As the awareness of the benefits that CBD has on human health is growing, it’s popularity is skyrocketing as well. Today, you can find CBD products in different shapes and sizes, including oils, edibles, topicals, vapes, tinctures, capsules, etc.
Even though it might not seem very important, the manner in which CBD is extracted from cannabis can make a big difference. When buying CBD products, make sure to ask how the manufacturer extracts the CBD oil from the cannabis plant.
CBD Extract – What Is It?
In recent years, cannabidiol (CBD) has become one of the most popular components found in cannabis. This is due to its many health benefits which range from offering relief from anxiety and depression to helping people with cancer to deal with the common side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and vomiting.
If you want to join the bandwagon and start using CBD products, you’ll need to understand the different methods of extracting CBD from cannabis. In addition, it is helpful to know the difference between CBD isolates, broad-spectrum CBD, and full-spectrum CBD.
Another important thing to consider is the CBD’s legality. For instance, CBD products extracted from hemp are legal in all US states. However, CBD extracted from marijuana is still illegal on a federal level.
Why Does CBD Need to Be Extracted?
CBD is extracted in order to separate it and obtain a more concentrated form that can be consumed by humans. Raw cannabis is unpleasant to chew and fails to produce the desired effects. For the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant to be effective, they need to be heated (decarboxylated).
Vaping or smoking cannabis causes instantaneous decarboxylation, making the cannabinoids easily absorbable. Drying results in partial decarboxylation, whereas ingesting (through edibles, oil, and capsules) requires decarboxylation so that the body can reap all the benefits of CBD.
In addition, the raw cannabis plant can contain microbes that, if not purified or extracted, can put the user at a risk. The process of extraction eliminates these microbes along with any other unwanted compounds like lipids and plant waxes which can be harmful to humans.
The Extraction Process
The process of extraction begins with finding a cannabis plant that is rich in CBD. Be very careful when choosing the CBD brand. Check where the manufacturer extracts the CBD oil from because some cannabis plants may contain toxic chemicals like heavy metals or pesticides.
If done properly, the extraction process will ensure that all the good components in the cannabis plant are kept.
There are 3 common methods of CBD extraction:
1. Olive oil extraction
The olive oil extraction method is the oldest and considered to be the simplest and very safe.
The extraction process starts with the raw cannabis material being heated (decarboxylated) in order to activate the chemicals present in the plant. Then, the cannabis material and olive oil are combined and heated again. At this point, the cannabinoids are extracted. The oil doesn’t evaporate, so the obtained extract is not as concentrated as the one obtained with the other methods.
The main downside of this extraction method is that the final product is highly perishable. It needs to be kept in a dark and cool place, which makes it inconvenient for many CBD manufacturers and consumers.
2. Solvent extraction
Solvent extraction is a method that uses alcohol, ethanol, isopropyl, propane, or butane to extract cannabidiol. This method is quite dangerous because these liquids contain highly flammable components.
With this method, the plant waxes are dissolved. In addition to the cannabinoids, it also extracts the chlorophyll which can make some CBD products taste bitter.
The process starts with the plant trimmings and flowers being put into a container. After that, the solvent is run through the material or soaked, removing the cannabinoids. Once the process of evaporation is done, the concentrated cannabinoids are left in the form of oil.
Another disadvantage of this method is that, if not completely removed during evaporation, the solvent residue can be very toxic. In some CBD products obtained with solvent extraction, inspections have found traces of petroleum and naphtha hydrocarbons.
3. CO2 extraction
The CO2 extraction method is the most advanced way of extracting CBD and therefore, the most advised one. It does require substantial investment as it involves the use of a special cannabis extraction machine. It is also pretty complex, but if done right, this method yields a very safe and potent product without any chlorophyll.
The CO2 method keeps all the beneficial components of the plant and the chance of the final product containing any contaminants is very low.
The CO2 extraction is typically done with an extraction machine that has 3 chambers. In the first chamber, there is either pressurized CO2 or dry ice. In the second chamber, there is dried cannabis plant material, whereas the third chamber is where the final product is separated.
What Happens Next?
No matter which of the extraction methods is used, the final product will be a full-spectrum extract, which contains all the cannabinoids and other compounds present in the cannabis including amino acids, traces of THC, and terpenes.
Unlike the full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD doesn’t contain any THC. In order to obtain broad-spectrum CBD, the extract is additionally processed with a method called liquid chromatography. This method selectively binds the THC and uses low temperatures to remove it, while the rest of cannabinoids, amino acids, and terpenes are kept.
CBD isolates contain pure CBD, which makes them ideal for people who need higher doses of CBD. However, as they don’t contain any terpenes and cannabinoids they lack the so-called “entourage effect”.
To obtain a CBD isolate, the full-spectrum CBD extract is cooled and then purified into a crystalline form, which looks like a white powder.
- In order to be effective, CBD needs to be extracted from raw cannabis.
- The olive oil extraction method is inexpensive and safe but results in a highly perishable final product.
- The solvent extraction method can also be inexpensive and quite effective but may contain potentially toxic residues.
- The CO2 extraction method is costly and quite complex but produces a high-quality CBD extract which is very safe to use.
- Once the extraction is completed, the CBD extract needs to be purified and refined in order to create a broad-spectrum CBD, full-spectrum CBD, or CBD isolates.