By now you’re already interested in CBD and well aware of its benefits. But you’ve probably realized that, like most things, not all CBD products are made the same.
In this post I’m going to explain how CBD is extracted with a bit of detail but I’ll only cover the things you need to worry about. That is, how CBD is extracted, the different ways it can be extracted, and most importantly–which CBD extraction method is the best. If you’re familiar with CBD Oil, feel free to jump down to where I explain the different extraction methods.
Why do we Want CBD?
For years now, medical researchers have been discovering new uses for the compounds found in the Cannabis plant. The most has always been THC, but recently CBD has been exploding in popularity. There’s a couple reasons for this.
Not only has CBD been found to effectively treat symptoms of anxiety, depression, and various other illnesses ranging from irritable bowel syndrome to cancer. But, it has no noticeable side-effects like THC does. You know, it doesn’t get you ‘high’.
Where do we find CBD?
Okay, we both agree that CBD is great. (fine, if you need more convincing, check out our HUGE post explaining it – What is CBD?)
Now where and how do we get it? There are two places where CBD can be found in high concentrations.
First is in marijuana plants. But, as this is illegal in the large majority of states, no CBD products are extracted from marijuana plants.
Then we have hemp. Hemp plants contain high concentrations of CBD, are completely legal, and grown across the U.S. Hemp plants contain trace amounts of THC but it is so little that its essentially non-existent.
Think of it this way, saying Hemp contains THC is kinda like saying poppy seeds contain trace amounts of Heroin. Which is clearly ridiculous.
The Different Extraction Methods
In reality, there are many ways to extract CBD from hemp. Although, only a few are actively used because they’re both the most effective and efficient.
Liquid Solvents (butane, Ethanol, etc)
To extract CBD with liquid solvents, the plant materials are put into a container. Liquid solvents are then run through the plant matter to strip out all of the cannabinoids and flavours and transfer them into the liquid. The liquid is then heated, causing it to evaporate away everything but the most important compounds in the form of an oil.
The liquid solvents that are commonly used to extract CBD are butane, isopropyl alcohol, hexane, or ethanol. Most people would bundle these methods together (kinda like we have here) but in reality they have very different effects on the finished product.
For example, Butane and Hexane are known to be the most dangerous extraction method even though they do a great job of extracting the necessary cannabinoids. They’re dangerous because they’re prone to ‘sticking around’ within the oil and they’re definitely not something you want to be ingesting in any way.
On the other hand, you have Ethanol extraction. Ethanol is completely safe and nontoxic while doing equally as good a job of extracting the beneficial cannabinoids from Hemp.
Pros of extracting CBD with Solvents
- Does the best job of extracting out all the beneficial compounds found in hemp.
- It’s efficient and doesn’t produce a lot of waste.
Cons of extracting CBD with Solvents
- Solvents dissolve some of the plant matter during the extraction process that some claim can have added benefits.
- Using Butane or Hexane can result in a contaminated product (we highly recommend avoiding products extracted with Butane of Hexane)
If you didn’t know, Carbon Dioxide is a pretty awesome molecule. It has the ability to remain in different states (solid, liquid, gas) depending on the pressure and temperature it’s kept under. This means that CO2 extraction can be broken down into a few different categories: supercritical, subcritical, and mid-critical–with supercritical being the most commonly used.
To avoid getting too technical, here’s the basics behind the process of extracting CBD with CO2. First, you turn the CO2 gas into its liquid form by adjusting the temperature and pressure in its container. Then, with the liquid CO2, you will adjust the temperature and pressure until it’s in a supercritical state – which basically means it’s in-between a gas and a liquid.
This new ‘supercritical’ CO2 is passed through the hemp stalks allowing the CO2 to strip the essential compounds (terpenes, etc..) from it. Then the new substance (CO2 + essential compounds) is split, with the essential compounds being dropped into a collection container and the CO2 is recycled back through the machine.
As you can probably imagine, the machinery required to extract CBD from hemp using CO2 is very complex, making it expensive. That’s why CBD products that are extracted with CO2 can be a lot more expensive than other extraction methods.
The only known benefit of using CO2 is that it doesn’t damage the plant matter in the same way ethanol does. Some say this plant matter has its own health benefits, but there’s not much evidence to show that’s the case.
Pros of extracting CBD with CO2
- The ‘cleanest’ method of extraction
- Keeps plant matter in-tact
- Can have a fuller ‘nutty’ flavor than other extraction methods
Cons of extracting CBD with CO2
- The most expensive form of extraction
- Requires a lot of highly complex machinery
Olive Oil Extraction Method
Let me start by saying that using olive oil is not a great way to extract CBD from hemp. This is more of a DIY approach, or a sort of science experiment your friend my cook up in their kitchen on the weekend.
Anyways, extracting CBD with olive oil is a simple and can be done by anyone in the comfort of their home. The basic process is to decarboxylate the plant, then heat in olive oil for 2 hours.
Decarboxylation is when you heat a plant to activate it’s chemicals. To do this, you can simply heat your hemp at 248 degrees for 60 minutes.
Then with your activated plant material, put it in olive oil at 212 degrees Fahrenheit for 1-2 hours, and that’s it.
I feel it’s necessary to state again: we do not recommend you try this. At best it’s just not worth the hassle.
Pros of extracting CBD with Olive oil
- Very inexpensive
- Easy two-step process
- Doesn’t require any flammable gases
Cons of extracting CBD with Olive Oil
- Though it’s inexpensive, it’s not the most effective extraction method. For the amount of plant material and effort, you end up with a smaller amount of less concentrated oils.
Which CBD extraction method is best?
Instead of giving you my biased opinion, I will leave you with this: CO2 and ethanol extraction are both great. There’s no evidence to show that one is better than another, and they both produce high quality CBD without the risk of contamination.
So if you’re planning on buying a CBD product soon, stay away from those extracted with hexane, butane, or in your friends kitchen.
And if you’ve been wondering, our 250MG CBD Oil is extracted using ethanol.