There is no doubt that CBD and cannabis oil are making huge waves in society today. With information readily available to anyone who wants to learn more and with research constantly reinforcing the fact that these compounds can play very major roles in promoting our health and overall well-being, news about it is spreading like butter on toast. With growing popularity and in turn a growing market of readily available CBD options, it’s important to have an idea about how the products you are using came to be- and what better topic than to go over how CBD is extracted from the plant and turned into the cannabinoid-filled products and solutions we all enjoy ? In this article we will be going over the benefits and drawbacks of different methods of CBD extraction along with what impact, if any, these methods can have on you.
What is Cannabis/CBD Extraction
These two terms can be used to describe the same thing, in this case extracting CBD from cannabis plants. The confusion for some sometimes stems from the word ‘cannabis’ itself, as it brings up thoughts relating to THC and the associated propaganda around that. While we will touch on the different plants that could be used to extract CBD from, note that THC and CBD are two separate compounds with different effects that both fall under that Cannabis species of plant- for more information on this read our article The CBD/THC Cunundrum & CBD in Depth.
While explaining the difference between the two compounds can be a bit confusing at times, the purpose of CBD extraction is quite simple; to take the compound out of its original container in a way that creates a concentrated substance of it that is safe for human consumption. While the concept itself is easy enough to wrap your head around, keep in mind that cannabis extraction is chemistry, not simply cooking in your house. You have to know the methods of extraction and have the equipment necessary to perform these methods safely and correctly. This is NOT something to casually play around with, as dangerous situations can occur with the reagents used in these reactions.
With that in mind, let’s dive into the world cannabis oil extraction.
Step 1- Harvesting the Right Plant
The first step in making CBD oil is to select the right type of plant to extract the compounds from. Cultivating and harvesting plants that have high concentrations of CBD is necessary to get the most out of the extraction process, which is why many of the CBD oil products found on the market today are either extracted from:
- Varieties of cannabis plants specifically bred to be high-CBD/low-THC, or from
- Industrial hemp plants which contain virtually no THC and have no psychoactive effects associated with them.
And even though we went over this before, it’s important to remember that industrial hemp and CBD oil made from hemp is legal in the U.S. Check out our article CBD Legality in 2018 for more on this topic.
Step 2- The Extraction Process
There are 3 main methods of extracting CBD compounds from plants: using CO2 Using liquid solvents, and using oil.
- CO2 Extraction
This method uses pressurized carbon dioxide (CO2) to pull CBD, along with other phytochemicals and cannabinoids, from the plant. CO2 is unique in that it can as any state of matter (solid, liquid, or gas) depending on the temperature and pressure it is kept under. Since variables such as temperature and pressure have to be tightly regulated in this extraction method, it is usually done with an expensive piece of sophisticated equipment called a ‘closed-loop extractor’, which works to freeze the CO2 gas and compress it into a ‘supercritical’ cold liquid state capable of adopting properties halfway between a gas and liquid simultaneously. This is the ideal state for chemical extraction because it doesn’t cause any denaturing to the material and there is minimal risk of contaminants in the finished product.
While this is a very technical way to extract CBD, it has a number of useful benefits. Supercritical CO2 is listed as ‘generally regarded as safe’ by the FDA and is used extensively for commercial extraction in the food industry, the extracted product can be expected to have pretty high quality CBD. You could also use this machine to separate CBD from cannabis containing THC as well, since CBD extracts from the plant at a lower temperature and pressure than THC. The ability to tightly control these variables lends a lot of control over determining the chemical makeup of the extracted end-product. At estimates for this kit going for around $39,000 though, this type of extraction is usually only used by professional CBD producers.
- Ethanol Cannabis Extraction
This method takes the liquid solvent Ethanol and runs it through the harvested plant material to strip it of the essential compounds and transfer it to the liquid. The plant/alcohol mixture is then filtered, leaving the alcohol mixture saturated with the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids from the plant. This mixture is then heated, allowing the alcohol to evaporate and leaving an oil-extract filled with the medicinal and therapeutic properties of the cannabis plant.
Although this method extracts the full range of cannabinoids, terpenes (organic compounds that contribute to flavor, scent and color) and flavonoids (enhances the effects of cannabinoids) from the plant, it also extracts chlorophyll, which can give the extracted product a green tint and a bitter taste to go along with it.
Using high-grade alcohol can produce very good quality oil products, but most be done carefully to avoid danger since alcohol solvents are extremely flammable. This method also needs further steps in order to remove chlorophyll or other harmful contaminants, but is still one of the most used extraction methods today.
- Olive Oil Extraction
You read that right. Olive oil can be used as an extraction solvent and is a practice that dates back centuries. First you have to heat up the plant at a certain temperature for a specific length of time in order to activate the plant’s chemicals (called decarboxylation). The plant material is then added to olive oil and heated to 100°C for 1-2 hours to extract the cannabinoids.
Unlike the previous 2 methods, the olive oil cannot evaporate away after this process. With the CBD being infused in the oil, users should be aware that this is not a method recommended when trying to regulate specific daily CBD intake since there is no reasonable way to figure out how much you’re taking in and absorbing. This oil is also highly perishable and should be stored in a cool, dark place as soon as possible. Although not viable for commercial use, it is an interesting option to those looking to experiment with different ways to take in CBD!
CBD Extraction and Testing
When it comes to CBD products and anything you look to put in your body, you should always have an idea about what’s in it. That is why here at CBD Vape Genius we provide information from the manufacturers along with testing reports for products when available- that way you stay aware and keep informed. Start your CBD journey with us today by checking out our line of great CBD products suited for all of your needs!