CBD Extraction Methods Explained

Many people are aware that cannabidiol (CBD) is obtained from the cannabis plant, but what many people do not understand is how exactly CBD is extracted from cannabis. 

CBD Extraction Methods

The two most common methods used to extract CBD from cannabis are carbon dioxide extraction and solvent extraction. 

Carbon Dioxide Extraction Methods

CO2 is a gas at standard pressure and temperature. It can be changed to other forms when it is subjected to changes in the conditions of the external environment. When the temperature goes below -69 degrees Fahrenheit, the CO2 will change to a liquid phase. 

Supercritical carbon dioxide filtration is the most common method used to extract CBD from cannabis at a commercial scale. It is preferred because it is safe, economical, and produces a safe end product. That being said, carbon dioxide extraction can be done in various ways that you will read about below.

Supercritical CO2 Extraction

This involves the use of carbon dioxide that has been subjected to a high pressure situation that converted it into a liquid. The liquid carbon dioxide is then passed through the plant material where it extracts the CBD. Any residual carbon dioxide is evaporated, leaving behind a pure CBD extract.

If any carbon dioxide is left behind it will not pose any significant threat to the safety of the CBD.

Subcritical Extraction

Subcritical extraction involves the use of low temperature and pressure to extract small amounts of CBD from cannabis. This is a longer process compared to supercritical extraction.

The carbon dioxide is subjected to subcritical temperatures and passed through the plant material. The aim of this is to make sure that the terpenes and cannabinoids are not destroyed by higher temperatures, but this method produces a smaller yield of CBD.

Remember that subcritical carbon dioxide extraction does not extract larger molecules such as chlorophyll and omega oils. 

Solvent Extraction Methods

This method involves the use of a solvent to extract CBD from cannabis. Ethanol and butane are among the most frequently used solvents for cannabis extraction.

When solvent extraction is done, the solvent is usually added to the plant material and left to stand for a while. It then strips the trichomes layers from the plant material and separates the cannabinoids and terpenes. Once the beneficial compounds have been separated, the solvent is evaporated and the CBD oil is left behind. 

Ethanol Extraction

Ethanol is easy to obtain, can be used at home safely, and is effective in extracting CBD and a host of other cannabinoids and terpenes. That being said, it does extract chlorophyll, which is what gives CBD oil a grassy flavor and a pale color. This causes the quality of the CBD to go down. A little bit of the chlorophyll can be extracted with filtering, but this may cause a reduction in the potency of the CBD oil.

Butane Extraction

Butane is a better solvent for extracting CBD without ruining its chlorophyll, but it is a highly flammable substance and should only be handled by an expert. The extraction process should always be done out in an open space and away from flammable objects. 

What Happens After Extraction?

After CBD is extracted it is mixed in a base, such as coconut oil, to reduce its concentration and make it easier to use. The CBD is likely to be full spectrum, meaning that it contains additional terpenes and cannabinoids. If the CBD was extracted from hemp it is likely to have less than 0.3% THC, which means that it can be used throughout the US legally.

CBD isolates are made by further refining the extracted CBD thorough cooling and extra purification. They are usually in the form of crystals or a flavorless powder. Both CBD oil and CBD isolates can be used to create different CBD products.