How is CBD extracted from the hemp plant, and can you make your own CBD-infused oil at home? Read our CBD extraction guide to find out. Full Spectrum CBD Extraction: How is CBD extracted? What is the difference between Full Spectrum and other types of CBD? Find out here.
CBD Extraction: CO2, Steam Distillation, and More
We’d like to thank CBDfx and Natural Hemp Solutions for supplying us with images of the processes used in their labs.
Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is an organic compound that is found in the cannabis plant, with the flowers of the hemp plant being the richest source. And in order for CBD to be added to a wide array of consumer products—think CBD oil, lotions, topicals, or CBD vape juice—the first step that manufacturers need to take is to extract it from the plant.
This guide will present the various CBD extraction methods, essentially explaining how full-spectrum CBD oil is obtained from the CBD strains of cannabis. Some of these methods have been used in various industries for decades or even centuries, far before CBD oil was even a thing. Examples include essential oil extraction, decaffeination (and caffeine extraction) of coffee beans, and even beer production. In all cases, the idea is the same: how to extract a valuable resource out of plant material.
If you are interested in the ins and outs of CBD extraction from cannabis strains high in CBD, here’s a breakdown of the most commonly used CBD methods.
Supercritical CO2 extraction
The word “supercritical” sounds real fancy, but it is actually a term that’s very commonly used in chemistry. Simply put, a substance in its supercritical state possesses characteristics of both a gas and a liquid.
When supercritical CO2 is used in CBD extraction, its gas properties allow it to effuse through all plant matter, while its liquid properties allow it to extract compounds efficiently. The exact process varies, and some labs start the extraction with liquid CO2 while others start with CO2 in gas form. In both cases, manufacturers add CO2 in a chamber that includes plant material and use the exact amounts of pressure and temperature needed for CO2 to reach its supercritical state. At this point, and with the help of some additional heat, CO2 acts as a solvent and causes the plant material to separate, carrying with it all the essential compounds. Once done, CO2 is separated from the organic compounds, and manufacturers are left with full-spectrum CBD oil.
While it requires qualified personnel and there are higher costs associated with the equipment needed for supercritical CO2 extraction, it is by far the most efficient and quickest method to extract CBD. It is also environmentally friendly due to the limited amount of emissions, and safer than extractions that use certain solvents as CO2 is “generally regarded as safe” by the FDA.
- The most efficient method
- CO2 is regarded as generally safe
- Quick (once everything is in place)
- Environmentally safe
- Expensive (equipment costs)
- Needs qualified personnel
Steam distillation is a centuries-old process that’s commonly used to distill alcohol as well as extract essential oils from organics. The process is much less complicated than CO2 CBD extraction. First, plant matter is introduced in a distillation tank. With the use of water and heat, the produced steam carries oils to the top of the tank, and it is then passed through a condenser, resulting in a mix of water and oil. The mix then goes through further distillation to separate water and oil, and the result is full-spectrum CBD oil.
While this CBD extraction process is much simpler, there are some downfalls. It is more prone to error, much less efficient, and may potentially damage part of the essential oil profile of the plant. Due to these reasons, steam distillation is very rarely used to extract CBD nowadays, but many labs still use some type of distillation in the process of isolating CBD from full-spectrum oil.
- Relatively easy to perform
- Low cost
- Not very efficient
- Not consistent
- Resulting CBD oil is less potent
This method is also centuries old and is somewhat of a middle point between CO2 extraction and steam distillation when it comes to complexity and efficiency. It bears many similarities to CO2 extraction, albeit without the advanced methodology that’s behind the “supercritical” part.
In layman’s terms, this type of extraction involves mixing plant material with some type of solvent that will carry the essential oils given the right conditions and enough time. Some of the most popular natural solvents are alcohol (ethanol) and natural plant oils (including olive oil), with alcohol being much more efficient in dissolving the plant’s compounds. But due to the higher cost associated with ethanol, many manufacturers choose to go with synthetic solvents (hydrocarbons like butane or hexane), which may end up in lower quality, or even CBD oil that’s unfit for consumption if they’re not removed properly from the final product.
Solvent extraction is a delicate CBD extraction process and its pros and cons, as well as the consistency of the resulting oil, varies greatly depending on the solvent used. It can be more efficient than steam distillation if performed properly, but it carries a lot of risk and most labs choose CO2 extraction if they can afford it.
- More efficient than steam distillation
- Can be performed with natural oils
- Relatively safe if natural oils are used
- Varied results in final product
- Not as efficient as CO2 extraction
- Synthetic solvents are dangerous to handle
- Synthetic solvents need to be completely removed from final product
How to extract CBD at home
At this point, you may be wondering if there’s any way you can extract CBD at the comfort of your own home. The short answer is “yes”, but it really depends on how willing you are to do further research. The following is not going to be a real step-by-step guide, but it can serve as a starting point and give you some basic guidelines.
