How is CBD oil made? What do manufacturers do in order to turn a cannabis plant into usable CBD oil? Is it easy to learn how to make CBD oil yourself, or does this require a lot of complicated steps and special equipment?
To extract CBD oil from the hemp plant, is pretty complicated. It is similar to other processes used to remove substances from plants, bust results in CBD oil instead of other products.
TL;DR – CBD Oil is made by several different means of extraction. Olive oil, ethanol, and even water extraction are all valid means of making CBD products into their final form. People often extract CBD from hemp or cannabis using solvents such as alcohol. Alcohol pulls CBD out of hemp, and after the alcohol is allowed to evaporate, the CBD remains. The process is not as straightforward as that and takes several steps.
Let’s get into those now…
Different Cannabis Species and Extraction Methods
Some of you know this, some of you do not, but it’s still worth mentioning. Cannabis plants include both industrial hemp, and marijuana.
This is important, because while CBD comes from both hemp and marijuana, in order to remain legal it must come from hemp. Hemp-derived CBD is legal in the United States.
Related article: How are Hemp and Marijuana Products Different?
The Farm Bill is what legalized industrial hemp, so long as it contains less than 0.3% THC content. This means hemp CBD cannot get you high – it isn’t possible.
CBD that is marijuana derived, on the other hand, will likely have much higher levels of THC.
What is the Olive Oil Extraction Method?
The extraction process to make CBD extract can take on many different forms.
This is an old, simple, safe method for creating pure CBD oil. Unlike using a solvent like butane to extract CBD from cannabis, there is no risk of making anyone sick. It does not matter that the oil remains in the finished product.
For this reason, an amateur who wants to learn how to make CBD oil should start with this method. Using chemical solvents is riskier (you can remove nearly all of the solvent from the oil, but you have to do it right for this to work) and using carbon dioxide requires more equipment.
First, you need to heat up the plant materials to activate the chemicals found in the plants. THC and CBD will not work very well unless the plants have been heated up for long enough. If you eat raw herbs, it won’t have much of an effect.
The first time you heat up the herb, you have to do it without the oil. This activates the medicinal properties of the hemp. The second time you heat the plant material up, it should be mixed with olive oil.
Heat up the mix of hemp plant material and oil. This will extract CBD out of the plant. The liquid you end up extracting will be a crude oil, and will work for making CBD oil.
The disadvantage of this method is that the extract you end up with always has olive oil in it. It is good for you and tastes good, but the extract won’t be very concentrated. This makes the olive oil method good for making extract for yourself, but not as good if you want to sell it.
A small bottle of CBD oil made with this extraction process will not have much CBD in it. You need to use other methods if you want to create a strong, concentrated extract.
Extraction With Alcohol and Other Chemicals
Many companies also use high grade grain alcohol, ethanol, butane, or other solvents to extract CBD from hemp. If this is not done right, it can result in a tainted product. Solvents may remain in the CBD oil that is sold to the customer.
For this reason, while ethanol extraction may work well, the residual chemicals from the liquid solvent extraction scare people away. You can make quality CBD oil without using this method.
Theoretically, the process should remove the solvent completely, or nearly so. However, more than a little of it may be left behind sometimes. These solvents are very unhealthy, so you have to be careful what companies you buy THC or CBD oil extracts from.
How Does Extraction With Solvents Work in General?
Solvent extraction, also known as liquid-extraction and partitioning, is used in many industries, not only the CBD oil industry. It is used to produce many foods and medicines. If it is done right, almost none of the solvent remains in the food or medicine.
Solvent extraction involves splitting a substance into two or more substances that make it up. If something contains something you want, such as cannabis containing CBD, a solvent can separate the two.
Water, isopropyl alcohol, ethanol, butane, and turpentine are all examples of solvents. Different solvents are necessary to separate different substances. A lot of the time, mere water works as a solvent, but you need butane, alcohol, or ethanol to remove crude oil from cannabis.
Two liquids do not always mix. The most obvious example is oil and water. Oil will not blend with water, like juice will, but will float on top of it.
