The primary purpose of several CBD extraction methods is pretty simple: to end up with the cannabinoids (like CBD) and other products or derivatives in a form that is concentrated for better human consumption.
To make this happen, you must make use of a plant material that contains enough phytocannabinoids (ie: CBD) such as hemp or other special cannabis strains.
Before we look at how CBD extraction works, let’s examine what CBD is all about.
What is CBD?
CBD is short for the term “Cannabidiol“. It is a cannabinoid derived from the leaves, flowers, or stems of the cannabis plant, which include both hemp and marijuana. CBD, unlike the THC, is non-psychoactive. Marijuana can have quite a bit of THC content, whereas hemp will not. The oily makeup of CBD is useful in products such as creams, CBD gummy bears, chocolate, and soaps.
However, in order to make these products, we first have to be able to extract all of the usable oils from the hemp plant. This process is referred to as ‘extraction.’
CBD extract is considered to be a revolutionary product that is developed with the use of a different ingredient, known as hemp oil or hemp extract. This extract is an herbal oil that we derive from mature hemp plants.
CBD extract is available on the market in various forms like CBD isolate, full spectrum distillate, or broad spectrum distillate. The extract contains less than 0.3% THC, as long as it comes from the hemp plant.
Studies show that CBD can be beneficial for people suffering from high blood pressure, social anxiety, acute pain, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease.
Review of the CBD Extraction Process
There are many different methods of CBD extraction.
Some methods involve higher level of solvents to be able to “pull” the oils out of the plant. New Phase Blends chooses to use what’s called a supercritical CO2 extraction method.
This method uses no solvents, and is widely regarded as the most safe method of CBD extraction. Some of the other methods of extraction include: ethanol extraction and water extraction.
The primary purpose of all methods, regardless of their approach, is to pull out as much as the beneficial oils from the cannabis plant as possible. The CBD products you see today contain these oils.
As a side note, CBD extraction will require a certain ratio of CBD to THC, because the Farm Bill of 2018 only allows CBD products to contain less than 0.3% of THC by dry weight.
Marijuana extraction, on the other hand, can contain as much THC as possible. However, marijuana products are heavily controlled while hemp-based CBD products are not.
THC in excess of 0.3% by dry weight is not legal in most states within the US and other parts of the world.
How Does CBD Extraction Work?
Let’s briefly go over the different methods of extraction mentioned above. CBD extraction is pretty scientific, so I’ll try to break this down as easily as possible without getting too deep into the weeds.
At the start of all CBD extraction, the chemists will start with what’s called biomass. Hemp biomass is simply all of the harvested parts of the hemp plant that have been bundled up and sold. Check out this picture of dried hemp biomass:
Dealing with hemp biomass comes with its’ own set of unique challenges which we cover in this article on storing your hemp biomass.
The next step is to take this biomass and begin the actually process of CBD extraction…
Supercritical CO2 Extraction:
This type of extraction places biomass in a vessel of sorts, and then pumps in CO2 gas at a high temperature and pressure. There is an internal pump device that forces the parts of the plant material to essentially dissolve. A secondary chamber houses this mixture. CO2 temperatures are then increased, along with the pressure.
When you change the pressure and temperature, you allow certain molecules to bind to the CO2, resulting in a separation of the plant material. The left over extract is transferred into a jar. This extract is your CBD extract. This product is used to make the CBD end products that people consume.
The machine pictured above is another example of a huge, supercritical CO2 CBD extraction machine. These pieces of equipment are incredibly expensive.
Some of them are upwards of 1,000,000.00. The price of the extraction equipment is the primary reason for CBD products being so expensive. As time goes on, technology will advance and prices will lower.
Ethanol extraction uses, you guessed it, Ethanol as a solvent to help separate the extract from the biomass. This method leaves a residual amount of ethanol behind. Some people claim the amount of ethanol left is completely harmless, while others argue otherwise.
You be the judge on this one. New Phase Blends doesn’t use this method, as we want no residual solvents in our product line.
The biomass is literally soaked in ethanol (gross) during this process. When this happens, it causes a breakdown of the material. After a certain period of time, the soaked biomass starts the separate from the cannabinoids like CBD. This process requires much more work, and is most likely the oldest method of extraction around.
It also requires many different filtration techniques to truly separate the extract from all other left-over materials.
The picture above shows an example of a smaller, less expensive, ethanol CBD extractor machine. As you can see, it looks a lot less complicated.
Some manufacturers use water vapor or ice to extract the cannabinoids and terpenes. It is very time consuming, but can still deliver some decent yields of extract. Like everything else, you must do it properly.
There’s basically three steps to water extraction…
- Biomass that has been cut up into very minute pieces is mixed with dry ice or plain ice.
- The chemists then pour water all over this mixture. A fine mesh container, or bag, houses the mixture to allow the chemists to pour water through it. The chemists do this multiple times.
- All of the CBD extract will settle at the bottom while the mesh bag contains the leftover biomass material. Thant’s it. It sounds easy, but it is time consuming.
Using water extraction sounds like the most natural way to perform CBD extraction, but it really isn’t. Supercritical CO2 extraction is just as natural, the name just makes it sound…weird. Either method would produce excellent CBD products.
Conclusion | Extracting CBD from Hemp
And there you have it. These are three of the most popular methods of extraction. I will list them again for those of you who like to skip to the conclusion:
- Supercritical CO2 – best method
- Water extraction – good method, but slow and hard to scale
- Ethanol extraction – oldest method, but leaves solvent residue behind
Now you have a better picture of all it takes to provide you with our CBD tinctures or creams. Some people complain about the price of CBD products.
Perhaps you can see, first hand, why some of them cost so much now. Some extraction equipment can cost over $1,000,000.00 USD!! New Phase Blends has some of the best prices on CBD, but we still acknowledge that everyone can afford it.
I sincerely hope the cost of extraction continues to drop over time. We will continue to provide the most competitive prices that we can.