Olive oil extraction
Possibly the simplest way to extract CBD oil, as it only requires some CBD-rich bud, olive oil, and some basic kitchen equipment to ensure a steady supply of heat. If you’ve ever made cannabutter, then technically you have already utilized this method before. The only difference in this case, is that you are using hemp and olive oil—but olive oil can easily be swapped out for the oil or butter of your choice. This includes regular butter, coconut oil, hempseed oil, etc.
The first step for olive oil extraction is decarboxylation, i.e. activation of the compounds of plant material with the use of heat (there’s more info in the following section). Trimmed hemp flower in an oven tray heated between 240 and 280°F (115-135°C) for up to an hour should do the trick. Once this step is taken care of, the resulting activated cannabis is mixed with olive oil and heated at low temperature (ideally in a double boiler) for around two hours. The only thing left to do at this point is to use a filter to strain the mixture and separate the oil from the plant material. The result: CBD-infused olive oil.
While this is the easiest and least risky way to extract CBD oil, it is certainly not the most efficient. As with most DIY projects, there’s always room for user error. But even if you do everything right, you are going to sacrifice a large part of the organic compounds of the plant and you will produce less potent oil than a lab would. For these reasons, extracting CBD at home is an interesting experiment, but if you want to reap all the benefits of CBD it is advisable to get it from a reputable source instead.
Activation and purification
While technically not steps of CBD extraction, activation of active organic compounds and purification of CBD oil are two processes that are very important in CBD production. The most common methods used for these purposes are decarboxylation and winterization.
The active organic compounds of the cannabis plant come in their acidic forms. In order to go from THCA and CBDA to THC and CBD, manufacturers need to apply heat and decarboxylate the compounds—that’s the lab equivalent to lighting up a joint. Heat removes a carbon molecule from the organic compounds and turns them into their active counterparts.
Decarboxylation may take place before or after the extraction, and the exact methodology followed is highly dependent on this choice. But it is an essential part of the CBD oil production process, as non-activated compounds have little to no effect on the user.
While not as essential as carboxylation, winterization is a very common process that ensures that the final product of the extraction is as pure as possible. Simply put, the process of winterization employs solvents (usually ethanol) and low temperatures to ensure that lipids and other impurities are removed from an oil extract. This takes place as one of the final steps before full spectrum oil is obtained.
Winterization is not always performed, but it is a very important process when the final product is intended to be vaped. Some terpenes and other compounds are also filtered out during this process, but many manufacturers choose to add terpenes to their CBD oil after winterization.
CBD extraction: the takeaway
These are the most commonly used CBD extraction methods and, as expected, each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. The main takeaway from this guide should be that the reason you may have seen “supercritical CO2 extraction” in ads and promotions is not just that it sounds cool (although it does!) Simply put, CO2 extraction is by far the cleanest and most efficient CBD extraction method—and a no-brainer for any lab that can actually afford it.
This doesn’t mean that all CO2-extracted CBD products are better by definition. But if a lab invests in the equipment that’s required for the most technically demanding extraction method, chances are that they know what they are doing. When in doubt, check lab tests, and always choose third-party tested CBD products from reputable sources.
CBD Extraction: How Is It Done And What Is Full Spectrum Oil?
By now, it seems like just about everyone has heard about CBD products. You might have a friend or family member who is always raving about the benefits of CBD.
You may have even heard people talking about these products in the news, on your favorite podcast or within the health and wellness community. Full spectrum hemp extract is getting a lot of attention, and it seems like people are only becoming more interested in it over time.
These products aren’t likely to be a fad or trend that people just forget about in a few years. Many people say CBD extract has inspired a general sense of wellness and optimized their enjoyment of life.
If you’re interested in these products, learn more about what they are, where they come from and how they’re made. Educating yourself will make it easier when you decide to shop for the best CBD products online.
Where Does Full Spectrum Hemp Oil Come From?
The name says it all. Full spectrum hemp extract is just a refined hemp product. A CBD extraction process uses pressure, temperature, solvents or a combination of the three to collect the most desirable natural components from the hemp plant.
This concentrated form of CBD and other organic compounds from the plant is hemp extract oil. Like almost anything else you can buy, the finished product’s quality will largely depend on the materials you start with.
What Separates Premium Hemp From the Rest?
Think about it this way: if you were going to buy lemon extract, would you want it made with dry, old lemons? Or would you rather it be made with fresh, aromatic fruit? Most people would almost definitely say they’d rather have something that’s made from superior plant material. After all, it hardly seems like there’s a point to extracting the essence of something underwhelming in its natural form.
