CBD Extraction 101: Popular Methods Explained
Not all CBD is created equal. The quality of a CBD product starts at the seed, moves to the way a hemp plant is grown and finishes with the method of extraction. Finding a high-quality CBD product that you can rely on will leave you with a few things to factor in, one of them being the method of extraction used for your CBD product.
The growing popularity of CBD is ever on the rise as its potential benefits become more mainstream. CBD is produced and made into a variety of products like edibles, topicals, and oils – each offering a different form of potential relief.
Knowing where your product came from and how it was manufactured will give you a better idea of what CBD products will actually work for you. Quality, purity and potency all can depend on the method of extraction. So let’s break down what you should be looking for:
What Is CBD Extract?
First, let’s define what a CBD extract actually is. CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is one of many natural compounds found in hemp and cannabis sativa plants. CBD extract refers to the process and form that comes from extracting the sought after cannabinoids from the plant. With consideration to the extraction process, we also have to consider the different spectrums of CBD that can result: broad-spectrum, full-spectrum and isolate. A CBD extract, in simple terms, is what is extracted from hemp and cannabis sativa plants, to then be manufactured into consumable or appliable products.
Why Must We Extract?
Extraction is necessary to make usable CBD products. When CBD is extracted from hemp and cannabis plants it is in the form of a concentration, which is effective for human use. This concentrated extract is only useful because of the decarboxylate process (application of heat). When ingesting cannabinoids through a capsule, edible or oil, the decarboxylation is needed for our bodies to absorb the active ingredients. On the other hand, dried cannabis and hemp can partially decarboxylate, and if smoked (aka, heated) the cannabinoids get fully decarboxylated.
Three Common Methods Of Extraction
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extraction – Today, CO2 extraction has become the most popular, efficient and reliable method of extraction for CBD companies. CO2 extraction uses supercritical CO2 to separate the CBD from the plant materials. Supercritical CO2 refers to carbon dioxide that is between a gas and a liquid state. This extraction method includes multiple pressurized chambers that funnel and pump the CO2, exposing it very high pressure and low temperatures which results in an extracted oil high in CBD. During this process, CO2 is pumped from the first chamber to the second, which contains the hemp plant that is then exposed to the supercritical CO2. This exposure breaks down the hemp plant material, causing the oil to separate. From there, the CO2 and oil are funneled together into a third chamber. The gas form then evaporates, leaving behind an extract of pure CBD oil that can be manufactured into a variety of products. This method of extraction can consistently produce high-concentration CBD with no toxic residue leftover.
- Steam Distillation – Steam distillation is a tried and true method of CBD extraction. This method entails a ‘plant material’ distillation tank with an inlet and outlet. The distillation tank is connected to a separate tank containing water through the inlet, which is situated below the distillation tank. The outlet of the distillation tank connects to a condensing tube which deposits into a collecting flask. For this process, water is heated to a boil in the first tank. The steam then travels upward to the plant material tank, separating the oil vapors containing CBD. These vapors are captured in the condensing tube that turns them to oil and water. These liquids are then collected to be distilled, separating the CBD oil from the water. Steam distillation is reliable, but can be less effective for extracting specific CBD concentrations and requires the use of more plant material per extraction.
- Solvent Extraction – With a solvent extraction, the methodology is similar to that of steam distillation, but instead a solvent is used rather than water. Solvent extraction can be more efficient that steam distillation, but does come with some risks. A solvent extraction includes the use of butane, alcohol, propane or compound more natural like olive oil or ethanol to extract the CBD. Plant materials are combined or soaked with a solvent, stripping the cannabinoids. Next is the evaporation process, where the solvent used evaporates and leaves behind a concentration of cannabinoids in oil form. Besides the use of potentially dangerous and flammable solvents during the process effecting its popularity, the residue of solvents may not be fully evaporated in the final step, leaving potentials toxins behind in your CBD.
Which Extraction Method is Best?
While each extraction method will have its pros and cons, the one that overwhelmingly presents less cons is the CO2 extraction method. Though it can be more costly for CBD companies, it creates the most reliable and concentrated form of CBD. With no toxic residues, high concentrations and the overall safety of the extraction method, CO2 extraction is the preferred method.
Recently, companies like Tribe CBD have even turned to a more natural extraction method, through lipid extraction. This method uses a natural oil, like MCT oil, and a highly pressurized environment to extract CBD from plant material. For more information on Tribe’s unique methods, check here.
The news and editorial staffs of the Bay Area News Group had no role in this post’s preparation.
CO2 Extraction for CBD Oil: What It Is and How it Works
One of the most important considerations one must make when searching for a quality CBD brand is the method of extraction the brand uses to make its products. For CBD users that don’t want to run the risk of ingesting solvent residue and other chemicals, purchasing from brands that use CO2 extraction is ideal. This process is entirely solventless and results in pure, high-quality CBD products that work.
What Is CO2 Extraction?
CO2 extraction uses pressurized carbon dioxide to “pull” naturally occurring phytocompounds (including cannabinoids and terpenes) from raw hemp plant material. In the end, CBD oils made using CO2 extraction have a healthy-looking amber color to them – verifying a full spectrum of beneficial hemp compounds.
