All the CBD in your favorite oils, gummies, and drinks, has to go through an extraction process beforehand. But first, let’s explain that CBD is a cannabinoid found in cannabis, and extracting it involves isolating the chemical compound from the surrounding plant material then distilling it in high concentrations. Research has shown that cannabinoids can have positive effects on physical and mental health. Extraction is the process that makes it possible to consume more of those cannabinoids, yet with less effort.
Importance of CBD extraction
In order to produce CBD oils, supplements, or cosmetics, the cannabinoid must first be extracted from raw plant material. Plus, the most abundant source of CBD is hemp, which is a selectively bred crop that is used extensively in dozens of commercial industries. Even though there are many ways to extract CBD from hemp, there are methods that are much more efficient and a lot safer than others. It is important to know the difference because how you extract CBD evidently affects the purity and efficiency of the final product.
Options for extracting CBD
Below is a breakdown of some of the most common extraction techniques, along with the main pros and cons.
Solventless CBD extraction (by hand)
How can CBD extracts be made without using a solvent? The simple answer is, you just need to apply heat, pressure, or just a bit of friction to hemp flowers and leaves. This can be done by freezing hemp flowers, shaking the small trichomes loose, and gathering them together. These trichomes are what contain the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes, which are found in the hemp plant.
The pros of solventless extraction are that there is no additional equipment needed and that it makes use of the whole hemp plant. This is also the cheapest method of extraction available. However, the cons of this method can be that yields are low and impractical. There is also No way of controlling the purity since there are minimal levels of CBD. The CBD extract then contains plant material and other unwanted cannabinoids.
Basic solvent CBD extraction
Solvent extraction is a basic yet risky practice. It essentially involves running a liquid solvent through decarboxylated hemp in order to remove cannabinoids and terpenes. The usual solvents here include ethanol, butane, and hexane, so it is important to safely evaporate any residual solvent post-extraction to guarantee usable CBD extract.
The pros of solvent extraction are that it is both cheap and requires rather small amounts of equipment. Also, Solvent CBD extracts have a suitable degree of purity and can be easy to scale for commercial production. On the other hand, the cons are that working with solvents can cause injury if they are not correctly used because they are highly flammable. The oil can also remain contaminated with solvent, which is dangerous for end-users. Additionally, higher temperatures will also risk destroying some essential terpenes and other smaller compounds.
Supercritical CO₂ CBD extraction
This method is based on CO₂ being manipulated to enter a highly critical state. Having the characteristics of both a gas and a liquid, CBD is pumped through raw plant material under controlled conditions, strip off away essential terpenes and cannabinoids without damaging them. There are many pros to this extraction method, such as the extraction of clean and safe concentrates without using additional additives or contaminants. It also offers highly efficient yields and gets the most out of the hemp plant, which makes a sustainable and environmentally friendly option. The cons, however, are that Co₂ extraction is an industrial process, which makes it highly expensive. Plus, the fact that high expertise is required to perform correctly.