Some would argue that ethanol [C2H6O] deserves the “universal solvent” title even more than our good friend H2O. This is because ethanol can dissolve both polar (hydrophilic) and nonpolar (hydrophobic/lipophilic) substances. It’s pretty much a solvent that invites everyone to the party. Very inclusive, that ethanol molecule is.
Ethanol’s polar hydroxyl [OH] group – with oxygen’s high electronegativity allowing hydrogen bonding to take place with other molecules – will dissolve hydrophilic (water-loving) compounds like chlorophyll, pigments and tannins.
Ethanol’s nonpolar ethyl [C2H5] group, a.k.a. its “hydrocarbon tail,” works with the hydrophobic (water-fearing) components like plant waxes/lipids, oils, cannabinoids, terpenes (aroma/flavor) and any other substance (except for plant fiber) that is present inside or on the outside of the plant. (And, of course, it’s these cannabinoids/terps we’re after.)