“We’re capturing selectively—we’re not capturing everything in the smoke.”
Since first meeting the Real Isolates team nearly a year ago, I have come to rely on their products for treating various annoying conditions including a rare skin disorder that’s plagued me for years called PLEVA.
According to state and federal regulations and laws, companies like Real Isolates can’t make big claims about their product’s efficacy. Even though two of the founders, father and son Michiel and Andy Westerkamp, have the peripheral nerve disorder Hereditary Neuropathy With Liability To Pressure Palsies (HNPP) and conduct effective science-driven research in that and other areas.
But I can say those things. And since I’m fascinated by what the Real Isolates team is doing—and, as a writer, am allowed to tell the world how helpful I think their Smokenol “CBD forward cannabis smoke extract derived from hemp” sold under their Profound Naturals brand can be for some people—I recently visited their lab at the Emerging Tech Center in Beverly to follow up on their latest developments and check out their process behind the scenes.
While they borrow the occasional chunk of dry ice from lab neighbors, Real Isolates is an anomaly in its building, which has a mix of biotech and other non-weed minded companies. Since they don’t work with high levels of THC on site, the Westerkamps don’t need special permits, state licenses, or zoning variances that cannabis manufacturers are required to have. At the same time, they burn hemp all day long, and ran into complaints in their past space. Unlike at that prior location though, the industrial exhaust in Beverly is sufficient to keep abutters from decrying the strong smell of burnt flower, allowing them to work on product development and formulations in peace.
“We are a technology company so we’re basically doing r&d,” Co-Founder Andy said. “We do not touch cannabis in here, unless you consider hemp [to be] cannabis, of course. Everything that we get here is Massachusetts-grown hemp.”
The main event and centerpiece of their setup: a standard vacuum oven, with standard vacuum pumps, sitting on a standard industrial table. But there’s nothing standard about what they’re doing.
“We are taking cannabis material or any other material that you want to use—it could be extracts that you smoke as well. We put it in an oven, crank the temperature up to around 480 or 500 degrees, and we are creating vapors—but we’re actually not using a hot enough temperature to create unwanted byproducts that you would normally find in smoke.”
Noting their patented “novel method used to extract cannabinoids and other compounds from cannabis smoke,” which is intellectual property the company also licenses to product manufacturers, Andy added, “Then we suck this straight through a special filter we have designed that is our secret behind the oven. It selectively captures compounds and cannabinoids and terpenes out of the smoke, allowing all the other stuff that we don’t want to exhaust. So we’re capturing selectively—we’re not capturing everything in the smoke.”
As President and CEO Michiel explained, “We’re just focusing on the things that we care about, which is a relatively narrow band.” Andy added, “If you look at our compliance tests, there are eight or nine measurables and we’re coming in very high in CBT, CBD, CBE, CBL, XO THC, Delta-9 THC at compliance levels, CBN, the list goes on.”
“We’re not trying to purify for THC or CBD or CBN or any one cannabinoid,” Andy said while showing off their distillate which “looks nothing like a regular distillate,” but rather has “this golden amber color to it … more like live rosin.” “We are trying to capture and basically concentrate what we’ve collected from our extractions, so we start collecting it at a very low temperature and stop collecting it at a very high temperature.”
For their next collaboration with a licensed manufacturer of THC products, Profound Naturals is working with the Wareham-based BeachGrass Topicals. Using the former’s magic oven add-on to extract Smokenol from flower, they’re imminently dropping a line of uniquely infused chocolate bars.
As for their hemp-based goods that I have come to use to treat everything from blemishes to headaches, Andy said, the “flagship product is definitely the tincture.” The original variety packs 750mg with hemp seed oil, MCT oil, and Smokenol extract, while a new 2.0 version omits the hemp seed oil for a smoother flavor and doubles the dosage. I happen to dig the smoky smell and taste of the original, but now Real Isolates is also playing with ideas that have more mainstream appeal.
“We have found that anything that you can grill is a good complement to Smokenol,” said Cissy Westerkamp, Andy’s mother and the VP of Real Isolates. She showed us samples of their new Profound Naturals body butters that come in Sweet Tobacco and Teakwood, adding that future products could be along the lines of “grilled peaches, pineapples, or oranges—things that you would find in coffee or on a barbecue.” For those decisions, Andy said, “We depend a lot on our returning customers,” who give them feedback on samples they include in shipments, “plus family and friends and associates and colleagues.”
Whether they’re discussing flavor or effects, for the Real Isolates team, the topic always comes full-circle back to smoking.
“Most people prefer smoking [over other methods of consumption]—myself included,” Andy said. “But temperature matters. When people are doing plant extracts or any kind of extraction method, they’re taking what’s in the plant out of the plant and then delivering it to you in some fashion. But when you smoke that plant, all of the molecules are changing dramatically.
“We’re capturing that profile that most people prefer from the smoke—whether it’s cannabis or hemp. And then we put it into other products so you get that chemical profile from the smoke. And now you can have it in whatever way you want—whether it’s a topical, or an edible, or a tincture, or a capsule, or even a vape product.”
So you can probably guess what is coming next.