In recent years, cannabidiol (CBD), the cannabis compound known for its non-psychoactive health benefits, has been seeing increased use as a medical treatment and health supplement. This chemical compound from the cannabis plant is considered a suitable therapeutic agent because it is non-toxic, and has a wide range of therapeutic properties. According to an article published in Medical News Today, CBD can help relieve pain and inflammation, reduce anxiety, and control symptoms of epilepsy. Studies have indicated that CBD can also help with type 1 diabetes, cancer, and addiction.
The health effects of CBD depend on the cannabis strain it was derived from, along with the extraction method that was used. The extraction method has a significant influence on the quality of a CBD product. It determines the purity of the CBD extract, and has an effect on the amount of the other beneficial compounds in the final product.
To better understand how CBD is extracted, it is important to know that CBD can be found in almost every type of cannabis plant, including:
- Industrial hemp plants that contain no THC, and thus, have no psychoactive effects
- Cannabis plants containing THC, the psychoactive chemical that makes users feel “high”
- Varieties of cannabis plants specifically bred to contain high-CBD/low-THC components
The first step in extracting CBD-rich cannabis oil is starting with CBD-rich plant material. There are a number of ways to extract oil from the cannabis plant, and each method has its own set of pros and cons. Some methods are safer and more effective than others (typically the more complex, expensive methods), whereas less expensive methods are less effective. For example, some cannabis oil extracted from liquid solvents contain neurotoxic solvents such as butane and hexane. These neurotoxins may leave unsafe residues behind. This can compromise immune function and impede healing.
The most common methods of extraction use some type of solvent. This can be a liquid solvent, CO2, or an oil solvent. If the plant material used contains both THC and CBD, the process to separate CBD from other cannabinoids is more complex, and generally requires professional equipment.
Before getting into the depths of common CBD extraction methods, let us first understand cannabis strains from which CBD is extracted.
Understanding Cannabis Strains
CBD is the second-most abundant cannabinoid found in cannabis, and can be derived from marijuana or hemp. Currently, many CBD manufacturers use ingredients from hemp plants that are specially cultivated to produce high levels of CBD. Examples of cannabis strains with high CBD content include Charlotte’s Web, Harlequin, Cannatonic, Zen, Valentine X and sour Tsunami. Cannabis strains have to be processed with suitable extraction methods in order to produce the best results.
There are many factors that affect cannabis strain genetics. Here is a brief overview of cannabis strain genetics history to better comprehend the different extraction processes: During the 70s and 80s (when the federal anti-cannabis stance was very firm), cannabis cultivation moved from outside to indoors, sparking a drastic change in the way cannabis was cultivated. This change in habitat paved the way for a number of genetic changes in cannabis plants due to variables including soil type, the amount of light on the plant, time of harvest, and effects of hybridization (the concept of mixing old energies and elements with new energies and elements).
Around the same time, when indoor cultivation became common, hybridization of the popular Indica and Sativa strains of cannabis started as well. This was a defining moment in the evolution of cannabis strain genetics. Growers increasingly experimented with intermixing resin-coated Indica buds with Sativa buds. This hybridization resulted in a near endless variety of genetically different cannabis strains, each possessing their own unique flavor, appearance and effect.
Now that you have a grasp on what produces the best cannabis strains, we will explain the most common methods used for CBD extraction today.
CBD Extraction Methods
To reiterate, as long as a cannabis plant contains CBD, there is a way to extract the cannabinoid. If the plant is a high-CBD strain, the extraction process is usually simple and requires minimal equipment. Things get more complicated if there are significant amounts of other cannabinoids in the plant. Complex processes and professional equipment may be required to separate CBD from those cannabinoids.
Below are three of the most common methods for extracting CBD:
This is the most simple method for extracting CBD. To begin the liquid solvent process, cannabis plant materials, such as flowers and trim, are placed in a container. Then, a liquid solvent, such as ethanol, hexane, butane or isopropyl alcohol, is ran through the materials. During this process, cannabinoids and flavors will be transferred from the materials to the liquid. The liquid is then evaporated to form an oil extract that contains concentrated CBD.
The liquid solvent method is widely used because it is the most simple, least expensive, and requires the least amount of equipment. Although this method is popular, it isn’t perfect. The main concern with using liquid solvents is that the solvent may leave impurities in the CBD extract. These impurities can be minimized with the use of the right solvent, along with meticulous processing methods. Another disadvantage of this method is that particular solvents may extract chlorophyll from the plant materials, giving the final product a greener color and more bitter taste.
Oil extraction is a practice that dates back to ancient times. It is still being implemented today, and is popular for people who want to make their own CBD at home. The oil extraction process begins with decarboxylation, which involves applying heat to raw cannabis plant materials. This heat helps activate the chemicals within the cannabis. The materials are then added to an oil and heated to 100 degrees Celsius for one to two hours. The number of heating processes, temperatures and duration can vary depending on the desired quality of the CBD extract.
The oil extraction method is simple, safe and cost-effective, and is a suitable option for individual CBD enthusiasts. However, it is not the preferred method for commercial CBD production. This is because the final product will have a significantly lower concentration of CBD in comparison to products made with other extraction methods. In addition to this, infused oil perishes easily, and must be stored in a dark, cold place for preservation.
Carbon Dioxide Extraction
Carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction is a more complex process in comparison to oil and liquid extraction. Although this process is more complicated, it results in a more pure and higher quality of CBD extract. With CO2 extraction, variables such as temperature and pressure must be obtained at very specific levels. Depending on these variables, CO2 can exist as a solid, liquid, or gas. This is achieved with the use of a device known as a closed-loop extractor. This closed-loop extractor consists of three chambers. The first chamber contains (1) dry ice (CO2 in a solid state), while the second chamber (2) holds cannabis materials. The last chamber (3) of the extractor separates the final product.
Since it uses very specific temperature and pressure levels, Carbon Dioxide Extraction is an effective method for extracting CBD from cannabis plants. This is because it simultaneously lowers CBD content while retaining a higher level of the beneficial compounds. Overall, the CO2 extraction method offers many benefits that other methods do not. Unlike the liquid-solvent method, CO2 extraction does not involve a long evaporation process, and leaves minimal impurities in the CBD extract. Terpenes, are temperature-sensitive compounds that give cannabis its unique smell and flavor. They provide many health benefits similar to CBD. One of the only real disadvantages of using the CO2 extraction method is that it is very expensive. Due to this reason, it is usually only used by commercial CBD manufacturers.
- The health effects of CBD depend largely on the cannabis strain in which it is derived from, and the method used to extract it.
- As long as a cannabis plant contains CBD, there is a way to extract the cannabinoid.
- The Carbon Dioxide Extraction method results in the purest, highest quality CBD extract.
- There are a variety of ways to extract CBD.
Daintri’s focus is on health and wellness. We curate only the best of the best CBD products to help you live your healthiest life. Daintri offers a wide variety of CBD products for all types of consumers including CBD oil, tinctures, edibles, vapes, beauty products, pet products and more. If there are any questions about products, manufacturing processes or extraction methods, please let us know. We are on a mission to help as many people as possible with their health ailments.