Hemp nut is commonly incorporated into several food preparations; however, most countries set regulations for hemp products according to their cannabinoid content. In this study, we have developed an efficient microwave-assisted extraction (MAE) method for cannabinoids (i.e., Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, and cannabinol) in hemp nut. Optimization of the MAE procedure was conducted through single factor experiments and response surface methodology (RSM). A comparative study was also conducted to determine the differences in the extraction yields and morphology of hemp nut between MAE and reference extraction methods, namely heat reflux extraction (HRE), Soxhlet extraction (SE), supercritical fluid extraction (SFE), and ultrasound-assisted extraction (UAE). Among the independent variables in RSM, the temperature was the most significant parameter. The optimal conditions of MAE were as follows: extraction solvent of methanol, microwave power of 375 W, temperature of 109 °C, and extraction time of 30 min. Compared with reference extraction methods, MAE achieved the highest extraction yields of total cannabinoids in hemp nut (6.09 μg/g for MAE; 4.15 μg/g for HRE; 5.81 μg/g for SE; 3.61 μg/g for SFE; 3.73 μg/g for UAE) with the least solvent consumption and shortest time. Morphological observations showed that substantial cell rupturing occurred in the microstructure of hemp nut after MAE, indicating enhanced dissolution of the target compounds during the extraction process. The MAE method is thus a rapid, economic, and environmentally friendly extraction method that is both effective and practical for industrial applications.
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