Manufacturers use carbon dioxide because it is a versatile, tunable substance. It acts as a solvent at a specific temperature and pressure range, but it doesn’t have the dangers associated with other chemical solvents like butane and hexane. As a result, consumers benefit from premium-quality, clean oils with no toxic by-products.
Few people know that CO2 is a common supplementary ingredient in foods and beverages. For example, if you drink soda or sparkling water, it is the presence of carbon dioxide (CO2) that gives the drink its fizz.
Explaining CO2 Supercritical Extraction
Although there are other methods, supercritical CO2 extraction is widely regarded as the industry’s gold standard for making top-quality CBD products. The term supercritical refers to the way in which carbon dioxide acts as a gas at standard temperatures and pressures, but acts as a liquid at high temperatures and pressures.
CO2’s Supercritical Region
Here is a quick step-by-step guide to supercritical CO2 extraction:
- The extractor takes CO2 in its gaseous form and runs it through a sealed chamber. At this stage, the CO2 is subject to heightened pressure and temperatures as low as -70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The gas changes into a liquid.
- Once reheated and pressurized, CO2 showcases its unique properties. A supercritical fluid has properties between a gas and a liquid. For example, it maintains the density of a liquid while filling space like a gas.
- The special fluid moves through a chamber that contains raw hemp material.
- The fluid then passes through the raw material and dissolves the trichomes’ membranes. As a result, the process captures a significant proportion of the active compounds.
A supercritical system produces a thick substance with a consistency akin to that of peanut butter. This is because the higher temperatures and pressures extract larger molecules, including waxes, chlorophyll, and omega-3 and 6 lipids. However, the process of winterization removes these substances, leaving behind the cannabinoid oil only.
Some companies also use subcritical CO2 extraction. This isn’t as common a method as supercritical, mainly because it takes more time, is more expensive, and produces less material. Subcritical is a similar process to supercritical, except it relies on lower pressures and lower temperatures. Subcritical extraction produces a material with a consistency similar to molasses.
Benefits of CO2 Extraction
One of the primary benefits of making hemp extract using CO2 extraction is its status as a ‘green solvent.’ For CBD products, the use of carbon dioxide provides a cleaner, healthier product. Unlike solvents such as butane and hexane, CO2 extraction contains no solvents or chemical residues. It is also recyclable and better in the long run for the planet.
The Entourage Effect
That being said, perhaps the biggest benefit of CO2 extraction is its capacity to extract dozens of cannabinoids and terpenes. The hemp plant has over 100 identified cannabinoids, as well as hundreds of terpenes, flavonoids, and beneficial omega acids. When all of these different phytocompounds are combined in a single product together, experts believe the range of benefits is amplified compared to products that contain CBD isolate only.
This phenomenon is known as the entourage effect. While high-quality CBD isolate certainly has its uses, full-spectrum products are generally believed to be more effective for a range of uses.
For example, cannabinoids such as cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG) are not as abundant as CBD, but they potentially have health benefits of their own. Then there is the small matter of terpenes. For example, alpha-pinene and myrcene are thought to promote relaxation. When compounds like these are filtered off and excluded from CBD oil, users are missing out on a range of potential benefits.
Where to Find CO2 Extracted CBD Products
Luckily for consumers, CO2 extracted CBD oils and other products are easy to find. At Premium Jane, our entire CBD range is crafted using this method. While it may be expensive, it’s essential for us to maintain industry-leading standards so that our customers can source safe, effective, versatile hemp extract.
The complete Premium Jane range incorporates a variety of CBD tinctures, gummies, topicals, and even hygiene products such as CBD bath bombs. In this way, customers are not restricted to traditional products.
Additionally, consumers can view our Certificates of Analysis (COAs) to see that our entire product line is free from toxins and harmful solvent-based ingredients. In addition to verifying cannabinoid content, COAs are crucial for ensuring the absence of microbes, pesticides, and heavy metals. All lab reports are published in full on our official site.
Final Thoughts on CO2 Extraction
CBD products made using quality CO2 extraction techniques typically contain a full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes; meaning amplified health benefits for the user. Also, CO2 extraction methods typically result in an end product that is cleaner, safer, and more environmentally conscious than solvent-based counterparts.
To browse some of the best-rated, highest quality CO2-extracted products online, be sure to shop the official Premium Jane online store and place your order today.
BHO vs. CO2 Hemp Extraction: Battle of the Big Two Extraction Methods
Cannabis concentrates are a must-have product offering for brands looking to reach a growing cannabis consumer base. Concentrated cannabis compounds can be used to make a wide range of medical and recreational products such as topical ointments, edibles, capsules, transdermal patches, suppositories, and small-batch extracts. While THC concentrate products currently dominate the adult-use market, hemp-derived CBD concentrates are tapping into the trending and lucrative health and wellness segment.
