Cannabis is one of the most adaptable plants and possibly one of Mother Nature’s best gifts to humankind. This is because cannabis is a potent source of compounds that have proven to be effective in combating and treating various types of illnesses. It is particularly rich in CBD, popularly known as cannabinoids. Although you might know this already, cannabis naturally contains CBD (cannabinoids) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system boosting its ability to regulate various functions of the body and trigger homeostasis. On the other hand, THC is the psychoactive compound known to produce a ‘high’ feeling when consumed.
CBD, the non-psychoactive compound, packs numerous properties that have proven to be useful in a wide range of applications. CBD oil, for example, has gained a lot of popularity in the health and wellness sector, and for a good reason. It is one of the most effective natural treatments and home remedies for chronic pain, inflammation, migraines, anxiety, stress, skincare, and hormone balance, among other benefits. The compound (CBD) is thus extracted from the cannabis plant, making it available to a multitude of users worldwide. This article outlines the various methods used to extract CBD from cannabis/hemp and how each extraction process is different from the other. You will also learn how various extraction methods affect the purity and quality of the end product.
Sources Of CBD
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound mainly commonly found in the cannabis plant. The compound itself is believed to pack numerous health benefits, and medicinal properties hence used to treat many ailments ranging from anxiety and pain, weight loss, and protect and boost brain health. These properties alone have seen the popularity of CBD skyrocket over the recent past. One of the reasons why CBD is effective in treating numerous chronic conditions is because it interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system within the central nervous system. This is the part responsible for maintaining balance with the body.
Although CBD can still be obtained from wild marijuana, industrial hemp provides more and much better-quality CBD with very little (less than 0.3%) THC. This thus means the end product obtained from industrial hemp will be free of THC, thus safe for all to use.
How Is CBD Extracted
CBD extraction is the process by which the CBD compound is obtained from the plant material and then separated from other cannabinoids, leaving you with the pure CBD compound. This can/is achieved through a number of ways, with some extraction methods producing better quality CBD oil than others. The process a manufacturer chooses to use to extract CBD affects the purity and quality of the final product. Familiarizing yourself with the various extraction methods and their benefits will help you have an idea of the best CBD suppliers and products to use.
The most common methods of CBD extraction are:
1. Carrier oil extraction method
2. The Rick Simpson Method
3. Alcohol extraction
4. CO2 extraction
1. The Rick Simpson CBD Extraction Method
Named after the founder, the Rick Simpson extraction method is the most straightforward and cheapest method of extracting CBD from the cannabis/hemp plant. It is also considered the worst method, especially when it comes to isolating CBD from other cannabinoids. The method involves using a hydrocarbon (hexane, propane, butane, pentane, acetone, etc.) to absorb the cannabinoids. The hemp plant material is thus soaked in the hydrocarbon solvent, which extracts CBD from the plant, leaving it in a liquid form. The solvent produced is then boiled to evaporate the hydrocarbons, leaving you with CBD oil. The low boiling point of these hydrocarbons makes the process quite easy and straightforward.
Hydrocarbons are, however, highly flammable, which makes the process quite dangerous from the get-go. This extraction method destroys some of the essential plant waxes while leaving harmful residues behind. CBD oil obtained through this extraction method is thus prone to toxic compounds and contaminants, hence not safe for use.
2. Carrier Oil CBD Extraction
As the name suggests, carrier oil is used to extract CBD from the hemp plant. The most commonly preferred carrier oils for this method include jojoba, coconut, olive, and hemp seed oil. The plant material has to be decarboxylated (heated at a certain temperature for a set amount of time) to activate compounds inside it. The decarboxylated plant material is then dipped into the carrier oil, after which it is heated again (at a set temperature) for several hours to help draw all cannabinoids from the plant material into the carrier oil. The method is thus straightforward and produces good quality and safe CBD oil. CBD oil obtained through this method is perishable, putting a need for preservatives to be added to boost its shelf life. The potency of CBD oil from this extraction method is considerably much lower than most other extraction methods.
3. Alcohol CBD Extraction
The FDA considers ethanol to be a safe product to use. This is why most products from personal care to paint items have ethanol in them. That said, ethanol provides an excellent solvent for CBD. Like you guessed, alcohol is used in the extraction process to produce better quality CBD oil as compared to the other extraction methods discussed above. This is because ethanol doesn’t leave impurities in the extracted compound, and secondly, is safe for human consumption. Since ethanol is a polar solvent, it helps extract more than just CBD – you’ll get more water-soluble compounds (including chlorophyll) in the solvent as well. For this reason, the plant material has to be decarboxylated first (in a container) before introducing ethanol for the extraction.
With the plant material decarboxylated, ethanol is dripped through the container, dissolving and stripping the cannabinoids from the plant material. The solution obtained is then boiled off to leave CBD and other cannabinoids. Some manufacturers may also choose to soak the entire plant in the ethanol liquid for some time until all the CBD has been dissolved, after which ethanol is separated from the compound. This extraction method’s only downsides are the high boiling point of ethanol and the lengthy purification process required to purify CBD. Ethanol also has a tendency of pulling out plant waxed alongside CBD hence leaving impurities behind.
4. CO2 Method Of Extraction
This is considerably the best and most widely-used method of CBD extraction. Many industries today use carbon dioxide to extract CBD from the cannabis or hemp plant. The method is highly effective and produces the purest CBD oil possible. However, the carbon dioxide extraction method is divided into three subcategories: mid-critical, subcritical, and supercritical. The supercritical method is the most commonly adopted and preferred method for CBD extraction today.
This extraction method (supercritical) involves using specialized equipment and CO2 to extract CBD from the hemp plant material. The specialized equipment converts CO2 into liquid form, which is then passed through the plant matter. CO2 in liquid form pulls any CBD and terpenes from the plant matter, after which carbon dioxide is separated from the solution leaving only CBD and terpenes. The best part about this extraction process is that the end product is pure and that CO2 can be recycled for the same purpose repeatedly. With the environment controlled, CO2 can be reused severally, making the extraction process quite manageable and economically sound too. Many companies use this extraction method for large scale CBD extraction.
Mid critical and subcritical CO2 extraction processes are, however, gentler hence doesn’t pull terpenes and other larger molecules from the hemp plant material. These methods are thus preferred when looking to create full-spectrum CBD oil for various uses. The supercritical extraction method is mainly used and recommended if looking to produce high quality and pure CBD products. CO2 extraction is undoubtedly the best method for producing CBD products. This is why you need to dig a little deeper into the production and extraction method used before making an order for CBD oil or related products from any supplier.