Over the last couple of years, we’ve watched CBD soar in popularity. While a lot of people know the different forms and types of CBD, not many are aware of the processes involved during production. Because of that, we are sharing the popular CBD extraction methods manufacturers use currently.
There are different extraction techniques, and the method in use affects the end product. In other words, extraction methods influence the product’s quality, potency, taste, and safety. Being aware of the various techniques will help you make informed decisions the next time you choose a CBD brand.
Explaining What CBD Is and Why It Is Used?
CBD, aka cannabidiol, is a chemical compound from hemp and cannabis sativa plants. Another major component in these plants is THC – tetrahydrocannabinol.
However, unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive. In other words, it will not cause the user to feel high or intoxicated.
CBD is especially popular because of its supposed health benefits. Although the research into the therapeutic effects of CBD is still going on, the current results are positive.
People use it to manage different medical conditions, like pain, inflammation, anxiety, sleep problems, and stress.
What is CBD Extract?
CBD extract refers to the substance you get from extracting the cannabinoids from the plant. This extract is what is used for making CBD products.
CBD extracts can come in different forms, depending on the extraction process. These are full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.
The full-spectrum extract contains CBD, trace amounts of THC, and other cannabinoids. It also has healthy compounds like terpenes, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and flavonoids.
Broad-spectrum CBD is similar to full-spectrum. But, the difference between them is broad-spectrum goes through an additional process to remove THC. This process is called liquid chromatography.
CBD isolate contains a pure concentration of CBD, up to 99%. It doesn’t have other cannabinoids or compounds.
In more simple terms, a CBD extract is what you get at the end of the extraction process. This extract is what goes into the creation of multiple CBD products you see. There are different CBD extraction methods which we’ll discuss later.
Why Do We Need to Extract CBD?
Extraction is unavoidable to make CBD products that are safe and usable. You get an effective concentration when you extract CBD from the cannabis plant or hemp.
The concentrated extract is only effective because it went through heat, a decarboxylation process. Note that decarboxylation is essential for the absorption of CBD and other active ingredients.
Additionally, ingesting hemp in its raw form can expose you to microbes, leading to health risks. The extraction process removes any unwanted compounds that may pose damage to health.
Popular CBD Extraction Methods
To make an effective and potent product, the manufacturers have to extract CBD from the hemp plant. The active ingredient in CBD products, CBD, has to have a certain level of quality and purity to be classified as superior.
There are several methods of extracting CBD from the hemp plant. The popular CBD extraction methods include the following:
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extraction: CO2 is a solvent-free and environmentally friendly CBD extraction method. This technique helps pull out cannabinoids and other compounds from the raw hemp plant.
CO2 is a sophisticated technique. It typically involves three chambers. In the first chamber is where you convert CO2 to a liquid state. You achieve this by increasing the pressure and decreasing the temperature.
After that, you slowly increase pressure and temperature until the CO2 reaches a supercritical point. At this stage, the CO2 is between a gaseous and liquid state.
Once it’s at this supercritical point, you can pump the CO2 into the second chamber. The hemp plant material is in this second chamber. Then, CO2 passes through it to separate the oil from the plant.
This oil contains a rich amount of cannabinoids and other beneficial hemp compounds. Together, the CO2 and oil move to the third and final chamber.
The final chamber is where the oil and CO2 separate as the residual CO2 evaporates. What’s left at this point is a concentrated CBD oil extract.
Steam Distillation: This CBD extraction method is popular for drawing out essential oils. But, it also works for extracting cannabinoids as well.
Here, you use steam to free the volatile compound – cannabinoids – from the plant material. What results is a vapor full of the desired compounds. This vapor further goes through a cooling and condensation process. After that, you separate the resulting oil and water.
Solvent Extraction: The manufacturer uses solvents such as food-grade ethanol to draw out the compounds in this CBD extraction method. Hydrocarbons such as butane or propane work as well.
With hydrocarbon extraction, the mixture which contains the cannabinoid and other beneficial compounds goes through another process. The process is a refinement method. It removes solvents from the mixture.
After this refining process, the next step is the final purging. This process helps remove any other solvent that may still be present, giving a concentrated CBD product.
For ethanol extraction, you distill the liquid. The distillation separates the hemp oil from the ethanol and isolates the needed compounds.
Solvent extraction is quick and inexpensive. But, it can be dangerous because the solvents are volatile and flammable. You should never use this method at home unless you have some experience and take safety precautions. Also, this method can leave residues in the end product, which can be toxic for the user.
How to Extract CBD at Home
If you’re wondering how to extract CBD at home, here’s an idea. Although this is not a detailed process, it can get you started.
Olive oil extraction: Olive oil is a solvent that can help extract cannabinoids from the hemp plant. Although it’s not a commercial method, CBD enthusiasts use it as a natural DIY solvent.
It’s one of the oldest methods of extracting CBD. And you don’t need any level of experience to carry it out.
In this CBD extraction method, you first heat the hemp to a specific temperature. You can heat between 240 and 280°F for about an hour. This procedure is called decarboxylation.
After that, you add the activated hemp to the oil and heat it again. This time, you’re heating to draw out the cannabinoids. You should heat a low temperature for about two hours.
The olive oil does not evaporate like the other solvents –hydrocarbon and ethanol. So, the end product is not highly concentrated CBD oil. Instead, it’s more of a CBD-infused oil.
In addition, the CBD is highly perishable. This CBD extraction method is not efficient for commercial purposes or large-scale production.
Asides from olive oil, there are other kitchen oils that you can use to exact CBD at home. They follow similar guidelines as the method we discussed here.
Some of the cooking oils you can use include:
- sunflower oil
- Coconut oil
- Argan oil
- MCT oil
Activation and Purification
While activation and purification are not CBD extraction methods, these processes are essential for producing CBD. It involves the activation of the compounds and the purification of the CBD oil.
Two methods involved in this process are decarboxylation and winterization.
The organic compounds in the hemp plant are present in their acidic forms. CBD comes as CBDA, and THC, THCA.
To change CBDA to CBD, the manufacturer has to decarboxylate the compound by applying heat. This heat turns the CBDA into its active form, CBD, by removing one carbon molecule.
Applying heat to the compound can occur before or after extraction. The primary thing is to make sure decarboxylation takes place. Non-activated compounds will have little or no effects on the consumer.
You may see companies label some CBD products as raw. That means the product didn’t go through decarboxylation.
Winterization is not as crucial as decarboxylation. However, it ensures that the CBD oil is as possible.
This process utilizes solvents, such as ethanol and a low temperature to remove impurities from the extract. You may lose terpenes and other compounds during this process. However, some manufacturers add terpenes back to the CBD later on.
Most companies skip this winterization step. But, this process is important if the end product is a vape CBD.
Final Thoughts on Which Method is the Best?
Each CBD extraction method has its own pros and cons. However, the CO2 extraction technique has more advantages and only a few cons. It’s currently the industry’s leading extraction method. It’s a costly process, but it creates a safe and highly concentrated end product.
Most importantly, it’s more reliable than other techniques. With CO2 extraction, you’re sure there will be no toxic residues in your CBD.
There’s a high chance the brand is a quality one if they invest money into supercritical CO2 extraction. However, that doesn’t mean all CO2 extracted CBD is the best. You also want to consider other factors like hemp source, third-party test reports, and brand transparency.