Extract the full spectrum of CBD When prioritising the best CBD products, it’s important that each step of the process is carried out with care and precision. You can grow high-quality hemp, with a large percentage of cannabidiol (CBD), but all of that goes to waste without the proper extraction techniques. So, that ra Wondering how to extract CBD? How are CBD oils made? Here we explain the difference between different extraction methods wheying their pros and cons. We create all of our scientifically-formulated Pure + Potent products with a commitment to quality and purity in mind. Call us today to learn more.
Which CBD oil extraction method is the best?
When prioritising the best CBD products, it’s important that each step of the process is carried out with care and precision. You can grow high-quality hemp, with a large percentage of cannabidiol (CBD), but all of that goes to waste without the proper extraction techniques. So, that raises the question: which method is best?
At Vitality CBD we often discuss the importance of choosing a quality CBD oils, and how premium extraction techniques contribute to a better product. To truly understand why high-end extraction methods matter, let’s first explore how CBD is synthesised.
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of over a hundred different cannabinoids found in plants from the Cannabis family. The most famous of these cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the one that induces the “stoned” effects typically associated with recreational Cannabis use. On the other hand, studies have repeatedly shown that CBD does not get you high.
Currently we know that when introduced to your body, CBD interacts with your pre-existing endocannabinoid system. Understanding that the human body already generates cannabinoids that bear a great similarity to CBD in structure and function is step one in understanding why CBD oil is proving so popular.
Cannabidiol is actually synthesised in the trichomes of the female hemp plant, alongside the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. The need to create CBD oils that retain CBD and other cannabinoids whilst removing the THC is part of why extraction techniques are so important.
How do you extract CBD?
When we extract the best CBD, the end goal is to harvest it in a concentrated form so that it can then be mixed into CDD e-liquids, CBD oils and CBD topicals. That’s why we use a strain of hemp called Cannabis sativa L., renowned for its high CBD levels.
As we’ve mentioned, CBD is actually a constituent in a vast sea of hemp compounds, so extraction isn’t as easy as it first may seem. However, all of these techniques were first developed for other purposes, like extracting essential oils from flowers.
At Vitality CBD we use two different techniques specifically (typically in conjunction) but we’ll discuss all the options available, and how they affect the end result. As always, if you have any further questions drop us an email on our contact page.
CO2 extractions of cannabidiol
The most expensive and most popular CBD extraction method (particularly amongst manufacturers offering a premium product) involves using CO2. This is because it provides a clean, precise extraction that massively reduces the contamination potential of other methods.
The applications of CO2 extractions stem far beyond just hemp products. CO2 extractions are used to decaffeinate coffee beans, to extract the nicotine from loose-leaf tobacco, and to precisely extract spices and flavours.
CO2 extractions can be split into supercritical and subcritical categories (there’s also ‘mid-critical’, a halfway point between the two), but supercritical is the most common, and the one we use at Vitality CBD for all of our CBD products. We’ll breakdown the differences between each below.
The shared methodology between the two essentially entails running pressurised carbon dioxide across the hemp plant to strip away the desired phytochemicals (literally: plant chemicals). When treated to certain conditions, CO2 actually acts like a solvent, without any of the potential side-effects.
Supercritical CBD extraction
Starting with the liquid form of CO2, a supercritical method involves increasing the temperature and pressure of the CO2 until it becomes ‘supercritical’. This means that the CO2 has properties of both gas and liquid: it is able to fill a container like a gas, whilst also having the density of a liquid.
In this supercritical state, CO2 acts as a solvent when applied to the hemp plant without denaturing any of the compounds. The need to maintain the right pressure and temperature explains why CO2 extractions use expensive equipment, resulting in the best CBD.
Once the supercritical CO2 has been passed through the hemp extract, the resultant solution is passed into a separator to be (you guessed it) separated. The CO2 is stored to be used again, whilst the desired hemp compounds are removed and taken to the next step in the process.
Subcritical CBD extraction
The immediate distinction with a subcritical hemp extraction is the lower temperature and lower pressure. As a result, the process takes longer, but it also further reduces the chances of denaturing the more delicate compounds, like terpenes.
Whilst the yield is smaller than with supercritical, it also allows for lighter oils and other sensitive compounds that might otherwise be dismantled in the process to be extracted. However, the trade off is that heavier, more resinous material will typically get left behind.
