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CBD Oil Extraction Techniques: What You Need to Know

by Dr. Philip Blair, MD

These days, everyone seems to be talking about CBD oil. But are they asking questions about the CBD extraction methods being used in the production of the products they purchase?

It’s an especially hot topic since the Farm Bill passed last December. Many people use CBD to reduce the temporary effects of sleeplessness, anxiety, inflammation from exercise, and mood swings—all the nutritive benefits, plus a strong safety profile. CBD oil works with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system, or “master regulator,” to support a state of internal balance.

There are several common CBD oil extraction techniques; each one works a little differently and produces a slightly different product. When shopping for premium quality, full-spectrum CBD oil, it is vital that you understand what extraction process is being used to produce each company’s hemp CBD extract products.

In today’s post, we’ll go over a few of the most common CBD extraction techniques and the results they yield.

Ethanol Extraction

Ethanol CBD extraction occurs when a manufacturer uses high-grade grain alcohol to produce CBD oil. This method destroys the natural plant waxes, which have potential nutritional properties, but it leaves a large number of cannabinoids and terpenes intact.

Unfortunately, ethanol also extracts chlorophyll from hemp. Chlorophyll isn’t dangerous—it has excellent cleansing characteristics, but it can affect the color and taste of CBD in addition to causing mild side effects if consumed in large amounts. It is possible to remove chlorophyll from the ethanol extraction, but it requires extra steps that reduce overall potency.

Butane can produce a more potent oil than ethanol, but the resulting extract is much more likely to contain irritating residual solvents. Both ethanol and butane extraction methods are less expensive to use, but highly flammable. The extraction process is very fast, but its resulting oil isn’t as high-quality as other methods.

Oil Extraction

Olive oil, vegetable glycerin, and MCT oil are used for the oil extraction method. Olive oil CBD extraction is a commonly used extraction method in the hemp industry. The raw hemp plant is first decarboxylated; it is heated up, typically around 248°F for an hour, which activates the CBD constituents.

Then, the material is added to the olive oil, and that mixture is heated up to 212°F for at least an hour. The CBD constituents are drawn into the olive oil, and the plant material is strained. The final product is highly perishable, though, and produces lower yields. On the upside, it has a very low start-up cost and the equipment is less likely to catch fire.

CO2 Extraction

With CO2 extraction, a manufacturer uses highly pressurized carbon dioxide and varying temperatures to extract CBD and other constituents. This method has been used by the food industry for years; it’s the process used to remove the caffeine from coffee beans and to produce many essential oils.

This process can be divided into three separate categories:

  • Subcritical CO2 CBD extraction uses low pressure and low temperature.
  • Supercritical CO2 CBD Extraction uses high pressure and extremely low temperature.
  • Mid-critical uses high pressure and a variation of temperature which determines the number of terpenes that are preserved. The end result is a very pure product—it is able to isolate the cannabinoids at 90 percent efficiency.

Elixinol uses the supercritical CO2 extraction method. Once the CO2 becomes liquid, the pressure and temperature are raised until the liquid becomes supercritical—it simultaneously adopts properties halfway between a gas and a liquid. The CO2 can then fill a container like a gas, but it maintains the density of a liquid. This keeps the extraction from damaging the final product, which makes it safe for human consumption.

This process maintains the purity of the plant terpenes and cannabinoids. Many companies choose not to use this process since the required equipment carries a high price tag has a very steep learning curve.

CBD oil that is extracted with the subcritical method tends to have more terpenes preserved than does CO2 oil extracted with the supercritical method; the latter requires Winterization, which is the process of removing the unwanted elements, such as lipids and waxes. Once extracted, the CBD oil is combined with 200-proof grain alcohol and is mixed thoroughly. Then it is placed in a freezer overnight. The next day, it is ready for filtration. After all the unwanted elements have been removed, the alcohol is also removed using heat.

What About CBD Isolates?

CBD isolates do not contain as many nutrients as a full-spectrum CBD oil. Full-spectrum CBD oil has more cannabidiols, phytonutrients, and terpenes than a CBD isolate. Without the full spectrum of synergistic components, a CBD isolate can’t provide the full range of nutritive benefits to the body’s endocannabinoid system.

Click here to read more about what full-spectrum means and why it’s important.

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