CBD Oil Extraction

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How to extract CBD oil – The extraction process & how to make CBD oil CBD (Cannabidiol) is a compound that has shown promise in a variety of medical applications, like relief from pain and Wondering how to extract CBD? How are CBD oils made? Here we explain the difference between different extraction methods wheying their pros and cons. 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.

How to extract CBD oil – The extraction process & how to make CBD oil

CBD (Cannabidiol) is a compound that has shown promise in a variety of medical applications, like relief from pain and anxiety which are most common, along with many other ailments. A major benefit to CBD is that it doesn’t contain THC, which is the compound that makes users high, so this makes CBD an ideal product for children. Below you will find a step by step outline of how cbd oil is made.

CBD extract oil from cannabis or hemp.

There are many ways to extract the oil from the plant and make cbd oil. Apeks CO2 extraction systems use CO2 as a solvent to extract the oil. The solvent is considered a cleaner, purer form of extraction because there is no residue after extraction.

To isolate the individual compounds (CBD being one of them), the extracted oil needs to be distilled after extraction. The first step is a process called Winterization, followed by Short Path Distillation.

Winterization

Winterization is the process to remove undesirable elements that were extracted from the plant, for example fats, waxes, and lipids. This process is only needed when the oil was extracted at high pressure/high temperature (supercritical) because this intense extraction pulls everything from the plant, including material you don’t want in the final products. The extracted oil is effectively crude oil, which needs refining.

Once extracted, the mixture is combined with 200 proof alcohol and stirred vigorously until completely mixed. It’s then placed in a deep freezer overnight. In the morning, the mixture looks cloudy and is ready for filtration. One way to filter out the fats, etc. is to run it through a filter paper into an extraction jar. A common piece of equipment for this is a Buchner Funnel. Once it’s been filtered to satisfaction and the undesirable elements have been removed, it’s time to remove the alcohol. This is done using heat. The extraction is warmed and as its warmed, the alcohol evaporates since the boiling point of alcohol is lower than the oil. The removed alcohol may then be used on a different batch of crude oil.

Mixing oil and alcohol prior to freezing

Short Path Distillation equipment

Short Path Distillation

To further refine the CBD extract, and to isolate the CBD, the oil goes through Short Path Distillation. This works in much the same way as Winterization in that the extract is heated and each compound is then separated because each one has a different boiling point. In this way, each compound is isolated and can be used by itself.

Benefits and Uses of CBD

Research is showing that CBD extract has a huge potential in the medical market. CBD’s common benefits are treating anxiety, reducing pain and inflammation, helping prevent seizures, among many others. Because it’s a natural extract, there are few, if any, side effects. The extract works with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is the system’s method of regulating processes, like pain, mood, appetite, and memory. CBD works with the natural system rather than being an unnatural substance, so the body doesn’t try to reject it. CBD extract may be sourced from cannabis or hemp, most typically from hemp, which is naturally high in CBD. Cannabis can also be bred to have low THC levels and high CBD levels, but it’s possible that the THC will get concentrated and included in your final products.

Tne Entourage Effect

Despite the benefits of CBD as an isolate, there is much to be said for treating patients with all the compounds in the plant, not as separate isolates. Patients can still use the oil without getting high, as long as the THCa has not been heated, which converts it into THC, which is what makes you high. The Entourage Effect is the effect that all the compounds of the plant have on the body, as a whole.

Hemp and cannabis oil extraction processes and techniques.

Andy is on a panel of experts, answering questions from the community. We compiled a collection of questions and answers below, about hemp and cannabis oil extraction processes and techniques.

Click here to get more information on the CBD Extraction Process.

What are the safest and most effective ways to extract and produce CBD-rich cannabis oil? CO2, oil, or ethanol?

Question:
What are the safest and the most effective ways to extract and produce CBD oil? CO2, oil, or ethanol?

Answer:
Thanks for the great question! There are really 2 questions here, so I’ll try to answer them separately.