Solvent CBD extractions
Probably the cheapest and easiest of all the methods available (you could easily do it at home without buying any specialist equipment. not that we recommend this), solvent extractions are also generally considered to be the most likely to cause issues with the end product.
A solvent extraction involves running the solvent in question—typically either butane or ethanol—to the hemp plant matter. This strips the cannabinoids into the liquid, which is then evaporated so as to leave behind a concentrated oily residue with the hemp compounds in.
The main problem is that the solvent not only removes the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, but also inadvertently extracts chlorophyll. This occasionally leads to unwanted side effects, and will cause the taste to become much more bitter.
Likewise, the compounds that the solvent does remove can either be denatured, or just degraded entirely during the extraction process. As such, whilst it’s the cheapest and easiest method to do on a mass scale, there’s a reason why many companies are phasing it out. When you buy CBD with us, you can be confident it’s not been treated this way.
Olive oil CBD extraction
An olive oil extraction is most commonly done by home brew enthusiasts looking to create their own CBD oils. Though near any oil can be used in this process, olive oil is preferred due to its masking flavour and versatility.
The first step is to either grind the hemp very finely, or to decarboxylate it, a complex word which here means: heat it at a certain temperature. Through this process, several of the cannabinoids have their chemical make-up converted, making some more potent and others easier to extract.
After the initial heating, you then heat the hemp matter further in the olive oil, a process by which the compounds are extracted to the oil. Whilst this is perfect for home users, it results in a low yield and a highly perishable product that isn’t practical on a mass scale.
Dry ice CBD extraction
Whilst the name alone suggests high-tech scientific experimentation, this is another method that can be performed at home (assuming you have access to dry ice). It also benefits from the lack of denaturing solvents, resulting in a cleaner and purer end product.
The process involves flash-freezing the loosely chopped hemp extract, and then sieving the frozen trichomes through a mesh bag. These in turn can then be used as the basis for your cannabidiol oil—it’s really that simple.
Since this is a relatively haphazard and difficult to measure method, the quality is not always ensured depending on how well the hemp is frozen and how vigorously it is sieved. However, if you can get safe access to dry-ice this is a clean alternative to solvents for creating your own CBD oil.
Which CBD extraction method is best?
At Vitality CBD, we would recommend either of the two mentioned CO2 extraction techniques, depending on what compounds you want to prioritise extracting. All of the others have their uses, of course, but CO2 is the best all-rounder.
Learn more about CBD
As mentioned earlier, grasping why a clean and accurate extraction is important is premised on understanding just what is being extracted. Read on here for our supporting articles on terpenes and flavonoids.
If you’ve got any further questions about CBD extraction techniques, or some information you’d like to share with us, our experienced team are always on hand to field any questions. You can reach our friendly team via our contact page, or alternative you can go check out our full CBD range here!
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How to Extract CBD Oil: Different Methods That Works Best
Wondering how your CBD oils are made? You’ve come to the right place.
CBD extraction is an advanced process that requires many skills and high-tech equipment to yield clean and potent products. Without extraction, the CBD space would revolve around hemp flowers, limiting diversity in the cannabis industry to a great extent.
Can you imagine the cannabis market without oils, gummies, vapes, capsules, and topicals?
Today, we’ll elaborate on how to extract CBD from hemp plants, compare different extraction methods, touch down on their pros and cons — and pick the best technology for making safe CBD oils on a broad scale.
How Is CBD Extracted?
CBD can be extracted from cannabis plants, meaning you can use both hemp and marijuana for extraction.
The source of CBD determines the chemical profile of the end product and has a profound impact on its legality.
Hemp-derived CBD oils have less than 0.3% of THC and thus can’t get the user high. The lack of intoxicating effects makes hemp plants and their derivatives legal on a federal level. You can buy them in all 50 states without a prescription.
Marijuana, on the other hand, comes with significant concentrations of THC — usually upwards of 10% — which is enough to induce intoxication. The federal law still holds THC on the list of controlled substances, making marijuana illegal on a federal level. Individual states can interpret these laws independently; so far, 16 states have fully legalized marijuana, while 48 states have some sort of a medical marijuana program.
As mentioned, there are several ways to extract CBD from hemp.
Let’s start with the golden standard — CO2 extraction.
CO2 behaves like a gas; however, this can be easily changed when you use different pressure levels and temperatures.
CO2 extraction yields optimal results in terms of the product’s potency and preserved phytochemical profile. When the temperature of CO2 gets below -69 F, with pressure levels above 75 PSI, it turns into a supercritical state.