You can use this principle to separate substances. If you have 1) oil, 2) water, and 3) a mixture that you want to separate, you could pour the oil and water into the mixture to be separated and then shake the mixture.
One component of the mixture might dissolve into the water, and the other component of the mixture might dissolve into the oil. You could then extract the substance you want out of the water, with the substance you don’t want remaining in the oil.
How Does Distillation Work?
Another relevant technique is distillation. You can use distillation to remove impurities and separate chemicals from the liquids they are dissolved in.
The simplest use of distillation is to create distilled water. If you boil water, allow it to turn into steam, and then collect the steam after it condenses, the water collected from the steam may be very pure.
Distillation separates two substances. If one substance evaporates and the other does not, you can use evaporation to separate the two. This can remove impurities from tap water.
Instead of wanting to purify water, you might want a chemical that is dissolved in the water. If the water evaporates and the chemical does not evaporate, you can keep the chemical left behind.
How Does Solvent Extraction Work for CBD Oil?
With solvents, companies can make a strong, concentrated extract that is a better commercial product than a weaker olive oil extract. You need some equipment to make solvents. The process is still fairly simple and not high-tech at all.
First, the hemp plant biomass is put into a container. Then, the solvent is added and runs through the hemp material. This breaks down the natural waxes and allows the CBD and other cannabinoids to mix with the solvent. The solvent is then evaporated to leave the cannabinoids behind.
Some of these machines can get huge! Check out this one that is the size of a warehouse.
While this can produce a potent extract, it is risky, including because the solvents are flammable. You should probably not learn to do this yourself.
Find someone who has been doing this for years and learn from them hands-on. Since it is risky, you should learn to make CBD oil from another person and not purely from online sources.
Is Extraction With Solvents Inferior to the Carbon Dioxide Method?
Many companies that extract make CBD oil using solvents produce clean products. So little of the solvent is left in the oil that it is not a health risk. However, not all companies do this method right, so harmful solvents may remain.
Another disadvantage of extracting only pure CBD oil with solvents is that chlorophyll will come out during the extraction process and end up in the oil. While chlorophyll is harmless, it does taste bad.
Some people defend extracting CBD from hemp using solvents because it ‘helps maintain the natural chemical properties,’ but this is still inferior to carbon dioxide extraction. At best, extraction with solvents helps extract terpenes better than extraction with carbon dioxide, or CO2.
The CO2 extraction method is somewhat more complicated to do, but it is better. Unless you know that the solvent-extracted CBD you are buying is safe, don’t trust it. Get CBD oil extracted with chemically harmless CO2, instead.
Test Anything You Extract With Solvents
While making CBD oil yourself with solvents is easier than making CBD oil yourself using the CO2 method, it is also riskier. If you do it with solvents, make sure you test your product.
Send it to a lab and have them test it for these chemicals. Possibly, your CBD oil will turn out clean – a lot of CBD extracted with solvents is. If you can repeatedly send it to labs and have the tests come back clean, you are doing it right.
You might start with alcohol extraction and then move on to the CO2 extraction method later on.
What is the CO2 Extraction Method?
Like extraction with solvents, extraction with CO2 is used outside of the CBD oil industry. CO2 extraction is used to make other plant oils, decaffeinated coffee, and more. CO2 extraction is a form of supercritical fluid extraction.
CO2 extraction requires a machine called a closed-loop extractor. While this is not an extremely complicated device, it goes beyond what you are likely to build yourself. People buy rather than build these machines.
The machine has a few chambers. One of the chambers contains frozen CO2, also known as dry ice. Another contains prepared plant material with CBD to be extracted.
The dry ice is allowed to evaporate, pushing it through the chamber containing the harvesting hemp plants, and removing the cannabinoids from the plant. The gas then moves on to other chambers, which separate and help extract CBD.
Summary – Make CBD Oil
If you want to make CBD oil yourself instead of buying it, you might as well try it. If you use olive/coconut oil, pay attention, and use common sense, it is not dangerous to do this.
Be careful when dealing with hot surfaces, as they can cause severe burns.
Don’t start with anything too complicated – try a simple process that has few steps and requires little equipment.