First question: What are the safest ways to extract? When it comes to extraction, safety is an important issue and has many areas to consider. The list below represents some of the major areas that need to be addressed with the popular solvents being used in the cannabis industry today:

  • Materials of Construction- Stainless steel materials for food/consumed oil applications
  • Electrical for Flammable Solvents – Class 1, Division 1 (explosion proof) electrical components for compressed flammable gasses, Class 1, Division 2 for ethanol/alcohol
  • Electrical, Non Flammable Solvents – NEMA 4x wash down electrical enclosures
  • Pressure Rating – usually 300 psi for hydrocarbons, 2000 or 5000psi for CO2.
  • Overpressure Protection – non-isolable relief valves set to 110% of maximum allowable working pressure
  • Food grade – welds in contact with extracted material should be ground flush and polished
  • Accessibility for Cleaning – vessels and piping should be accessible from both ends to allow proper cleaning
  • Storage tanks – should be stainless steel to prevent corrosion

Facility – In addition to the equipment considerations, the facility must also be appropriate for the extraction solvent.

  • Compressed Flammable Gasses – Class 1, Division 1 facility. This includes electrical fixtures, and also monitoring and evacuation equipment in the event there is a release of flammable gas into the area around the equipment.
  • Ethanol/Alcohol – vent hood or equivalent walk in vent area
  • CO2 – asphyxiation hazard. Monitoring and audible alarm to warn of leaks.
  • CO2 – Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA for consumption
  • Compressed gas – GRAS for use as a propellant, states differ on safe residual solvent levels
  • Ethanol – GRAS for food products, states differ on safe residual solvent levels

So the answer to the question about safety really doesn’t have anything to do with the solvent, rather the equipment chosen and the facility where the extraction is performed determine safety. The solvents commonly used in extractions today all have pros and cons, and all can be operated safely as long as proper guidelines and regulations are followed.

I addressed the safety question in the first part of the answer, in the second part I’ll address the efficiency question: What is the most effective way to extract CBD-rich oil?

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A major problem facing the cannabis industry today is a lack of commonly accepted standards – as evidenced by the question referring to “CBD-rich”. Does “CBD-rich” mean 40% CBD? 99% CBD? And CBD in what form, CBD, CBD-A or some combination? There are groups that are working towards creating standards, such as FOCUS and ASTM, but they have not been widely accepted yet. Without standards, quality also becomes difficult to determine because the only standard is personal subjectivity.

That being said, there are some generalizations about extraction methods that can be made. Keep in mind – every extraction method has benefits and drawbacks. Each method will shine in certain applications, and perform poorly in other. No method is great at everything.

How to Extract CBD Oil: Different Methods That Works Best

Wondering how your CBD oils are made? You’ve come to the right place.

CBD extraction is an advanced process that requires many skills and high-tech equipment to yield clean and potent products. Without extraction, the CBD space would revolve around hemp flowers, limiting diversity in the cannabis industry to a great extent.

Can you imagine the cannabis market without oils, gummies, vapes, capsules, and topicals?

Today, we’ll elaborate on how to extract CBD from hemp plants, compare different extraction methods, touch down on their pros and cons — and pick the best technology for making safe CBD oils on a broad scale.

How Is CBD Extracted?

CBD can be extracted from cannabis plants, meaning you can use both hemp and marijuana for extraction.

The source of CBD determines the chemical profile of the end product and has a profound impact on its legality.

Hemp-derived CBD oils have less than 0.3% of THC and thus can’t get the user high. The lack of intoxicating effects makes hemp plants and their derivatives legal on a federal level. You can buy them in all 50 states without a prescription.

Marijuana, on the other hand, comes with significant concentrations of THC — usually upwards of 10% — which is enough to induce intoxication. The federal law still holds THC on the list of controlled substances, making marijuana illegal on a federal level. Individual states can interpret these laws independently; so far, 16 states have fully legalized marijuana, while 48 states have some sort of a medical marijuana program.

As mentioned, there are several ways to extract CBD from hemp.

Let’s start with the golden standard — CO2 extraction.

