Not all CBD is created equal. The quality of a CBD product starts at the seed, moves to the way a hemp plant is grown and finishes with the method of extraction. Finding a high-quality CBD product that you can rely on will leave you with a few things to factor in, one of them being the method of extraction used for your CBD product.
The growing popularity of CBD is ever on the rise as its potential benefits become more mainstream. CBD is produced and made into a variety of products like edibles, topicals, and oils – each offering a different form of potential relief.
Knowing where your product came from and how it was manufactured will give you a better idea of what CBD products will actually work for you. Quality, purity and potency all can depend on the method of extraction. So let’s break down what you should be looking for:
What Is CBD Extract?
First, let’s define what a CBD extract actually is. CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is one of many natural compounds found in hemp and cannabis sativa plants. CBD extract refers to the process and form that comes from extracting the sought after cannabinoids from the plant. With consideration to the extraction process, we also have to consider the different spectrums of CBD that can result: broad-spectrum, full-spectrum and isolate. A CBD extract, in simple terms, is what is extracted from hemp and cannabis sativa plants, to then be manufactured into consumable or appliable products.
Why Must We Extract?
Extraction is necessary to make usable CBD products. When CBD is extracted from hemp and cannabis plants it is in the form of a concentration, which is effective for human use. This concentrated extract is only useful because of the decarboxylate process (application of heat). When ingesting cannabinoids through a capsule, edible or oil, the decarboxylation is needed for our bodies to absorb the active ingredients. On the other hand, dried cannabis and hemp can partially decarboxylate, and if smoked (aka, heated) the cannabinoids get fully decarboxylated.
Three Common Methods Of Extraction
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extraction – Today, CO2 extraction has become the most popular, efficient and reliable method of extraction for CBD companies. CO2 extraction uses supercritical CO2 to separate the CBD from the plant materials. Supercritical CO2 refers to carbon dioxide that is between a gas and a liquid state. This extraction method includes multiple pressurized chambers that funnel and pump the CO2, exposing it very high pressure and low temperatures which results in an extracted oil high in CBD. During this process, CO2 is pumped from the first chamber to the second, which contains the hemp plant that is then exposed to the supercritical CO2. This exposure breaks down the hemp plant material, causing the oil to separate. From there, the CO2 and oil are funneled together into a third chamber. The gas form then evaporates, leaving behind an extract of pure CBD oil that can be manufactured into a variety of products. This method of extraction can consistently produce high-concentration CBD with no toxic residue leftover.
- Steam Distillation – Steam distillation is a tried and true method of CBD extraction. This method entails a ‘plant material’ distillation tank with an inlet and outlet. The distillation tank is connected to a separate tank containing water through the inlet, which is situated below the distillation tank. The outlet of the distillation tank connects to a condensing tube which deposits into a collecting flask. For this process, water is heated to a boil in the first tank. The steam then travels upward to the plant material tank, separating the oil vapors containing CBD. These vapors are captured in the condensing tube that turns them to oil and water. These liquids are then collected to be distilled, separating the CBD oil from the water. Steam distillation is reliable, but can be less effective for extracting specific CBD concentrations and requires the use of more plant material per extraction.
- Solvent Extraction – With a solvent extraction, the methodology is similar to that of steam distillation, but instead a solvent is used rather than water. Solvent extraction can be more efficient that steam distillation, but does come with some risks. A solvent extraction includes the use of butane, alcohol, propane or compound more natural like olive oil or ethanol to extract the CBD. Plant materials are combined or soaked with a solvent, stripping the cannabinoids. Next is the evaporation process, where the solvent used evaporates and leaves behind a concentration of cannabinoids in oil form. Besides the use of potentially dangerous and flammable solvents during the process effecting its popularity, the residue of solvents may not be fully evaporated in the final step, leaving potentials toxins behind in your CBD.
Which Extraction Method is Best?
While each extraction method will have its pros and cons, the one that overwhelmingly presents less cons is the CO2 extraction method. Though it can be more costly for CBD companies, it creates the most reliable and concentrated form of CBD. With no toxic residues, high concentrations and the overall safety of the extraction method, CO2 extraction is the preferred method.
Recently, companies like Tribe CBD have even turned to a more natural extraction method, through lipid extraction. This method uses a natural oil, like MCT oil, and a highly pressurized environment to extract CBD from plant material. For more information on Tribe’s unique methods, check here.
The news and editorial staffs of the Bay Area News Group had no role in this post’s preparation.
Best extraction process for cbd oil
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.