What are the Best CBD Extraction Methods?
If you are looking for the best CBD products you need to make sure that your CBD extract comes from high quality plant material.
Even though your top of the line hemp plants might have high cannabidiol CBD content, are you maximizing your efforts with the right CBD extraction process?
So let’s get into it and find out what’s the best method – and why.
Premium CBD Oil
CBD extraction techniques are critical in making the best CBD extract.
In order to get a good grasp on why a reliable extraction method is needed let’s learn how CBD oil is made from plant material.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. It is one of over a hundred different cannabinoids that exists in the plant.
The other important chemical in the plant is called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is a chemical that is psychoactive and makes people “high”.
Many people around the world smoke or eat cannabis recreationally for its relaxing effects. What is interesting, the research is clear that CBD isolate does not make you high. But it has many health benefits.
Many people might not know this but humans actually have an existing endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system includes three major components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.
Your body produces endocannabinoids naturally. They bind to the receptors regulating bodily functions such as
When ingested into the body, CBD binds to the receptors in the central nervous system. Depending on the type of the receptor they can send signals to different parts of the body.
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For example, endocannabinoids may target receptors in your back to relieve back pain. Or they can send signals to your head and combat a headache. They can even target the immune system and lower chronic inflammation of various cells in the body. Now that’s pretty handy!
It is a good idea to understand that CBD is not only extracted from plants but it also exists in the human body naturally.
Some research scientists claim that many people around the world suffer from an endocannabinoid deficiency. This means that the body does not produce enough endocannabinoids on its own. Hence why CBD oil and CBD extracts are becoming increasingly popular in daily supplementation for many users.
If you even look closely at a female hemp plant you will see tiny white bubbles on the flowers. They are called trichomes and that’s where CBD lives alongside THC.
If you want to extract CBD from a hemp plant you will need to learn the steps of the entire process.
How To Extract CBD?
In order to extract CBD in its purest form many people like to choose the cannabis sativa strain due to its high CBD content.
CBD on its own is not well absorbed by the human body. The CBD extract must go through a process called “decarboxylation“.
What is decarboxylation?
This simply means it needs to be heated up to become concentrated. Only then it is suitable for human consumption and the active ingredients become bioavailable bringing a range of health benefits.
Full Spectrum CBD Extraction Process
What we need to add is CBD and THC are not the only chemical compounds that exist in a cannabis plant. There are well over a hundred other chemicals in this wonderful plant. Including of these make up a full spectrum extract. This is exactly why the extraction process is not so simple. There are many extraction methods that can be used in order to get the best quality CBD oil extract.
Some of these extraction methods have been used before for extracting essential oils from flowers.
This article goes over all the available extraction techniques you can use to extract CBD.
Along with that, we provide you with the end results of each method.
1. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extraction
Today, the most popular CBD extraction extraction method uses Carbon Dioxide or CO2.
Interestingly enough, CO2 extraction is not only used to extract CBD. It is also widely used in nicotine products or coffee beans.
There two main CO2 extraction techniques: supercritical and subcritical. These two processes share certain similarities, however the supercritical process is the one most CBD companies tend to use.
The goal of the extraction process is to separate the plant (flowers) from the desired phytochemicals
Once the plant reaches adequate temperature CO2 acts like solvent and separates the target chemicals without compromising their potency.
Supercritical CBD Extraction
In this process the plant material is heated up until the CO2 pressure becomes supercritical. When CO2 reaches this state it has both properties of gas and liquid. In this form CO2 is able to fill up a container and act as a solvent at the same time.
In order the maintain the right pressure and temperature of the gas you will need the right equipment for the job which in most cases can get quite expensive. Keep in mind good equipment is necessary if you want the best possible CBD oil.
Here are the steps for supercritical extraction:
- Add hemp into the extraction chamber
- Inject CO2 into the chamber
- Cannabinoid compounds are dissolved
- Oil particles are formed and transported into a separator
- CO2 and cannabis oil are separated
- The cannabis oil is flushed out into a container and ready to use
The oil separated from CO2 is the finished product. This is what is used by CBD companies all around the world to make their products.