CO2 Extraction

CO2 behaves like a gas; however, this can be easily changed when you use different pressure levels and temperatures.

CO2 extraction yields optimal results in terms of the product’s potency and preserved phytochemical profile. When the temperature of CO2 gets below -69 F, with pressure levels above 75 PSI, it turns into a supercritical state.

Supercritical CO2 can fill an extraction chamber where the plant material is contained, being just the perfect solvent. It results in a clean product with consistent concentrations of CBD and terpenes throughout the batches.

The carbon dioxide efficiently pulls the desired compounds by breaking up the trichomes in the extraction vessel, leaving away insoluble molecules.

Then the manufacturer uses a separator and splits the extract into individual compounds. Once there, CBD and other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are sent back to the collection container. Meanwhile, CO2 leaves the extraction chamber condensed into a liquid form and transferred to a special storage tank for future operations.

CO2 Extraction Equipment

The CO2 extraction equipment includes multi-chamber machines that use special pumps forcing supercritical CO2 into the extraction vessel where it interacts with the plant and breaks the trichomes, dissolving part of the plant material. These machines are costly; they usually cost around $150,000, which is the main reason why CO2-extracted CBD oils are more expensive than products obtained with other solvents, such as alcohol.

Ethanol Extraction

Ethanol extraction is one of the least expensive methods to extract CBD from hemp. Alcohol is generally considered safe, although purging it from the final product requires caution and precision on the manufacturer’s part; otherwise, it can trigger explosions.

Alcohol extraction requires soaking the hemp plant in ethanol. The liquid will run through the plant matter, stripping it from the valuable compounds along with chlorophyll. Once the solvent has gathered enough cannabinoids and terpenes, the liquid is strained and then heated in a special dish. After evaporation, the extract is suspended in a carrier oil to thin it down and improve its bioavailability.

Just keep in mind that ethanol is highly flammable, and you should never extract CBD this way at home unless you can ensure the necessary safety measures.

Ethanol Extraction Equipment

Ethanol extraction is usually employed by small-scale manufacturers because it doesn’t involve such heavy financial investments as CO2 extraction. Ethanol extraction equipment involves a professional decarboxylator, large storage tanks where the plant matter can soak in alcohol, industrial strainers, a gentle heating machine, and storage containers that will contain the extracts before they are infused into the carrier oil and bottled up.

Let’s compare the efficacy and safety of both extraction methods.

CO2 vs. Ethanol Extraction

Ethanol is called a “polar” solvent, and as such, it will be more hydrotropic, meaning it will attach to more water-soluble compounds like chlorophyll. Consequently, the final product is generally less potent and pure — requiring more post-labor than CO2 extraction.

People advocating for ethanol extraction usually argue that these downsides can be avoided using very cold temperatures below -5F. While this is true, the process becomes more time-consuming and less efficient if the manufacturer wants to scale up its operations.

Properly performed CO2 extraction can still maintain many of the plant’s phytonutrients, not to mention that it can continuously yield potent products.

Other Ways to Extract CBD

The idea behind CBD extraction is to pull the desired phytochemicals from the plant matter and transform it into a viscous liquid full of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Although CO2 and ethanol are the most popular solvents, they aren’t the only ones. As mentioned, there are several ways to capture these valuable compounds, including:

  • Dry Ice Extraction
  • Hydrocarbon Extraction
  • Vegetable Oil Extraction

Dry Ice Extraction

The dry ice method is one of the best ways to extract CBD at home. However, it requires more time than CO2 extraction or organic solvent extraction.

The dry ice strips CBD and other phytonutrients from the plant material. It’s a relatively inexpensive method of making high-quality CBD hash without using aggressive solvents.

Solventless extraction always produces cleaner extracts than solvent-based methods — not to mention that using dry ice brings a lot of fun to home extraction

How to Extract CBD Using Dry Ice
  • 3 lbs of dry ice
  • A large mirror or plexiglass sheet
  • Heat-resistant gloves
  • I goggles
  • A putty knife
  • A clean 5-gallon bucket
  • 3 bags of bubble hash mesh (73, 160, and 220 microns)
  • 3 large jars with lids
Dry Ice Extraction (Step-by-Step)

Put on the gloves and goggles. Next, grind your CBD buds into smaller pieces and place them in the bucket.

