Using Isopropyl Alcohol

Use Isopropyl to Safely Make RSO?  

If it's Legal Where You Live, Yes You Can!

Isopropyl Alcohol has a much maligned reputation for being dangerously toxic 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, a question is posed to be answered at the end, then the facts about Isopropyl Alcohol discussed. Knowing these facts will help frame the discussion around safely using Isopropyl to make RSO/FECO. The safe use of Isopropyl has been a priority when developing the RxCE process found on this website.  Basic summary - If you don't drink it, nor bathe in it, it will not hurt you. 

AUTHORS NOTE:  So what is the purpose of this page? Think of this as being comparable to a shared needle program. People are out there using Isopropyl in unsafe ways. This page is to educate people on the science of Isopropyl and the RxCE extraction process, a means of safely using Isopropyl. In the United States, 55-60% of the population live in states where 190 proof ethanol is illegal to purchase but medical grade isopropyl is available. This is an effort to keep people safe when making their medications. Isopropyl, when used correctly, has a place in cannabis extraction.

Lets open this discussion with a question to be answered at the end of this page.

Answer below, but first, here is a collection of references from regulatory agencies, government agencies and scientists about the use and application of Isopropyl alcohol. These statements are quotes from official documents found on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website, the U.S. National Institute of Health, Oregon and Colorado State websites, and other sources.

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; whereas, Ethanol is created as the waste product of yeast. Yeast eats sugar, farts C02 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.]

Your liver breaks Isopropyl down into Acetone. Is this a bad thing? 

No, this is not a problem. Your liver naturally produces Acetone when breaking down lipids which you burn as energy or is eliminated through urine or exhaling. Here is what ChatGPT says about Keytones: 

"Ketones are a type of molecule that are produced by the liver when the body is low on glucose (sugar) and needs an alternative source of energy. The body can use ketones for energy when glucose is not readily available, such as during periods of fasting, low carbohydrate diets, or intense exercise.

Ketones can be used as a source of fuel for the brain and other organs in the body, and they can also be converted back into glucose by the liver to provide energy for the body's cells. This process is called gluconeogenesis.

In addition to their role in energy metabolism, ketones also have other potential benefits. For example, they may help to reduce inflammation in the body and improve cognitive function. Some studies have suggested that following a ketogenic diet, which is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, may have therapeutic benefits for certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

However, it is important to note that the body typically relies on glucose as its primary source of energy, and high levels of ketones in the blood can be a sign of a serious medical condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) in people with type 1 diabetes. As with any dietary or medical intervention, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle."

Here is an exhaustive discussion published by the British Government on the effects of Acetone in the body.

Can you drink Isopropyl Alcohol?

Definitely not! Though it's not cancerous like Benzene or toxic like Methanol, it still is very harsh in the body even in low quantities. Its not a drink, its a solvent. If it trickles down your throat, it can hurt you. Don't do that!

 At drinking volumes, Isopropyl will get you more inebriated than Ethanol with much more discomfort and pain. Every health clinic around the world has an Isopropyl Overdose protocol because this is a world wide problem. But down at the molecular level interesting enough, in trace quantities, the tables turn. Your liver breaks down Ethanol into Acetaldehyde, which after much exposure, will cause DNA damage. On the other hand, Isopropyl is broken down into Acetone and expelled through urine and exhaling. Did you know your body creates Acetone when your liver breaks down lipids? Your body knows how to deal with these trace quantities through natural metabolism. This is why making RSO with Isopropyl is safe in oil. You don't want to make a tincture out of Isopropyl, but there's no chance Isopropyl will hurt you with residual trace quantities. There is nothing even remotely dangerous with trace quantities of Isopropyl in RSO. This is why the State of Oregon has legalized Isopropyl as a solvent in making Cannabis extract.

Here is the NIH on medical training of Isopropyl Toxicity from a health care perspective. 

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 and so is Isopropyl alcohol. These grades range from from Technical Grade at the bottom, to ‘ACS Reagent Grade’ at the top. The bottles of Isopropyl Alcohol found at the neighborhood store are Technical Grade. Take a look at the grading system. For the consumer at home making RSO, the USP-NF and higher grades are guaranteed safe within the limits of the FDA exposure guidelines. 

FDA has approved the use of Isopropyl in certain food ingredients. This means the FDA approves traces amounts for human consumption. This is how Parts Per Million playout in our daily lives. More below..






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.  Benzene in Class1, Methanol in Class 2, with Ethanol and Isopropyl (2-Propanol) in Class 3.  Here's why that is so significant..

"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 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;

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

Here is Colorado's Marijuana Enforcement Dividsion code 5-315 section A.2 – Permitted Categories of Medical Marijuana Concentrate Production.

"A Medical Marijuana Products Manufacturer may also produce Solvent-Based Medical Marijuana Concentrate using only the following solvents: butane, propane, CO2, ethanol, isopropanol, acetone, heptane, ethyl acetate, and pentane. The use of any other solvent is expressly prohibited unless it is approved by the Division."

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

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

Here are  questions and arguments against using Isopropyl heard in social media:

Someone heard from others that 100% isopropyl will leave behind hydroxyl groups that are too difficult to purge because of their bond to the oils.  is that true?