The same goes for hemp extracts. The best full spectrum hemp oil is made by using the best natural hemp. Naturally, healthy plants often taste better, smell better and contain more cannabinoids like CBD. This is especially important if you’re taking a whole-plant approach by buying full spectrum hemp oil, as opposed to CBD isolate. Compare these two types of CBD extracts to see why the source material’s quality matters so much.
Full Spectrum Hemp Oil Vs. CBD Isolate
Most people eventually have the same question once they start shopping for hemp online: “is full spectrum CBD oil better than CBD isolate?” Most of the experts say they gravitate more toward full spectrum products, but it comes down to personal preference in some ways. Here’s what you need to know about the most popular types of CBD products.
Full Spectrum CBD
Full spectrum CBD is what you get from products that take a holistic approach to CBD extraction. In addition to CBD, full spectrum extracts also contain all of the other cannabinoids and terpenes found in hemp.
Terpenes, fatty acids and other plant-based compounds may help the CBD interact with your body more thoroughly. Since you’re getting all of the different organic compounds from hemp in your full spectrum hemp oil, it’s essential to make sure that the extraction company starts with excellent hemp.
Broad Spectrum CBD
Broad spectrum CBD is full spectrum CBD that’s just been refined ever so slightly in order to remove all traces of THC. While broad spectrum CBD will still have some of the cannabinoids and terpenes found in full -spectrum CBD, it will lose significant amounts of its minor cannabinoids and terpenes during the winterization process. With no THC, broad -spectrum CBD can give people that have concerns about even trace amounts of THC in their systems peace of mind.
CBD isolate is significantly different from full -spectrum hemp oil and even broad spectrum hemp oil. This process involves a thorough winterization process to remove terpenes, cannabinoids, waxes and other natural parts of the hemp plant.
This is ideal for people who only want pure CBD because, as the name implies, the cannabidiol has been isolated in this particular type of hemp extract. Many experts say that the whole-plant, full -spectrum approach is best, but some people still prefer to buy CBD isolate because they think it seems purer with the rest of the plant removed.
Hemp vs. Marijuana Vs. Cannabis
One of the biggest reasons some people don’t want full spectrum CBD is that they want to avoid trace amounts of THC. If that doesn’t quite make sense, just learn more about the differences between hemp, marijuana and cannabis.
The cannabis plant comes in many shapes and sizes. It’s related to the hops plant and some others you may have heard of. Here in the United States, we categorize different cannabis plants as either hemp or marijuana for legal reasons, which is especially important since there’s still a prohibition on marijuana on a federal level.
In the United States, marijuana is what they call any cannabis plant that contains levels of THC higher than 0.3%. THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid that has been legalized in many states (either medicinally or recreationally) but is still illegal on a federal level.
Hemp is legal on a federal level here in the United States. To qualify as hemp, a cannabis plant must have THC levels no higher than 0.3%. Since hemp is legal, and CBD is legal, hemp-derived CBD products are also legal. In other words, for your full -spectrum hemp oil to be legal, it can’t come from a plant that contains more than 0.3% THC.
Is There THC in CBD Extract?
Hemp plants are technically allowed to contain up to 0.3% THC, though most hemp plants are grown to eliminate THC altogether when possible. Even so, there may be minimal amounts of THC in hemp oil. While this is more likely in full spectrum hemp oil containing all of the cannabinoids and terpenes from the natural plant material, some companies that claim to produce CBD isolate may not be testing their products well.
With all of that in mind, it’s essential to know the following before you buy CBD online:
- Is it ok with you if your product contains trace amounts of THC? It’s not at all likely that legal hemp oil would cause you to become intoxicated or fail a drug test, but it’s also not entirely impossible.
- How much CBD oil will you be enjoying? Even trace amounts of THC can add up.
- Do you trust the company that runs the online CBD store? If you don’t trust the company’s integrity, or if they don’t publish their lab results, there’s no way of knowing what’s really in their oils.
Learn more about how to extract CBD in part two to determine what makes a good CBD Extract.
We’ve already covered the different types of CBD oil, so now you’re ready to get into more details about how CBD extraction works. When you understand the process that turns the plant into hemp extract oil, you’ll see how these convenient products preserve the original material’s natural essence. Many smart people are working to figure out how to extract CBD more effectively, but you don’t have to be a scientist to understand some of the basics.
How to Extract CBD
To make a CBD extract, you need to start with either hemp or marijuana. Once you have your source material, you can make full spectrum hemp oil in a few different ways. While we make our end products in-house, we do not buy hemp flower in mass or handle extraction. Instead, we partner with the best extractors in the industry to obtain our raw materials. In order to meet our high standards, we vet our extraction partners carefully and require full traceability to confirm the quality and purity of their source material and extractions.
