By now you may know that CBD, cannabidiol, is derived from the hemp plant and is lauded for possessing many health benefits. You may also know that this ingredient is growing rapidly in the marketplace, and that prominent global brands are formulating products with CBD. But, do you know how CBD is made?
The CBD extraction process is a key determiner for the quality of a CBD product. The four most common methods for CBD extraction include CO2 extraction, steam distillation, hydrocarbon or natural solvent extraction and ice water extraction.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extraction
In this extraction method, supercritical CO2 separates CBD oil from the other plant material. CO2 is exposed to high pressure and low temperatures and is pumped through a series of pressurized chambers, resulting in a final product that contains high amounts of CBD.
Imagine three chambers. The pressurized CO2 inhabits the first chamber and is pumped into the second chamber that holds the hemp plant. The CO2 breaks down the hemp, causing the oil and plant material to separate. The CO2 and oil are pumped together into a third chamber where the gas evaporates and the CBD oil is all that remains.
CO2 Extraction Pros: This process is efficient, safe and precise. It is not only used for CBD extraction, but also for other products such as essential oil extraction and decaffeinating coffee.
CO2 Extraction Cons: This process is typically very expensive, as it uses specific, high-quality materials. It is also not for the beginner chemist and must be performed by professionals.
In steam distillation, steam separates the CBD oil from the plant material. The hemp plant is held in a glass flask. A connected glass container underneath the hemp plant holds water that is set to boil. As the water heats, steam travels upwards into the plant flask, separating the CBD oil vapors. These vapors are then captured in a connected condenser tube that converts them into oil and water. The oil and water mixture is then distilled, extracting the CBD oil from the water.
Steam Distillation Extraction Pros: This method has been used for centuries with essential oils and other products, and does not require expensive materials.
Steam Distillation Extraction Cons: It is not as efficient, using large amounts of the hemp plant for a smaller yield. It also requires caution: the steam must remain at a specific temperature so as not to damage the CBD oil extract.
Solvent extraction works similarly to steam distillation, but instead of water, it relies on another solvent to separate the CBD oil from the hemp plant. The solvent is comprised of either hydrocarbons or natural solvents, and it evaporates to leave pure CBD oil behind.
Solvent Extraction Pros: Solvent extraction is typically less expensive, and natural solvent extraction may eliminate the possibility of toxic residue.
Solvent Extraction Cons: It results in an extract that has a lower concentration of CBD. Solvent residue from hydrocarbon extraction can also be toxic, putting a consumer at risk if it’s not fully removed. Natural solvent extraction has the ability to extract chlorophyll, giving CBD oil an unpleasant taste.
Ice Water Extraction
In Ice water extraction, the hemp plant is mixed with ice or dry ice to separate the plant material from the extracts. Water is then added, and the mixture is strained through a series of fine mesh bags or filters. The extracts separate naturally, settling at the bottom of the strained mixture, and when left to dry, become a powdery resin extract often referred to as “hash” or “bubble hash.”
Ice Water Extraction Pros: This method is inexpensive and has a high yield of the natural extract.
Ice Water Extraction Cons: This method is more labor-intensive and time-consuming.
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