I asked ChatGPT..

"The claim that 100% isopropyl will leave behind hydroxyl groups that are difficult to purge due to their bond to the oils is not accurate. Isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) is a widely used solvent in various industries, including extraction processes. It is known for its ability to dissolve oils, resins, and other organic compounds effectively.

Isopropyl alcohol is a polar solvent, meaning it can break down polar substances like water and other hydrophilic compounds. It can also dissolve non-polar substances like oils and fats. During the extraction process, isopropyl alcohol can dissolve the desired oils, including cannabinoids, from the plant material.

However, it's important to note that thorough purging is necessary to remove any residual solvent and ensure a clean final product. Purging involves removing the solvent through evaporation or other methods to leave behind the desired compounds. The presence of hydroxyl groups or any other unwanted residues would depend on the quality of the extraction and the purging process, rather than the use of 100% isopropyl alcohol itself.

To achieve a high-quality extract, it's crucial to follow proper extraction and purification techniques, which may involve additional steps such as winterization, filtration, or vacuum drying. These methods help eliminate impurities and unwanted substances, ensuring a purer final product."

Step into our visual elevator!  We have a million floors to descend, all the way down into Parts Per Million.  

This illustration shows how Parts Per Million relates to the familiar items in our daily lives.  For instance, an average grain of rice is 29mg according to Google.  Do you buy Gummi bears at the Dispensary? 10mg is a common dose per bear. 

The FDA allows certain food ingredients to have PPM quantities of Isopropyl.  The seven lab tests presented below all come in under Oregon State's Limit of 5mg.  How lethal is Ethanol and Isopropyl?  About one cup of Isopropyl or 1.4 cups of Ethanol may be fatal to a 50c/110lb person.

So, 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. Trace quantities of Isopropyl, a.k.a. 2-Propanol, are broken down by your body into Ketones, used for energy or  expelled as a normal course of metabolism 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. 

Remember, Isopropyl is the normal disinfectant in hand sanitizer, hand wipes, and Rubbing Alcohol. The small amount of Isopropyl that gets absorbed through the skin is metabolized by the liver and expelled when exhaling, 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. It does not cause blindness like Methanol, or it would be a Class 2 solvent.  Isopropyl is listed with Ethanol as a Class 3 solvent "with low toxic potential to humans" 

Bringing it Home.

Given the great fear that exists about Isopropyl’s toxicity, much time and effort has been spent in creating a robust procedure for eliminating residual Isopropyl from the oil. Heat over time is the catalyst that evaporates Isopropyl from the oil, identical to Ethanol. The final reduction step is a literal firewall against retaining alcohol in the oil. 

Multiple lab tests are presented below showing undetectable levels of Isopropyl in the RSO created using this process.

Basic summary on Isopropyl Alcohol's safety - if you don't drink it, nor bathe in it, it will not hurt you. Isopropyl Alcohol is a well known, well understood molecule, almost identical to Ethanol. FDA regulations and guidelines provide safeguards for limited use in food products and topical applications. 

Now, the answer the opening question..

Additional Reading:

Lab Test Results during the development of the RSO 2.0 process reporting both Potency and Residual Solvents.

Lab Test Summary

The table plots the Total Cannabinoids reported in each test. Test #1 was run in May 2021 on standard RSO resulting in 34% Total Cannabinoids. The six subsequent tests were run with subsequent process improvements. The final test shows an increase to 79% cannabinoids with, Distillation, Rapid Winterization and the final reduction.

The seven lab tests can be seen below starting from most recent.

Lab Test #7 RICE Oil

This oil was made using Isopropyl for Extraction, then Distilled Water Distillation and Rapid Winterization.

Highest Yet - 79% Total Cannabinoids 

Lab Test #6 RECE Oil

This oil was made using Ethanol for Extraction, then Distilled Water Distillation and Rapid Winterization.

78% Total Cannabinoids 

Lab Test #5 12/22 - Test showing improvements using Silting in the RSO 2.0 2022 process.

This oil was made using a QWISO Dry Ice extraction, then Silting, Distillation, Winterization and final Reduction. Total Cannabinoids are just below the threshold of Distillates which start at 80%. Residual Solvents are undetectable.

Amazing! 78% Total Cannabinoids which is nearly Distillate Quality.

2-Propanol (IPA) again is undetectable.

Lab Test #4 02/22 - Isopropyl Alcohol and Brine Distillation. Residual Solvents are undetectable.

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

2-Propanol (IPA) is undetectable.

Lab Test #3 09/21 - Isopropyl Alcohol and Brine Distillation.  Residual Solvents are undetectable.

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 #2 06-21 - Isopropyl and Water Distillation.  Residual Solvents are undetectable.

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 #1 05/21 - Using Isopropyl Making Original RSO.  Residual Solvents are undetectable.

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

2-Propanol (IPA) is undetectable.

   Join our Facebook group to discuss all the science around these projects.

Disclaimer:  Your use of any information or materials on the C.H.S. Website is entirely at your own risk, for which we shall not be held liable. It shall be your own responsibility to ensure safe use and operation of any processes, products, services or information made available through C.H.S publications and Website.