Who extracts CBD?
Before we go any further, let us mention that you should not attempt to extract CBD by yourself.
Extracting CBD is not easy and can be dangerous when not conducted properly. The process has to be done on specially designed machinery and can only be executed by trained and skilled staff.
CBD extraction should also be done in special, well-ventilated facilities that undergo rigorous health and safety checks.
Why are we stressing this point so much? Because, believe it or not, some people attempt to extract CBD by themselves (DIY CBD extraction) and end up causing severe accidents.
So remember, If you want safe and reliable products, leave this process to professionals.
What kind of CBD oil do you want?
No matter what extraction method is used, a decision has to be made on what kind of oil is needed before the process even begins.
The steps required to produce full-spectrum CBD oil, broad-spectrum CBD oil or CBD isolate will differ.
CBD isolate, for example, is pure CBD which is stripped of all other compounds found in the cannabis plant. On the other hand, broad-spectrum CBD will contain CBD and many other compounds found in cannabis. Full-spectrum CBD will include all compounds found in cannabis, including THC, but only in legally permitted amounts.
Due to this difference, the process of producing CBD isolate will usually require extra steps to ensure that all the compounds other than CBD are indeed removed from the finished product.
The CO2 extraction method
The CO2 extraction method has been used in the food industry for years. An example of a popular product that could not exist without the CO2 extraction method is decaffeinated coffee.
This technique has been used and mastered for years, making it both efficient and safe.
There are two different types of CO2 extraction methods that can be used to extract CBD from hemp:
Supercritical CO2 extraction
- Subcritical CO2 extraction
Before we move on to talk about how they work and how they differ from each other, we need to have a little conversation about CO2 and its unique qualities.
CO2 is unique. When exposed to the right pressure and temperature, it can display the properties of both a liquid and a gas.
This enables CO2 to penetrate the plant matter and extract all the desired compounds both efficiently and safely.
And now that you got to know CO2 a bit better let's see how it's used to extract CBD.
Supercritical CBD extraction
Facilities that use supercritical CO2 extraction methods to extract their CBD use a machine that consists of multiple chambers connected to one another.
The temperature and pressure in each chamber can be modified to change how CO2 behaves, depending on what process needs to occur in a specific chamber at a specific time.
It all starts in the first chamber, where the plant material (hemp) and CO2 meet.
Through this first process, CO2 releases all of the hemp's active ingredients in the form of an oily substance. This substance, along with the CO2, gets pumped into another chamber, and the process of CO2 evaporation takes place. Once the CO2 has evaporated, what is left behind is a full-spectrum CBD extract.
Subcritical CBD extraction
Subcritical CO2 CBD extraction requires lower pressures and temperatures than supercritical CO2 CBD extraction.
The reason for this is to allow a more delicate process to occur, enabling all the active ingredients in hemp to stay more intact. So while the process is very similar to that of supercritical CBD extraction, it is less efficient and takes much longer.
CO2 in a subcritical state might also be too delicate to extract some of hemp's more stubborn active ingredients.
The subcritical CO2 extraction method is rarely used on an industrial scale because the process takes longer, is less efficient, and is more expensive.
Extraction using Olive Oil
Olive oil CBD extraction, while possible, is not used often and never on an industrial scale.
Extracting CBD with olive oil is inefficient and results in a different product from traditional CBD oil you would buy in a shop.
As a result, you end up with something resembling CBD-infused olive oil rather than a CBD extract. This is great for edibles but less so when used as a traditional CBD oil due to its low potency.
The first step in this process is to decarb hemp. Decarbing (or decarboxylation) is a simple process of heating up ground cannabis flower to a point where various cannabinoids get activated, assuring the potency of your end product.
After decarbing the hemp used for the extraction, the plant matter is diffused in heated olive oil.
This product is a perfect base for CBD edibles - assuming the hemp is organic and does not contain any contaminants.
The solvent method
Solvent extraction methods can be, and often are, used on an industrial scale.
It usually requires the use of butanol or ethanol. Both of these ingredients are highly flammable and can be dangerous to humans. So never try this at home!
The process differs slightly depending on whether you use a cold or room temperature solvent, or a hot one.
In all cases, you start with the raw plant material (in this case, hemp). When using a hot solvent, the solvent is washed over the plant material several times, stripping the hemp of all of its compounds.
In the case of cold or room temperature solvents, hemp gets immersed in the solvent rather than washed. This allows the cannabinoids and other ingredients to be separated from the hemp. After the active ingredients separate, the plant matter is then removed.
Independently of the temperature of the solvent, what is left is a liquid containing both the solvent and the compounds released from the plant.
The liquid needs to undergo various processes to remove all the unwanted and potentially dangerous ingredients.
This is a comprehensive step of the process and is very important as solvents should not be consumed by humans, and any residue left behind might cause harm to the user's health. The risk becomes significantly higher when inexperienced people try to do this process themselves.
If you purchase a CBD oil extracted using this method, make sure the product has been independently tested, as these tests will detect any potential contaminants.
The dry ice method
Dry ice CBD extraction is relatively inexpensive and straightforward, as long as done on a small scale.
It requires significantly more time when compared to CO2 and solvent extraction methods.
In this method, hemp flowers will freeze when put in contact with dry ice. The first step of the process is to grind the plant matter up and put them in a container of some kind. Then it needs to be covered in dry ice and left for a few minutes. This allows everything to get frozen, making it possible to separate the cannabinoids and other desired ingredients from the plant matter.
The next step is to layer a set of (usually three) fine mesh bags over the container; the last bag should have the most refined mesh. The container is then turned upside down and shaken several times to separate the desired ingredients. This causes the cannabinoids and other compounds to fall off the hemp. As a result, the plant matter remains in the first bag, and the frozen cannabinoids and other compounds end up in the last, finest mesh bag.
The cannabinoids and other compounds are then shaken out of the last mesh bag onto a smooth surface (usually a mirror or plexiglass). A scraper is then used to gather and collect the final product.
The CBD extract achieved through this process is relatively safe, but dry ice can burn the skin or cause eye damage, so you are better off not trying this at home.
Which CBD extraction process is the best?
The supercritical CO2 extraction method is considered the best extraction method available, even if it is one of the more expensive methods. Since it has been used for years in the food industry, it is highly efficient, safe, quick and relatively gentle on the active ingredients in the cannabis plant. The results are high-quality products that are safe for both users and the environment.
Additionally, this method decreases the risk of contamination, especially when compared to solvent extraction methods, as no hazardous ingredients are used during the process.
It is also very efficient as it produces a high volume of high-quality CBD extract compared to other methods.
We extract all our CBD using CO2 extraction methods for these very reasons, as we care about the ingredients, the environment, and, most importantly, your health.