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CBD Oil Extraction Methods – How Are They Different?

The basis of CBD oil is CBD-rich plant material. In the case of CBD products that can be purchased online, this CBD-rich material is hemp. The key process to convert the hemp plant material into the final product is called extraction. Here are some things you should know about the different methods of CBD oil extraction.

Common Methods of CBD Extraction

The two most common methods used by companies to produce CBD oil products are: (1) supercritical CO2 extraction, and (2) ethanol extraction. There are other ways as well, like oil extraction and steam distillation, that are far less popular. While there are pros and cons of each method, if done correctly, either extraction method will produce a safe and high-quality CBD oil product.

Supercritical CO2 Extraction

Using carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction to separate CBD from hemp requires highly-specialized equipment. CO2 takes many forms, depending on temperature and other factors. In order to use it for extraction, it has to be transformed into its liquid state at temperatures below -69°F. At the same time, the pressure must be raised to over 75 pounds per square inch using a compressor. Then it is passed through plant material.

The CBD oil extraction process removes the trichomes, terpenes, and other valuable elements from the plant. As the temperature and pressure are increased, the CO2 is converted to a state that has half the properties of a gas and half of a liquid. Therefore, this is clearly not the kind of process you can replicate outside a lab.

Furthermore, anyone who has used dry ice (CO2 in solid form) knows that when it’s exposed to room temperature, it will evaporate. However, the sophisticated equipment used for CO2 extraction recycles the CO2 in its liquid state, so it can be used again. This process is considered by some to be ideal for insuring that the product is not damaged or denatured.

It’s important to remember than when humans breathe in oxygen, they breathe out CO2 which plants convert into oxygen. So this process involves using something absolutely natural to the human body.

Ethanol Extraction

Liquid solvent extraction most commonly involves the use of ethanol. Butane, isopropyl alcohol and hexane are other liquid solvents that are sometimes used. In the liquid solvent extraction process, no specialized equipment is needed. The plant material is placed in a container and the solvent is run through it which takes the CBD from the plant. Then the solvent is evaporated and what’s left is the oil.

Some solvents will also strip the chlorophyll from the plant matter. If a CBD oil is bright green, it was probably produced using this method. Solvents that also strip chlorophyll can add a somewhat bitter flavor to the finished oil.

This method is a process that can be done at home and is also commonly used commercially. However, the downside of trying to make it yourself is that there may be residual amounts of the solvent left in the finished product. Professionals using liquid solvent extraction have honed the process to remove all remaining impurities from the oil.

Oil Extraction

If you have an interest in making your own CBD oil from hemp, oil extraction is the simplest way to do this at home. To do this, the oil must be heated first and brought to 248℉ for one hour or 284℉ for half an hour. Then the plant material is added to the oil and heated at 212℉ for one to two hours. During this time, the chemicals in the plant are activated, releasing the CBD into the oil. Olive oil is a common choice, but other kinds of oils, like palm or coconut, are better for some applications.

Archaeologists have found records of cannabis use in ancient civilizations around the world. For example, Shen Neng, the emperor of China, prescribed it to his people in 2737 BC as a pain medication. By 2300 BC, the book Shu King, in 2300 BC, documented early research in uses of the cannabis plant to treat a variety of problems. The CBD oil extraction process was definitely known in ancient times. The Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramses II, so valued the oil that containers of it it were found in his tomb, so he could take it with him to the afterlife.

The quality of the finished product depends on the quality of the materials. Non-organic cannabis and oils won’t have the same purity, so the CBD oil won’t have it either.

Steam Distillation

This process is considered completely inefficient because not all the oils are extracted from the hemp. So much more plant material is needed to get the same amount of oil. Also, the high heat needed in this method can damage the terpenes.

The advantage to this method is that anyone who has access to a lot of hemp and basic chemistry equipment can try this at home. But considering the high quality products available commercially, this might not be worth the time.

Is There a Preferred CBD Oil Extraction Method?

Similar to CBD products themselves, there really is no “best” when it comes to the CBD extraction method. There just isn’t a perfect way to do CBD oil extraction. If there was, all companies would obviously use that method.

Both CO2 extraction and ethanol extraction have strong advocates and reasons to prefer one process over the other. Advocates of ethanol extraction point to its ability to capture the desired cannabinoids and terpenes without co-extracting undesirable components like chlorophyll. Furthermore, advocates of CO2 extraction claim that it produces a more “pure” end product that is safer in terms of toxicity.

When looking for the best CBD products on the market, the quality of the hemp can ultimately be more important than the CBD extraction method used. As always, we strongly recommend that you look to brands that use organic practices in growing their hemp and that make third party lab reports readily available.

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