CBD Extraction: What’s the Best Method?

CBD extraction

When we talk about how to find the best CBD oil on the market, we talk about a lot of different things…

And one of the most important is the CBD extraction method used.

Why is this important? Well, there are several ways to get CBD from hemp – but some are much cleaner – and therefore healthier – than others.

In fact, knowing how your CBD is extracted is just as important as knowing where the hemp comes from, which carrier oil is used, and how much CBD is in your bottle. These factors determine the quality of the product you’re purchasing. 

So which method is best? Let’s dig in.

CBD Extraction Methods

As I mentioned, there are several ways to extract CBD from hemp, but the 4 most common are:

  1. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extraction
  2. Solvent Extraction
  3. Steam Distillation
  4. Olive Oil Extraction

1. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extraction

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extraction uses pressurized CO2 to separate the CBD oil from hemp. This way, you get as many desirable cannabinoids from the plant as possible.

The science behind CO2 is actually really interesting. At standard pressure and temperature, it typically behaves like a gas. However, by introducing it to temperatures below -69 degrees Fahrenheit and adding pressure over 75 pounds per square inch of pressure, it turns into a liquid!

Manufacturers use some fancy-dancy equipment to freeze the CO2 gas and compress it into that cold liquid state necessary. When liquified, the CO2 acts as a “green” solvent. This means it separates like a solvent, without the chemical dangers associated with solvents.

CBD extraction

The other great thing about CO2 extraction is that the precise nature of the process makes it ideal for producing specific concentrations of CBD oil. Manufacturers just adjust the solvent and pressure ratios to get specific concentrations.

What about Supercritical CO2 extraction? Have you noticed that anywhere? CO2 CBD extraction is actually divided into 3 different categories: supercritical, subcritical, and ‘mid-critical.’ Supercritical is by far the most commonly used because it’s the safest and provides a super-clean, pure end product with no toxic by-products.

2. Solvent Extraction

So, we’ve just talked about the dangers of solvents, and now we’re gonna talk about solvent extraction?

Yes. I mean, it is a method used to make CBD oil, so we should cover it.

With solvent extraction, substances like butane, ethanol, and low-grade alcohol are added to the hemp to strip away the cannabinoids. Once there are enough cannabinoids in liquid form, the compound is heated to evaporate the material to an oil. 

The thing is, by adding a solvent to the mix, you run the risk of ending up with an oil that contains those chemical residues. The process can also result in chlorophyll contaminants or the destruction of beneficial plant waxes.

As you may have guessed, this isn’t considered the best method for extraction. It doesn’t result in the clean, pure product that’s safest for use.

3. Steam Distillation

Steam distillation is another method of CBD extraction. It’s probably the one that’s been around the longest.

With steam distillation, the steam causes the CBD oil to separate from the hemp. It’s a fairly simple process, and really all you need is a simple chemical glassware set. 

Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks. Steam distillation requires large amounts of hemp – far more than would be required for CO2 or solvent extraction. It’s also hard to get precise concentrations. These are two of the reasons manufactures tend to stay away from this process, despite its simplicity.

And, although there’s no risk of residual solvents as with the solvent method, there is the risk that the steam can damage the CBD and actually alter the chemical properties of the cannabinoids, which, obviously, isn’t recommended.

4. Olive Oil Extraction

This is a popular method for people who extract CBD at home. It can be done in your own kitchen with a few simple kitchen tools, and it doens’t involve the use of solvents. You simply add your plant material to olive oil and heat it for several hours. It then becomes CBD infused olive oil!

CBD extraction

For large manufacturers though, this just isn’t a viable option. It is really labour intensive, takes a lot more time, and it yields a much smaller amount of CBD at the end. The other thing is it’s perishable, so it doesn’t last as long.

CBD Extraction: What’s the Best Method

If you’ve read through those 4 methods, it’s probably pretty clear which CBD extraction method we prefer. And it isn’t just us – most companies prefer this method because it results in a higher quality, cleaner product.

That method is CO2 extraction. Supercritical CO2 extraction to be really clear. It just gives you the best result. And isn’t that what we all want? I think so!

So, in the end, as I mentioned above, knowing how your CBD is extracted is just as important as knowing where the hemp comes from, which carrier oil is used, and how much CBD is in your bottle. All CBD manufacturers should be able to provide the method of CBD extraction, and those who don’t are probably not trustworthy with their practices.