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CBD Extraction Methods Explained: Everything You Need to Know

After hearing about numerous CBD extraction methods, you might be wondering what they are, how they work, and what difference they really make. The good news is that the answers to these questions are quite simple. 

For starters, extraction is the process of getting harvested hemp and taking out cannabinoids like CBD, CBC, CBG, and THC. While not commonly discussed, the extraction process is a crucial step in formulating CBD oil, and it can directly impact the quality of the final product. Depending on the extraction method used, CBD oil can either help or fail to adequately benefit you. 

So, what’s the best CBD extraction method if you prefer to make your own products? Here are two conventional methods you might try at home. 

  1. Heat Extraction

This process is not the most efficient CBD extraction method, but it still allows you to harness some of the hemp’s most active components. If you decide to use this method, the instructions are manageable. 

Heat the hemp in the oven at 250°F for 45 minutes, turning it every 15 minutes to ensure you heat the entire plant. This process will decarboxylate the hemp, enabling you to convert acidic cannabinoids, such as cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), into the therapeutic nutrients you seek, like CBD.

After you complete that step, place the hemp in a crock-pot with your carrier oil. Butter and coconut oil are both recommended, as each one is a great option. But once you choose your preferred oil, put the heat on low and keep the crock-pot at that temperature for 24 hours. The next day, strain the plant material, then you’re finished. 

  1. Alcohol Extraction

This CBD extraction method is also widely known as ethanol extraction. It’s a relatively straightforward process, making it an excellent choice for beginners who want to develop their own CBD oil. 

To begin, decarboxylate your hemp, then place your flower in a jar of alcohol and let it sit for six weeks  until you produce an extract. Afterward, remove the resin and filter the remaining solvent.

Once you finish that step, heat the solution in a double boiler until it simmers lightly, evaporating out the alcohol at a low temperature. Finally, let the blend simmer for approximately 30 minutes until the alcohol has completely evaporated. The leftover product will be your CBD oil.

Industrial CBD Extraction Methods

Of course, if you don’t wish to make your own CBD oil, there are plenty of products available to buy. Brands have their own, more technical methods to get the most out of the extraction process, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. And while their methods are more extensive and complex, it’s still important to be aware of them because you can’t forget: the CBD extraction method brands use will influence their final product.

If you have specific preferences, expectations, or needs, you need to know the different extraction methods that companies utilize and understand how those methods impact the CBD oil you purchase. To ensure you buy a product that meets your expectations, here are the most common methods of extraction that CBD companies use to formulate their CBD oil. 

  1. Butane Extraction

Many people in the industry dislike this method, as large quantities of residual solvent may be left in the finished CBD product if the process is not conducted precisely. 

The highly explosive butane means this technique is also dangerous. When brands use it, there’s always a risk of experiencing an explosion, and even if that doesn’t happen, the butane method is a very unclean form of extraction, leading to inferior CBD oils. 

  1. Ethanol Extraction

In simplified terms, this is like a scaled-up version of the alcohol extraction method. Ethanol extraction is very popular due to its effectiveness, the cleanliness of the process, and its relatively low setup cost.

However, while ethanol extraction has its advantages, this method was once considered dirty. Leftover ethanol used to remain in the finished products, tainting the pure CBD oil that brands wanted to achieve. But with technological advancements, the ethanol extraction method has become a much cleaner process for brands to use. 

  1. CO2 Extraction

CO2 extraction is the cleanest method for both the environment and the consumer because nothing needs to be evaporated out of the final product. It’s a complex extraction process that passes highly pressurized CO2 through a series of chambers to separate and capture specific compounds from the raw cannabis.

In the long-run, this method is cheaper than alternatives, since it doesn’t require brands to constantly purchase solvent or transport and store hazardous chemicals like ethanol or butane. While this is our preferred extraction method, many CBD brands still choose ethanol extraction due to its lower setup cost. However, those with enough starting capital are increasingly opting for the long-term benefits of CO2.

Regardless of the extraction method used, though, companies do not stop working once they extract the CBD from the plant. What remains is the process of turning the cannabinoids, also known as crude oil, into the CBD oil that we can find in stores.

Making CBD Oil

If you’re more interested in purchasing products from CBD brands that use ethanol or CO2 extraction, the two safest and cleanest methods, their formulation processes are fairly similar. The only difference will lie in the initial stages of the process, specifically with regards to ethanol extraction. 

With ethanol extraction, brands have to use a Rotovap to evaporate the ethanol. This process leaves behind crude CBD oil, which companies then have to further refine to remove the waxes and plant material that usually remain. Once brands complete this step, the next phase is winterization, a process that utilizes cold temperatures and a solvent to separate lipids and other desired oil compounds from the waxes. This method that should happen regardless of whether CBD brands are using ethanol or CO2 extraction. 

With winterization, the oil is put through a deep chill, which separates the various components of the product. Solid material, which is not rich in cannabinoids and gives the CBD oil an unpleasant taste, rises to the top and should be removed.

However, some companies like to skip this step and explain the bad taste by claiming their products contain extra “plant-based nutrients.” These additional nutrients, however, offer no medical benefits. The only advantage is a reduced price for the product because brands skipped a stage in the production process.

For CBD companies that don’t gloss over winterization, their next step is distillation. This stage involves evaporating out the crude oil and separating its heavier components from its lighter components to purify the product. Each journey through the distiller makes the CBD oil purer, though it also evaporates out terpenes that would provide an enhanced effect.

Now, it’s important to know that different brands aim for different levels of purity based on the effect and taste they want to achieve. For example, as more terpenes evaporate in the distiller, the CBD oil’s color becomes more golden, and its taste improves. This enhanced taste might be a benefit if you care more about the flavor and CBD versus the additional terpenes. 

But maybe you’re more concerned with solely consuming CBD. In this case, you should buy from brands that develop broad-spectrum distillates, which undergo distillation so many times that only CBD and one or two other cannabinoids remain. Some brands like ours, however, want you to experience the benefits of terpenes and CBD working together, so we like to keep a few terpenes intact even if the taste isn’t as delicious. Overall, what happens during the distillation process all depends on the brand’s vision.

But after distilling the oil to the desired purity, the last and final step is to bottle the product and add any essential oils or other ingredients. In total, there are five to ten steps that brands have to complete to develop CBD oil, and that is true regardless of whether the company uses butane, ethanol or CO2 extraction.

So, having addressed the various extraction methods and the entire process from harvested hemp to CBD oil, you’re left with one question: should you buy a product that’s formulated using CO2 or ethanol extraction? 

Which CBD Extraction Method Is Best?

There is little to separate ethanol and CO2 extraction. 

With ethanol extraction, the product will contain residual solvent if the extractor doesn’t sufficiently evaporate out the ethanol, but this risk is decreasing thanks to technological improvements. The risk can also be minimized by opting for a reliable brand. If you don’t want to risk ingesting additional chemicals, you can simply choose a credible CBD brand to buy from or purchase CBD oil that’s gone through CO2 extraction.

Ultimately, selecting one is a matter of personal preference.

 

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