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Over the last decade or so, the Hemp plant or Cannabis has taken the spotlight in medical and health communities. The star of the show being a natural chemical compound called Cannabidiol, better known as CBD. This comes as a result of increasing studies around CBD which is beginning to unearth its therapeutic potential and remedial benefits. Seeing as you’re here, you probably know a bit about what CBD is, so we won’t go into that in this post.

Naturally, the rise in popularity of CBD has created demand and a relatively new market within the cannabis industry. CBD suppliers of all shapes and sizes have jumped at the opportunity to supply this increasing demand with varying levels of success. And more importantly, varying methods and levels of quality.

Keeping that in mind, this article will highlight the most common type of CBD product which is the CBD Oil. We’ll break down the different methods in which CBD is extracted and how CBD oils is made. 

Why does it matter?

How CBD oil is made has an impact on its effectiveness. When the raw extracts are first derived from hemp plants, they’re made to undergo several filtration and distillation processes resulting in differing qualities. For example, certain methods will shed the raw extracts of compounds such as waxes and chlorophyll whilst other preserve the phytochemicalsof hemp. When making CBD oil, companies can often choose cost-effective methods over quality, so it’s helpful to understand the difference.

The chosen method of extraction affects the contents, quality, and purity of the final-market product. With that being said, every extraction process has its own unique advantages and disadvantages when making CBD oil which we’ll get into below.

Extracting CBD

Certain strains have more CBD than others, especially hybrid plants that are engineered to have high levels of CBD. Each variety and species of Hemp plant has its own unique composition with different cannabinoid variations, fatty acids, terpenes (smell) and flavonoids (taste) and contribute to the quality of the end product.

As cannabidiol (CBD) has the sought-after therapeutic and remedial benefits, it’s important that its first separated from Hemp and made into a concentrated form which is consumable for humans. The extraction methods separate CBD from unwanted plant materials and also THC which has psychoactive effects. When raw CBD is extracted other cannabinoids such as CBC, CBG, CBN and even traces of THC do also come through, which is not necessarily a bad thing. 

The term ‘full spectrum’ or ‘entourage effect’ refers to CBD that includes these other cannabinoids. It is believed that CBD is far more effective when working in synergy with these other cannabinoids. That’s why at the Cannabinoid Company all our oils are full spectrum. We’ll talk more about full spectrum CBD in an upcoming article. However, the important thing to take into consideration here is that all ‘full spectrum’ CBD extracts must be laboratory tested to ensure that levels of THC are within the legal threshold.

Supercritical CO2 extraction

We’ll start with the most effective method of CBD extraction which is the Supercritical CO2 Extraction process. This form of extraction involves the use of pressurized carbon dioxide to separate CBD, terpenes, and other beneficial phytochemicals from hemp to give us a raw CBD extract.  

The CO2 Extraction method is subdivided into three categories, namely the ‘supercritical’, ‘subcritical’ and ‘mid-critical’ categories. Each category features varying degrees of pressure and temperature levels. The different levels of pressure and temperature which is applied to carbon dioxide acts as an effective solvent which safely separates the CBD but also preserves all the essential phytochemicals during the extraction process.

To kick-start the process the CO2 gas is first turned to liquid. This is be done by applying a temperature below 69 degrees Fahrenheit and a pressure over 75 pounds per square inch (psi). The liquid CO2 is then made ‘supercritical’ by increasing the temperature and pressure. This supercritical CO2 is then applied and passed through the raw the hemp extract to pull the CBD cannaboids and all its essentials phytochemicals. This produces the raw CBD extract which is then homogenised with a carrier oil to produce a CBD Oil. The best carriers for CBD are MCT oils (medium-chain triglyceride) such as Coconut oil, Organic Olive oil, Sesame, Soybean and Avocado oils. 

The Supercritical CO2 Extraction is arguably the best method for producing full spectrum CBD which has a huge 90% extraction efficiency. However, the process requires a lot of skill, use of high-tech heaters, pressurizers and condensers and should only be operated by highly trained personnel. Needless to say, this process is as technical as it is expensive.

The Solvent Extraction Method

This is a more cost-effective option over the Supercritical CO2 Extraction. This type of extraction relies on the use of food-grade alcohol such as ethanol, or hydrocarbons like butane, pentane, propane, hexane or isopropyl alcohol.

The process is quite simple. The hemp plant trimmings and flowers are soaked with a solvent to strip the materials of its cannabinoids. The mixture is then evaporated leaving behind concentrated cannabinoids in an oil form. However, it’s not just the cannabinoids that remain. It also leaves behind chlorophyll which doesn’t have much value in terms of nutrients or benefit.

A major downside to this method lies in the post-extraction filtration phase where there is a high risk of interference with some of the phytochemicals. Also, if the solvents residue isn’t completely eliminated during evaporation it can leave toxic traces of residue that results in a low-quality and potentially harmful end product.

Lipid Extraction

Lipids are oily organic compounds insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents. Coconut oil and Olive Oil are good examples of this. Unlike the solvent and supercritical methods that depend on gas and liquids, the lipid extraction method uses fats to absorb and encapsulate the naturally occurring compounds in the raw hemp-extract. 

Before the process can begin, the hemp needs to be ‘decarboxylated’ (heated to the required temperature) to activate the plant’s phytochemicals. The decarboxylated hemp is then mixed with a lipid of choice, usually olive oil, and then heated further at 212 degrees Fahrenheit for up to two hours. This extracts the cannabinoids and infuses it into the lipid. As the lipid isn’t evaporated, the CBD extract which results from this process is not as concentrated as other methods and will require a higher dosage from the consumer to compensate.

This method is safe, inexpensive and simple. However, the CBD extract is highly perishable and has strict storage instructions with a limited shelf life. For this reason, Lipid Extraction is a less common method used in the industry when making CBD oil.

To conclude 

CBD oil can be produced in various ways. The supercritical CO2 extraction is by far the best method due to its efficacy for extracting Cannabidiol without disturbance to natural phytochemicals. It produces the highest quality full spectrum CBD with a long shelf life and no risk of toxic residues. 

We mentioned that there are advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the different methods of extraction. But these are more to do with ease of production and cost-effectiveness so are more to do with a CBD producer, rather than you the consumer (unless you’re looking to make your own CBD). As an end-user, the quality lies in the supercritical CO2 extraction process and a full spectrum CBD oil.


Why not visit our shop for more information on CBD and check out our range of full spectrum CBD oils.

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