Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabis compound with beneficial health properties. it has proved to be effective in managing conditions such as pain, inflammation, anxiety, stress, and epilepsy among others. but how do manufacturers normally extract this compound from the hemp plant? well, there are several extraction techniques each with its pros and cons. Below is an overview of various CBD extraction methods and how they are normally carried out.
How CBD is Made: The Extraction Process
Once the farmers harvest hemp plants, they usually put them out in large barns to dry. After this, the dry hemp is processed through milling into fine powder. But how can manufacturers extract CBD from the fine hemp plant powder? Well, there are several techniques that companies can use to extract CBD. Each extraction method will first result in a crude CBD oil, a dark substance that has all the beneficial hemp plants compounds. They include cannabinoids, terpenes, chlorophyll, and fatty acids among others. Depending on the end product that the manufacturer wants, the crude oil will undergo further processing to eliminate certain compounds. The most commonly used techniques include:
- Supercritical CO2 Extraction
- Oil Infusion Extraction
- Hydrocarbon Extraction
- Ethanol Extraction
Supercritical CO2 Extraction
Its currently considered to be the industry’s standard. That’s why many manufacturers in the industry use it to produce high-quality CBD-rich extracts. Supercritical CO2 extraction involves the use of CO2 at high pressure and low temperatures. In this state, the high pressure will quickly transform the CO2 gas into a liquid. The liquid will, thereafter, pass through the plant material, resulting in a high-purity CBD extract. Note that:
- During the extraction process, there are three chambers. One is for holding the pressurized CO2 while the second one is for holding the hemp plant powder.
- The CO2 will be pumped from the first to the second chamber. Due to its liquid state, the presence of supercritical C02 will quickly break down the hemp powder, resulting in CBD separating from the other plant materials.
- Finally, the liquid CO2 and the CBD extract will be pumped into the 3rd chamber, creating CBD oil. the gas will, thereafter, evaporate leaving the CBD oil behind.
- An incredibly safe method that is normally used with a variety of popular drinks and foods as an additive
- High quality and contaminant-free CBD extract
- CO2 can be reused in a closed-loop process
- CO2 is non-flammable and has fewer environmental hazards
- It’s a quite expensive method
- The process might take longer compared to other methods
- If it takes longer, it may cause some damage to unwanted cannabinoid damage
Oil Infusion Extraction
This is one of the oldest methods of CBD extraction. Many manufacturers normally use this technique since this is a straightforward technique. The onset of the process usually involves decarboxylated or heated hemp plant extract. This is usually done to activate the hemp plant compounds. Thereafter, a carrier oil such as olive oil is added to the plant material and then heated up to 100 degrees celsius for some hours. Note that the olive oil will mix with the plant compound, resulting in CBD oil.
- A simple and straightforward extraction process
- A safe method that can be performed with any source of heat
- Inexpensive technique
- The finished product is highly perishable
- It doesn’t yield concentrated CBD product
This is another simple and cheap technique of extracting CBD. Hydrocarbon extraction involves the use of solvents such as hexane, butane, and propane. Besides that, some manufacturers also use isopropyl alcohol to extract the hemp plant compound. These solvents have a low boiling point and so when the mixture is heated, the solvent will evaporate, leaving the concentrate behind. It’s also an effective method of preserving temperature-sensitive terpenes.
- A simple and generally safe technique
- Helps to protect the cannabinoids and other plant compounds
- Results in contaminated end products
- Some of these solvents are dangerous and inefficient
It’s popular due to its simplicity, safety, and high level of effectiveness. Ethanol CBD extraction involves the use of high-grade grain alcohol as the solvent. This solvent is used to separate the beneficial cannabinoids from the hemp plant extract. It’s quite versatile since the manufacturer can use cold and warm conditions.
- Easily scalable
- It’s a less power-intensive method compared to CO2
- Ethanol is a highly flammable material
- The method also extracts chlorophyll plant extracts
- Also requires secondary processing
Additional Extraction Methods
Most companies usually carry out the aforementioned extraction techniques. However, sometimes there is a need for extra different components and this will definitely need more extraction. There are two main additional extraction techniques include:
This is the process of removing all those unwanted compounds that are normally extracted from the hemp plant. well, these compounds include fats, lipids, and waxes. Winterization is normally effective when the extraction process is done under high temperatures or high pressure. During the extraction process, the oil gets mixed with 200 proof alcohol. The mixture is then thoroughly stirred to ensure that everything is uniformly blended. Thereafter, you have to keep the mixture overnight in a deep freezer. You will wake up the next morning to a cloudy solution.
You can filter this mixture by using filter paper and an extraction jar. During the filtration process, all the unwanted compounds will be fully eliminated. But the mixture still has an alcohol content that you need to remove. The alcohol removal process is quite easy and you need to warm the mixture. Due to alcohol’s lower boiling point, it will quickly evaporate, leaving a pure solution behind. Note that a high temperature/pressure environment is quite intense. So, every unwanted compound will be pulled from the plants. Well, that’s why sometimes the extract hemp plant compounds are sometimes referred to as “crude oil” since the compounds need more refining.
Short Path Distillation
After the completion of the winterization process, the CBD extract will be subjected to further refining in order to leave behind a pure extract. Short path distillation involves isolating each compound.
The Testing Process After Extraction
After the extraction process, the manufacturer has to examine the quality of CBD oil, if the company values its reputation and consumer safety. The top-rated CBD companies on the market usually test several components and they include:
All these are important in ensuring that the quality of CBD is unaltered. Besides that, it ensures that consumers get safe and reliable CBD products for wellness.
Formulating CBD for Usage
CBD has to undergo several additional processes for it to be effective for use. In most cases, companies usually start with decarboxylation. It’s a heating process that facilitates the transformation of CBD in a form that the human body can utilize. It should be noted that decarboxylated cannabinoids can interact with the body’s cannabinoid receptors immediately. Most companies use this technique after the processes of extraction and distillation.
Types of CBD Products
So, what types of CBD products do you get after the extraction process? generally, there are three types of CBD. They include:
- CBD isolate
- Broad-spectrum CBD
- Full-spectrum CBD
This type of CBD only contains a cannabidiol compound. As a result, it’s the purest form of CBD product to exist, with more than 99% CBD content. During the extraction process, the manufacturer has to remove all the other cannabinoids and terpenes. What’s left behind is the isolated CBD molecules, hence the term CBD isolate. Generally, this type of CBD is ideal for beginners or consumers who want to completely avoid THC content. Generally, isolates are ideal for making CBD oil products such as gummies and oil tinctures.
It’s the “intermediary” between CBD isolate and full-spectrum CBD. Broad-spectrum CBD contains cannabidiol, other cannabinoids such as CBC and CBN as well as terpenes. However, it doesn’t have THC content. This type of CBD is ideal for those who want to experience the “entourage” effect but minus the presence of the psychoactive THC.
It’s the most popular type of CBD and it’s mostly used by those treating pain and inflammation. This type of CBD contains multiple cannabis plant extracts. They include CBD, other cannabinoids, essential oils, and terpenes. Full-spectrum CBD products also contain THC content, but the concentration is usually less than 0.3%.
The Bottom Line
There is no doubt that CBD’s popularity has been on the rise. But manufacturers have to find a way of separating this plant compound from the others if they want to use it effectively. There are many methods of extracting CBD from the hemp plant. However, supercritical CO2 is currently the industry’s gold standard. Even though it’s expensive, this technique ensures that the manufacturer collects the cleanest and purest form of CBD oil. it doesn’t result in residue or contamination after the extraction process.