. "Salting Out" is the magic. Read about it in the RSO 2.0 User Guide and Shop Manual.

So, what is there to debate?

How did Isopropyl Alcohol become so maligned in our society? The answer begins with our parents telling us “Don’t drink that, it's poison!”. That served us well as children, but as adults having access to a world of information at our fingertips, we can easily find the truth. Isopropyl, a.k.a. 2-Propanol, is tolerated in small quantities by the human body with no detrimental effects.

As shown above, the FDA permits Isopropyl in certain spice ingredients to be consumed by humans. Just the mere fact it has FDA approval for limited food uses, says the whole story. Again, in trace amounts, Isopropyl, is tolerated by the human body with no detrimental effects in small quantities.

It is baffling to see vocal opposition to Isopropyl when the same opposition uses hand sanitizer, hand wipes, and Rubbing Alcohol on their bodies. The small amount of Isopropyl that gets absorbed through the skin is metabolized by the liver with no detrimental effects.

If this were not true, the FDA would not allow it to be in food products. Rest assured, Isopropyl is not cancerous. If it were, it would be a Class 1 solvent.

Bringing it Home.

Isopropyl Alcohol is a well known, well understood molecule. FDA regulations and guidelines provide safeguards for limited use in food products and topical applications. Thats great, but this is dependent on using the proper grade of product that guarantees the necessary purity for trace consumption by humans.

In regards to RSO 2.0, given the great fear that exists in peoples minds about Isopropyl’s fatal toxicity, much time and effort has been spent in creating a robust procedure for eliminating residual Isopropyl from the RSO. In the Distilling Step, Brine is used to separate Isopropyl from water. This is known as Salting Effect Distillation. Once separated, Isopropyl evaporates without water slowing it down. This is how 100% of residual traces can be removed from the oil.

Heat over time is the catalyst that evaporates Isopropyl from the solution. The distillation step runs an additional 30 minutes to remove residual traces of the alcohol. Multiple lab tests are presented below showing undetectable levels of Isopropyl in the RSO created using this process.

It is therefore safe to say that you will ingest less Isopropyl using this new RSO 2.0 extraction process than you will by ingesting the FDA approved spice extracts.

Additional Reading:

  1. Industry authority Gray Wolf's post on performing a Quick Wash with Isopropyl.

  2. Salting Out Isopropyl to separate the alcohol from the water content.

  3. Isopropanol Toxicity published by the U.S. National Institute for Health (NIH.gov)

  4. Toxicological Data For Class 3 Solvents published by the FDA.

  5. Isopropyl Alcohol Physical and Chemical Properties published by the U.S. National Institute for Health.

  6. Isopropanol Safety Data Sheet on file with the Washington State University.

  7. Grades of Chemicals by www.LabManager.com


Lab report #1 using Isopropyl Alcohol and water in distillation.

1st lab result during early development stage. This test used water in the distillation rather than Brine.

2-Propanol (IPA) is undetectable.

Lab report #2 using Isopropyl Alcohol and water in distillation.

2nd lab result during early development stage. This test used water in the distillation rather than Brine. Potency is getting better!

2-Propanol (IPA) is undetectable.

Lab report #3 using Isopropyl Alcohol and Brine during distillation.

3rd lab result during mid development stage. This test was the first to use Brine in the distillation rather than water. Potency is much better!


2-Propanol (IPA) is undetectable.

Lab report #4 using Isopropyl Alcohol and Brine during distillation.

4th lab result during mid development stage. This test was the first to use Brine in the distillation rather than water. Potency is much better!


2-Propanol (IPA) is undetectable.