Supercritical CO2 can fill an extraction chamber where the plant material is contained, being just the perfect solvent. It results in a clean product with consistent concentrations of CBD and terpenes throughout the batches.
The carbon dioxide efficiently pulls the desired compounds by breaking up the trichomes in the extraction vessel, leaving away insoluble molecules.
Then the manufacturer uses a separator and splits the extract into individual compounds. Once there, CBD and other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are sent back to the collection container. Meanwhile, CO2 leaves the extraction chamber condensed into a liquid form and transferred to a special storage tank for future operations.
CO2 Extraction Equipment
The CO2 extraction equipment includes multi-chamber machines that use special pumps forcing supercritical CO2 into the extraction vessel where it interacts with the plant and breaks the trichomes, dissolving part of the plant material. These machines are costly; they usually cost around $150,000, which is the main reason why CO2-extracted CBD oils are more expensive than products obtained with other solvents, such as alcohol.
Ethanol extraction is one of the least expensive methods to extract CBD from hemp. Alcohol is generally considered safe, although purging it from the final product requires caution and precision on the manufacturer’s part; otherwise, it can trigger explosions.
Alcohol extraction requires soaking the hemp plant in ethanol. The liquid will run through the plant matter, stripping it from the valuable compounds along with chlorophyll. Once the solvent has gathered enough cannabinoids and terpenes, the liquid is strained and then heated in a special dish. After evaporation, the extract is suspended in a carrier oil to thin it down and improve its bioavailability.
Just keep in mind that ethanol is highly flammable, and you should never extract CBD this way at home unless you can ensure the necessary safety measures.
Ethanol Extraction Equipment
Ethanol extraction is usually employed by small-scale manufacturers because it doesn’t involve such heavy financial investments as CO2 extraction. Ethanol extraction equipment involves a professional decarboxylator, large storage tanks where the plant matter can soak in alcohol, industrial strainers, a gentle heating machine, and storage containers that will contain the extracts before they are infused into the carrier oil and bottled up.
Let’s compare the efficacy and safety of both extraction methods.
CO2 vs. Ethanol Extraction
Ethanol is called a “polar” solvent, and as such, it will be more hydrotropic, meaning it will attach to more water-soluble compounds like chlorophyll. Consequently, the final product is generally less potent and pure — requiring more post-labor than CO2 extraction.
People advocating for ethanol extraction usually argue that these downsides can be avoided using very cold temperatures below -5F. While this is true, the process becomes more time-consuming and less efficient if the manufacturer wants to scale up its operations.
Properly performed CO2 extraction can still maintain many of the plant’s phytonutrients, not to mention that it can continuously yield potent products.
Other Ways to Extract CBD
The idea behind CBD extraction is to pull the desired phytochemicals from the plant matter and transform it into a viscous liquid full of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Although CO2 and ethanol are the most popular solvents, they aren’t the only ones. As mentioned, there are several ways to capture these valuable compounds, including:
- Dry Ice Extraction
- Hydrocarbon Extraction
- Vegetable Oil Extraction
Dry Ice Extraction
The dry ice method is one of the best ways to extract CBD at home. However, it requires more time than CO2 extraction or organic solvent extraction.
The dry ice strips CBD and other phytonutrients from the plant material. It’s a relatively inexpensive method of making high-quality CBD hash without using aggressive solvents.
Solventless extraction always produces cleaner extracts than solvent-based methods — not to mention that using dry ice brings a lot of fun to home extraction
How to Extract CBD Using Dry Ice
- 3 lbs of dry ice
- A large mirror or plexiglass sheet
- Heat-resistant gloves
- I goggles
- A putty knife
- A clean 5-gallon bucket
- 3 bags of bubble hash mesh (73, 160, and 220 microns)
- 3 large jars with lids
Dry Ice Extraction (Step-by-Step)
Put on the gloves and goggles. Next, grind your CBD buds into smaller pieces and place them in the bucket.
Cover the CBD buds with dry ice, leaving them there for 3 minutes. Make sure you only fill the bucket halfway. Doing so will freeze the resin so the trichomes can be separated from the plant material and transferred to the special mesh bags.
Fold each bag over the bucket with your CBD and dry ice, and shake it several times to cause the trichomes to fall off from the plant.