The cool thing is, the CO2 can be reused in the same process.
Subcritical CBD extraction
This process differentiates from the previous one in the sense that lower temperature and lower pressure are required. Consequently, the process itself stretches out in time.
The good? This method reduces the risk of lowering the potency of CBD compounds as well as contaminating some of them. What is more, you can develop new strains, experiment with new concentrates or try new tastes.
The bad? You will get less of the extract. The yield is smaller and the whole process is more expensive.
2. Solvent CBD Extraction
The solvent extraction method is quite efficient and easy to execute.
You do not need to buy expensive gear in order to achieve great results. You will, however, need some kind of solvent with it. Most commonly used solvents are butane, propane, alcohol, or ethanol.
One of the problems with this method is that this process not only extracts compounds such as cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, but also extracts chlorophyll. The end result is that the taste of CBD will become quite bitter.
Another thing about this method is that this process can degrade some of the compounds. This means the quality of the product will go down.
What is more, the evaporation part of the process may leave behind harmful solvent residue causing impurities. This can cause issues with your finished product.
After all, we want you to experience the purest and cleanest effects of this wonderful chemical.
3. Oil CBD Extraction
Another method on our list is oil extraction. Here are the steps:
- Boil the hemp in oil
This up-regulates the chemical compounds and brings them to their individual boiling points. This makes the compounds easier to extract and separates them from the plant matter. It also increases their potency.
- Add the plant material to olive oil and heat boil again
The individual cannabinoids will be extracted into the oil. This will result in a CBD-infused oil mixture.
The good? It’s easy and inexpensive. Nearly any oil can be used but olive oil is recommended. It’s also quite safe to make and use in CBD oils.
The bad? It might not have the best taste. Also, it won’t last you very long as it goes bad fast. Since the end product is an oil infused with CBD, not a concentrated form. It will not be as potent.
On the other hand, olive oil extraction is preferred by many home brewers who like CBD oils derived from olive oil. I guess the taste might not be so bad after all.
4. Dry Ice CBD Extraction
What we like about the dry ice extraction method is that you avoid the problem of degrading the valuable CBD compounds through degrading solvents.
The steps are as follows:
- Chop up the flowers finely and put the in a bucket
- Put the dry in a bucket using safety gloves
- Let it rest for a few minutes until the dry ice freezes the trichomes
- This pulls the essential trichomes and terpene oils
- Pass the matter through a mesh into a container (use different mesh type for best results)
The end product is ready to be used.
The good? High yield. The extract is clean, pure and potent. Quite easy too.
The bad? You need access to dry ice. It can be difficult to measure as we do not know how well the hemp is frozen or what type of mesh will be used. This, however, can be standardized to some degree.
What Is The Difference Between Full Spectrum and Broad Spectrum CBD Oil?
- contains 0.3% THC per gram of extract
- Can get you high
- Should contain minor cannabinoids, if not, it should definitely contain terpenes as that’s what the name really emphasizes (“Spectrum”)
- No THC
- High levels of cannabinoids
Depending on which extraction process you choose, you’ll end up with different outcomes (obviously).
What Is the Best CBD Extraction Method?
Knowing about the processes that leads to the extraction of CBD helps determine the effectiveness of various products depending on the solvent used.
Because of new scientific advances, a broad range of cannabinoid extracts are available with great therapeutic potential.
Some extraction methods are more effective in large-scale production than some other techniques.
CO2 extraction has long been regarded as an ideal technology since it yields purest products without introducing water-soluble substances like chlorophyll into it.
That is why this is our favorite CBD oil extraction method.
Want to Learn More About CBD?
If you are looking to get a better understanding of CBD products, go ahead and sign up to get a free ebook titled: The Beginner’s Guide to CBD.
Enjoying your read? Sign up to be a part of the CBD School community, and we’ll send you a free eBook called The Beginner’s Guide to CBD. It will get you caught up in all things CBD. Additionally, you’ll get updates on the best CBD products and discounts in the industry.
What is best extraction method for cbd oils
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.
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.
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