Ethanol Hemp Extraction
The most common way to perform a CBD extraction is to use a liquid solvent like ethanol (alcohol). Ethanol is non-toxic and relatively easy to evaporate, making it a good choice for creating hemp extracts. Once the liquid has pulled the cannabinoids out of the plant by running over it, the alcohol can be evaporated. At this point, all that’s left are the cannabinoids, terpenes and other natural organic compounds from the plant.
Propane or Butane Extraction
The other way to extract CBD from hemp is to use a solvent like propane or butane. This solvent is usually washed over the hemp material in a large piece of lab equipment called a closed-loop extraction system. Like other types of solvents, the gas will strip the cannabinoids out of the plant material to be collected with the solution. Making hemp concentrates in this way requires a careful purging process to remove all of the solvents at the end. Propane and butane are not safe for human consumption, so there can’t be any left in the final product.
CO2 Hemp Extract
The other common way to extract CBD is by using carbon dioxide (CO2) in a supercritical form, which is another way of saying it’s pressurized into an especially dense state that’s somewhat like a liquid and a gas at the same time. This process works somewhat similarly to the processes that run with other kinds of solvents. Working with CO2 is great because it’s relatively easy to change from a solid to a liquid to a gas by manipulating the pressure and temperature. This allows hemp oil producers to extract cannabinoids from hemp very efficiently with CO2.
A CO2 extraction process normally requires three different chambers. In the first chamber, there’s liquid CO2 that’s pressurized enough to turn the carbon dioxide into a liquid. The second chamber is full of your plant material, which is legal hemp in this case. The extraction machine pumps highly-pressurized liquid CO2 into the second chamber, where the temperature is slightly higher. Since the temperature is higher, the carbon dioxide becomes a supercritical gas, which quickly removes cannabinoids and other desirable compounds from hemp.
The CO2 washes over the plant material until it’s essentially absorbed the cannabinoids from the hemp. Once the cannabinoids are out of the hemp and into the solution, the solution moves into the hemp extraction system’s third chamber. The pressure is dramatically reduced in the third chamber until the CO2 turns back into a normal gas like it normally would be at room temperature. The carbon dioxide gas releases the cannabinoids and rises, so the extracted hemp oil collects at the bottom of the chamber.
This is the final type of extraction process we’ll cover. This CBD extract is made simply by heating the hemp in oil. Doing this allows the cannabinoids to be activated and released from the hemp, transferring into the oil. Some manufacturers use olive oil, MCT oil or something similar.
No matter which of the extraction processes are used to create hemp oil, the extract will contain other cannabinoids besides CBD. CBD should be the most prevalent cannabinoid in the hemp oil (assuming actual hemp was used, not marijuana). Some extraction processes move on to a winterization stage to remove other natural compounds and isolate the CBD. Still, full spectrum hemp extract includes everything that was pulled out of the plant.
In addition to CBD and other cannabinoids, you can find all of the following things in full spectrum hemp oil:
- Terpenes – these are like the essential oils that give cannabis its unique flavor, and some believe they have therapeutic effects
- Amino acids
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamins A
- Vitamin B (various types)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Minerals like magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc
How Is Full Spectrum Hemp Oil Tested?
It’s critically important to test any kind of hemp oil. Even if something is labeled as CBD isolate, you should still see the third-party lab tests that back that up. Testing is important for three primary reasons:
- It confirms the level of CBD products. One of the biggest problems we see in this industry is that some companies sell products that are marketed to contain specific amounts of CBD, but the products themselves don’t live up to the labels. To put it quite simply, this is a dishonest way of doing business, and it’s not right to charge people without delivering the quality product they’re paying for.
- Even beyond the quality and consistency of hemp oil, purity is one of the main reasons we have all of our hemp extracts tested thoroughly. We want to know if there are any leftover solvents or other impurities that might not benefit our customers. If a product isn’t tested and it isn’t from a company that you have good reason to trust, there’s just no way of knowing how it could be contaminated.
- We’re independently lab-testing for THC content in our final products. This is a big one, especially when you’re buying full spectrum hemp oil. In addition to CBD, full spectrum hemp extract also contains other phytocannabinoids like CBN, CBG, CBC, CBDA and more. Since we want it to be legal throughout the United States, we have to test every batch to make sure it contains no more than 0.3% THC. Please see our Lab Results page for more information.
Buy Full Spectrum Hemp Oil Online
At Harbor Hemp Company, we partner with the top extractors in the industry who use state-of-the-art technology and equipment to turn premium hemp flower into a superior CBD extraction that we used to make our premium, finished CBD products. Our full spectrum hemp oil, along with all of our products, are always third-party tested to ensure quality, purity and cannabinoid levels.
Our family-run business is on a mission to make reliable hemp products available to everyone. Our family has been sourcing oils and plant extracts since 1936, and we use the generations of experience to make the best hemp-derived CBD oil we possibly can.
Order some today to see what makes our full spectrum hemp oil so special.