Turn the container upside down on the mirror and continue shaking to collect as much of the resin as possible. Once you’ve gathered the hash of the mirror, you can place it in one of the jars.
Do the same with the remaining bags and be proud of your homemade dry-ice CBD hash.
Hydrocarbon compounds include substances like propane, butane, and hexane. These solvents are relatively inexpensive, but they’re difficult to purge from the end product and thus can leave toxic residue at the bottom of the extract.
Hydrocarbon extraction requires soaking the hemp plant in the solvent. The liquid runs through the biomass, pulling the cannabinoids and terpenes from the flower along with water-soluble compounds such as chlorophyll.
Once the solvent has extracted enough phytochemicals, it is heated in a special dish to evaporate it and create a thick liquid.
Vegetable Oil Extraction
CBD can be easily extracted at home using vegetable cooking oils. These oils act as solvents, but the whole process follows similar rules as all other extraction methods.
Any common cooking oil can be used for this kind of extraction, including:
- Coconut oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Argan oil
- MCT oil
- Sunflower oil
- Sweet almond oil
- Olive oil
If you want to extract CBD for homemade edibles, it’s best to go with a product with the highest amount of saturated fats, as they significantly improve the bioavailability of cannabinoids. People typically choose butter and coconut oil for cooking with CBD, while for salves and creams, argan oil and sweet almond oil are the most common choices.
How to Extract CBD with Cooking Oils
Cooking oil extraction is pretty straightforward. First, you need to decarboxylate your dried CBD in the oven. Set up the heat at 250 F and bake the flowers for 30-60 minutes, depending on how dry they are.
Then you combine the decarbed herb with the oil in a saucepan or slow cooker and slowly heat the mixture to gently simmers. Maintain the low heat and keep the CBD infusion for up to 2 hours.
Once done, strain the liquid from the plant matter and place it in a glass jar. You can keep it in a fridge for up to 6 weeks.
Why Is Decarboxylation Important for CBD Extraction?
Most CBD products are decarboxylated, which involves heating the CBD buds to transform the acidic precursor of CBD into its active version.
If you’ve ever cooked something with cannabis, you should know the process very well.
Decarboxylation, also known as decarbing, removes an extra carboxyl group from CBDA (the acid form of CBD), allowing it to interact with the endocannabinoid system immediately.
If you see a CBD product labeled as “raw,” it means it hasn’t been decarboxylated.
Final Thoughts: What’s the Best Way to Extract CBD?
Knowing how CBD is extracted allows you to evaluate the efficacy of different products based on the solvents used in the process.
People have been extracting cannabinoids from cannabis plants for hundreds, if not thousands of years, to use them for therapeutic purposes. Thanks to the current scientific breakthroughs, we can enjoy a wide range of cannabinoid-based extracts with a lot to offer in terms of their therapeutic properties.
Some extraction methods are superior to others when it comes to broad-scale manufacturing. CO2 extraction is currently the golden standard because it yields the purest products without bringing water-soluble compounds such as chlorophyll.
It does, however, require higher costs when it comes to equipment and lab workers, which is why some manufacturers turn to ethanol as their go-to solvent.
If you want to perform CBD extraction at home, you can either go with a solvent-based method — using cooking oils — or take a solventless approach and use dry ice to capture the desired compounds into DIY CBD hash.
Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.
What Are the Most Popular CBD Extraction Methods?
CBD has exploded in popularity over the last couple of years and, while most people are familiar with the term and may have even sampled a few CBD-containing products, it’s rare that the average consumer knows the intricate details of the process used to create them. At Pharmstrong™, the entire process from seed to final product fascinates us – especially the extraction methods, as the various techniques used greatly affect the quality, taste, and potency of the final product. We believe it’s worth sharing tidbits about the most popular extraction methods on the market today because knowing this information is not only interesting, but helps the consumer make an educated decision when it comes to selecting the right CBD provider for their needs. Therefore, let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular extraction methods and a few advantages and disadvantages of each.
Quick Review of the Basics
Before diving into the specific extraction methods, it’s helpful to review a few simple, yet important, frequently asked questions about CBD in general:
What is it and where does it come from?
CBD is a cannabinoid, a chemical compound extracted from hemp plants.
Is it legal?
Yes! However it must be hemp-derived and contain .3% or less THC to be legal according to the 2018 Farm Bill. If you purchase a hemp-derived CBD product from a reputable company, who is transparent about the source of their products and provides lab results verifying the levels (or in many cases, the complete absence) of THC, you have nothing to worry about.
