cbd extraction methods CBD Health Collection

Whenever we think about cannabinoids, including CBD, we may think of them in their completely natural state, in the form of the full hemp plant, or its leaves or stalk. Or we may think of CBD oils in their commercial packaging – whether it’s tinctures, gummies, or topicals. An area we sometimes overlook is how the natural compounds transform into commercial products. So, how do you get CBD oil from the hemp plants? The short answer is by extracting the CBD oil from the hemp plant that contains it. 

Let’s dive into the ins and out of the extraction process so you can be confident knowing you’re getting the very best CBD products possible to achieve your ideal health results. 

CBD extraction 101

There are several methods for extracting CBD. The catch, however, is that not all extraction methods are created equal. Some methods are much more efficient and can produce profoundly different products. Let’s review the three primary extraction techniques. 

  • Solvent or alcohol extraction – This process generally involves running liquid solvent – such as ethanol, through the plant matter to strip it of its cannabinoids and terpenes. Once the remaining liquid evaporates, concentrated cannabinoids in an oil form remain. This method is relatively inexpensive and it can produce CBD-rich oil. The major advantage of ethanol extraction is that it’s one of the fastest ways to extract CBD from hemp. The major disadvantages are that it is a flammable solvent and that it extracts a lot of undesirables from the plant, possibly leaving some unwanted fats, waxes, and chlorophyll in the final product.  
  • Hydrocarbon extraction – This process utilizes any number of hydrocarbon solvents – butane, propane, and hexane – to separate the CBD material from the plant. The major advantage of hydrocarbon CBD extraction is that it’s inexpensive. However, a downside to this method is that it can potentially leave toxic residue behind. Also, during extraction, there is a risk of explosion if the process isn’t carried out in a properly ventilated area. Although this risk is not necessarily a concern for the end-customer who is simply purchasing the product, it’s worth noting. 
  • CO₂ – One of the most advanced methods for collecting CBD oil is the CO₂ extraction process. It’s done by using a closed-loop extractor and pumping  CO₂ through the hemp plant. CO₂ is pressurized to turn the gaseous CO₂ into a liquid or supercritical fluid.

This type of collection produces the cleanest CBD concentrates, free from chemicals and contaminants. One negative is that the  CO₂  extraction equipment must control high pressures and temperatures for extraction to occur, which makes the equipment expensive and the whole process more costly.  

Which method is best?

When evaluating methods used by your favorite CBD manufacturers, remember there are pros and cons of each. Ensuring the extraction method is completed correctly and effectively is the biggest determining factor influencing the quality of the end product. That said, because of its efficiency, safety, and control measures, the CO₂ extraction method is a popular choice for many top CBD producers. To recap, the top benefits of CO₂ extraction are: 

  1. Provides high-quality concentration of CBD
  2. Safe extraction method
  3. Leaves no toxic residue or unwanted contaminants behind
  4. Gives producers greater control over the entire process

CO₂ extraction – Precise control delivers consistency and quality 

A big-time benefit of CO₂ extraction is the control it gives during the manufacturing process. A CO₂ closed loop extractor can selectively pump CO₂ as a liquid or as a supercritical fluid (which is both liquid-like and gas-like) through the hemp at multiple temperatures and at different pressures. The process gives manufacturers the ability to precisely pick up the desired cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds, leaving all other elements and contaminants behind. 

‘Winterization’ is coming  

While extraction is critical, there’s still more refinement and purification needed after this step. After extraction, the CBD oil is refined further to remove things like fats, lipids, or chlorophyll. This stage of the refinement process is called ‘winterization.’

During winterization, the extracted CBD oil is combined with high-proof alcohol, stirred vigorously, and placed in a deep freezer. This step allows for the fats, waxes, and chlorophyll to separate out from the CBD. In fact, after several hours in the freezer, you can visually see the separation of the elements.  In the final stage of the winterization, the alcohol is removed by applying heat. Because the boiling point of alcohol is lower than oil, all alcohol evaporates, leaving only CBD, minor cannabinoids, and terpenes. Some CBD manufacturers go through additional refinement processes- short-path distillation – using heat to isolate individual compounds further. 

Breaking it down – Does the extraction method really matter? 

As a consumer, you may be thinking – CO₂ extraction is impressive, but does it really matter how producers remove the CBD oil? Isn’t the end product the same anyway? 

Like most things in life, the answer isn’t necessarily clean cut. Each extraction method clearly has its benefits and drawbacks. As highlighted earlier, ensuring the extraction method is completed correctly will determine the quality of the end product. Here are some key takeaways when evaluating CBD products and extraction methods. 

  • Solvent extraction, including ethanol, is one of the fastest ways to extract CBD from hemp, but it can leave undesirable compounds in the product, such as fats, waxes, chlorophyll, etc.
  • Hydrocarbon extraction is inexpensive but it can potentially leave toxic residue behind.
  • CO₂ extraction requires the most sophisticated equipment and is the most expensive.
  • For those looking to enhance the therapeutic effects of using CBD and terpenes together, the control of CO₂ extraction can preserve terpenes.
  • Most individuals and scientists believe CO₂ extraction creates the purest, cleanest highest-quality CBD oil, with minimal post-processing needed.

Tip of the iceberg 

As research continues into CBD, many believe we’re currently seeing just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the therapeutic potential of these natural compounds. Advanced methods like CO₂ extraction are gaining popularity because it gives the control needed to customize CBD and terpene blends to produce specific effects. Do you have more questions about CBD’s potential benefits or about extraction processes? Get in touch! At CBD Health Collection, we only use the CO₂ extraction method because we believe it’s the most versatile and highly effective method of extracting CBD-rich oil and isolating other vital compounds, including terpenes. Learn more here.