Manufacturers looking for a scalable hemp extraction solution must consider their input material, estimated throughput, equipment capacity, state regulations, and product type in order to compete in the highly-competitive “green rush.” Solvent-based extraction is the most viable and efficient method for commercial purposes. The question is: what is the best solvent for hemp/CBD extraction? The two most popular solvents are light hydrocarbons (butane and propane) and carbon dioxide (CO2). Let’s take a look at how they both compare in terms of hemp extraction for CBD.
CO2 Hemp Extraction
CO2 extraction, also known as supercritical CO2 extraction, is an increasingly popular method used to extract cannabis compounds from raw cannabis material or trim. The extraction process is also used in pharmacology, cosmetology, and other relevant industries. Closed-loop CO2 equipment uses the naturally-occurring, odorless, and colorless CO2 compound that is capable of dissolving cannabis resin from the plant. Using critical temperatures and pressures, the CO2 compound converts into a supercritical state and adopts gas and liquid-like characteristics.
This supercritical CO2 solvent acts as a gas by filling in every nook and cranny of an extraction tube. CO2 also retains a liquid-like density that is powerful enough to wash away cannabinoids and terpene compounds. The supercritical CO2 fluid can be passed over the raw material to strip away the valuable resinous trichomes. The compound is “tunable” so that the waxes and lipids aren’t separated with cannabis oil. Unfortunately, the high temperatures and pressures used with this method can degrade many terpenes, thereby, significantly altering a cultivar’s unique chemical profile.
This type of extraction method is often favored by some for its general affordability, non-toxicity, and eco-friendliness. Despite these selling points, CO2 extraction requires time-intensive post-processing like winterization and fractional distillation to create a pure product compared to butane hash oil (BHO) equipment that completely eliminates the risk of leaving behind residuals solvents in the finished product in a shorter amount of time than CO2 extraction. For many manufacturers, the high startup CO2 extraction equipment cost can be a dealbreaker. In fact, Hydrocarbon or BHO hemp extraction is losing some of its long-held stigmas and quickly cementing its status as a superior and more versatile extraction method than CO2 hemp extraction.
BHO Hemp Extraction
Hydrocarbon extraction uses hydrocarbons such as butane or propane to dissolve hemp’s trichomes. This method is one of the most frequently used and effective extraction methods, and not just for hemp or cannabis. BHO extractions use engineering peer-reviewed equipment in a Class 1, Division 1 environment that meets the most rigorous standards from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and The American Petroleum Institute.
The hydrocarbon extraction process involves placing the hemp material into a pressure vessel. Butane or propane are introduced to the vessel to extract the cannabis oils in a quick and efficient manner. The cannabinoid-rich solution is then moved to another vessel where butane and propane are separated from the oil. After the butane has been recovered back to the supply tanks, a final purge can leave behind a pure and potent product. Unique refinement techniques can produce a wide range of textures such as vape pen oil, live resin, and shatter.
BHO Creates Full-Spectrum Products
BHO is a solid choice for industrial hemp extraction. One of the most exciting and innovative features afforded by BHO extraction is the ability to reap a larger concentration of terpenes and other minor compounds. CO2 extraction methods can be efficient at crafting an odorless and tasteless cannabis distillate, but so can BHO. In addition, BHO extraction enables manufacturers to produce high-cannabinoid and high-terpene full-spectrum extracts.
Consumers are increasingly searching for products that capture the essence and complete chemical lineup of a strain. As they become more educated about cannabis and hemp, their product search goes beyond CBD into minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoid territory. For example, products such as vape cartridges or sublingual tinctures often preserve the strain’s original terpenes to provide users with a synergistic and flavorful experience. This allows consumers to feel the full effects of a specific strain.
A Versatile Hemp Extraction Process
BHO can create a wide range of cannabis concentrates including shatter, wax, crude oil, hash, crumble, live resin, terp sauce, and more. Consumers that are looking for distillates or cannabinoid isolates can find premium BHO-extracted concentrates. Cannabis connoisseurs looking for a robust flavor profile can also find their desired product with BHO-extracted terp sauce comprised of crystallized cannabinoids and syrupy terpenes.
Cost-Effective and Safe
CO2 extraction is a generally safe and effective solvent, but so is hydrocarbon-based extraction (despite industry fear-mongering). As the cannabis extraction sector has become more regulated, building and equipment guidelines ensure the new technology keeps employees and consumers safe. State-of-the-art extraction systems like Luna Technologies’ IO Extractor is capable of meeting the demands of a high-volume and high-throughput brand. More importantly, the equipment offers manufacturers the automation needed to scale on a consistent basis. In terms of cost, closed-loop BHO extraction equipment delivers more value in the long run with a clean and strong cannabis concentrate.
CO2 is a worthy alternative to other popular solvents, but BHO ends up winning in the end as one of the most versatile, efficient, and safe solvent options available. Closed-loop BHO extraction equipment has improved exponentially over the years in terms of safety and throughput capacity. Modern BHO equipment is outfitted with automated ventilation, cooling, and higher yields.
If you’re ready to take your manufacturing capabilities to the next level, reach out to Luna Technologies to find the right BHO solutions for your hemp extraction needs.