Cover the CBD buds with dry ice, leaving them there for 3 minutes. Make sure you only fill the bucket halfway. Doing so will freeze the resin so the trichomes can be separated from the plant material and transferred to the special mesh bags.

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Fold each bag over the bucket with your CBD and dry ice, and shake it several times to cause the trichomes to fall off from the plant.

Turn the container upside down on the mirror and continue shaking to collect as much of the resin as possible. Once you’ve gathered the hash of the mirror, you can place it in one of the jars.

Do the same with the remaining bags and be proud of your homemade dry-ice CBD hash.

Hydrocarbon Extraction

Hydrocarbon compounds include substances like propane, butane, and hexane. These solvents are relatively inexpensive, but they’re difficult to purge from the end product and thus can leave toxic residue at the bottom of the extract.

Hydrocarbon extraction requires soaking the hemp plant in the solvent. The liquid runs through the biomass, pulling the cannabinoids and terpenes from the flower along with water-soluble compounds such as chlorophyll.

Once the solvent has extracted enough phytochemicals, it is heated in a special dish to evaporate it and create a thick liquid.

Vegetable Oil Extraction

CBD can be easily extracted at home using vegetable cooking oils. These oils act as solvents, but the whole process follows similar rules as all other extraction methods.

Any common cooking oil can be used for this kind of extraction, including:

  • Butter/ghee
  • Coconut oil
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Argan oil
  • MCT oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Sweet almond oil
  • Olive oil

If you want to extract CBD for homemade edibles, it’s best to go with a product with the highest amount of saturated fats, as they significantly improve the bioavailability of cannabinoids. People typically choose butter and coconut oil for cooking with CBD, while for salves and creams, argan oil and sweet almond oil are the most common choices.

How to Extract CBD with Cooking Oils

Cooking oil extraction is pretty straightforward. First, you need to decarboxylate your dried CBD in the oven. Set up the heat at 250 F and bake the flowers for 30-60 minutes, depending on how dry they are.

Then you combine the decarbed herb with the oil in a saucepan or slow cooker and slowly heat the mixture to gently simmers. Maintain the low heat and keep the CBD infusion for up to 2 hours.

Once done, strain the liquid from the plant matter and place it in a glass jar. You can keep it in a fridge for up to 6 weeks.

Why Is Decarboxylation Important for CBD Extraction?

Most CBD products are decarboxylated, which involves heating the CBD buds to transform the acidic precursor of CBD into its active version.

If you’ve ever cooked something with cannabis, you should know the process very well.

Decarboxylation, also known as decarbing, removes an extra carboxyl group from CBDA (the acid form of CBD), allowing it to interact with the endocannabinoid system immediately.

If you see a CBD product labeled as “raw,” it means it hasn’t been decarboxylated.

Final Thoughts: What’s the Best Way to Extract CBD?

Knowing how CBD is extracted allows you to evaluate the efficacy of different products based on the solvents used in the process.

People have been extracting cannabinoids from cannabis plants for hundreds, if not thousands of years, to use them for therapeutic purposes. Thanks to the current scientific breakthroughs, we can enjoy a wide range of cannabinoid-based extracts with a lot to offer in terms of their therapeutic properties.

Some extraction methods are superior to others when it comes to broad-scale manufacturing. CO2 extraction is currently the golden standard because it yields the purest products without bringing water-soluble compounds such as chlorophyll.

It does, however, require higher costs when it comes to equipment and lab workers, which is why some manufacturers turn to ethanol as their go-to solvent.

If you want to perform CBD extraction at home, you can either go with a solvent-based method — using cooking oils — or take a solventless approach and use dry ice to capture the desired compounds into DIY CBD hash.

Nina Julia

Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.

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

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.

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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

Solvent extraction

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.

Decarboxylation

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.

Winterization

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.

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