What are some common uses of CBD?
This unique and powerful compound is very versatile, making it the perfect addition to many products. CBD is commonly added to carrier oils – such as organic olive oil or MCT oil – to create fast-acting oral drops (which go under the tongue), mixed with beeswax and essential oils for soothing topical balms, or broken down into tiny nanoparticles for incorporation into easy-to-swallow, highly bioavailable softgel capsules. CBD is also commonly used in vaping products and added to gummy candies and energy drink mixes.
Popular CBD Extraction Methods
In order to make beneficial and highly-effective products, the CBD must first be carefully extracted and preserved from the hemp plant. Maintaining the quality and purity of the main ingredient is essential to creating a premium CBD product.
There are several methods for extracting CBD from the hemp plant, and even a few DIY versions (which we don’t recommend). But let’s take a look at several of the most common extraction methods:
Extraction by Solvent:
With this method, a solvent – commonly food grade ethanol, or a hydrocarbon like butane or propane – is soaked or washed over plant trimmings, drawing out the desirable compounds. In the case of hydrocarbon extraction, the resulting mixture, which now contains the cannabinoids and other useful compounds such as terpenes, is then further refined (the refinement method depends on the desired end product) and the majority of the solvent is removed. From there, a final purging of any remaining solvent is done, leaving a concentrated CBD oil. With ethanol extraction, the resulting liquid is then distilled to separate the hemp oil from the food grade ethanol and further isolate the desired compounds.
Pros: The process is efficient, fairly inexpensive, and does not require as specialized equipment as other methods. Solvents are superior at locking onto and drawing out the desirable compounds. Hydrocarbons, in particular, are known for preserving the plant’s flavor and aroma well.
Olive Oil Extraction:
“Natural solvents”, like olive oil, are used as well for the extraction of CBD – not commercially, but rather by CBD/cannabis aficionados. The raw hemp is heated to a specific temperature (decarboxylated) and then added to the oil and heated again to extract the cannabinoids. The olive oil does not evaporate like ethanol or hydrocarbon solvents, so the final product will not be as concentrated and is more of a CBD-infused oil instead of a concentrated extract.
Pros: Inexpensive and easy to do in your own home and eliminates concerns over residual solvents, expensive equipment, and safety.
This popular, tried and true method for extracting essential oils can be used to extract cannabinoids as well. Steam is used to free the volatile compounds (cannabinoids in this instance) from the raw plant material. The resulting vapor, full of the desirable compounds, is then cooled and condensed. The resulting oil and water are then separated.
Pros: Inexpensive, straightforward, and a solvent-free method.
In this method, CO2 (which stands for carbon dioxide) is used to pull cannabinoids and other desirable compounds from the harvested hemp plants. This scientifically advanced, yet fascinating process generally involves three chambers. In the first chamber, CO2 – which is in a gaseous state under normal circumstances – is converted to a liquid state by increasing the pressure and significantly decreasing the temperature. Next, the temperature and pressure are slowly increased until the liquid CO2 reaches a “supercritical” point. This is the neat part. At this point, the CO2 is somewhere between a liquid state and a gaseous state and retains some of the properties of each; it expands like a gas, but is more concentrated like a liquid. Once in this optimal state, the CO2 is pumped into the second chamber, which holds the hemp plant material. The CO2 then passes through the hemp, separating the oil (rich in cannabinoids and other beneficial compounds) from the plant material. The oil and CO2 then make their way to the third and final chamber where the two separate and the residual CO2 simply evaporates. What’s left is a highly concentrated CBD oil extract.
Pros: An extremely precise, solvent free method that is safe (no flammable solvents) and environmentally-friendly (uses less energy and plant material).
Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to the products they use and the methods used to create them. But, we can probably all agree on one thing: a minimally processed and expertly crafted product, sourced from simple, quality ingredients is the best choice when it comes to products in the health and wellness category – CBD included. At Pharmstrong™, we create all of our scientifically-formulated Pure + Potent products with that commitment to quality and purity in mind, and we can promise that our safe, proprietary, and precisely executed extraction and purification process isolates all of the desirable compounds our customers want, and excludes those that they don’t. We would be honored to chat with you more in person in our Breckenridge, CO store, over the phone, or via email at any time to answer any remaining questions you may have about the extraction method we use, CBD in general, or one of our premium grade products.