Extraction Processes for CBD (Cannabidiol)

CBD Extraction

The various main CBD extraction processes with pros and cons of each one...

As CBD (cannabidiol) is a chemical compound contained within the cannabis plant and it needs to extracted and separated from non-CBD based compounds within the same plant such as THC. There are three main methods of extracting cannabidiol and each one has pros and cons. It important to understand the various extraction methods as they can affect the quality and performance of the cannabidiol as well as have an impact of your health. Cannabidiol products made with some neurotoxic solvents like butane and hexane may leave undesirable, (and unsafe), residues that that negatively impact immune function and can interfere with healing. To help you understand the different processes involved the plant extraction of CBD we have outlined the specific extraction processes below.

CBD Oil Extraction Process

The ‘CBD oil extraction’ process is possibly the most common used to extract CBD by individuals at home as it's an easy process to set up and perform. Olive oil is the main type of oil used in this process.

Oil extraction is not a commercial viable…

Extracting CBD using the oil extraction process is not usually performed by commercial CBD suppliers as it does have some drawbacks in regards to the overburden of oil, as the oil cannot be evaporated down the CBD is spread over a larger quantity of product, plus using the oil extraction method means that the end CBD product has a limited shelf life due to the high perishability of olive oil.

Oil extraction methodology…

First, raw plant material must be decarboxylated - essentially that means heating the plant at a specific temperature for a certain length of time to activate the chemicals within the plant.

Recommended CBD Decarb Time/Temp: 1 hour at 120° C. or 0.5 hour at 140° C

You then add the plant material to olive oil and heated to 100°C for 1-2 hours to extract the cannabinoids. Once this has been done you then have oil (usually olive oil) with CBD content.

Oil extraction pros and cons…

Pros: Safe and inexpensive
Cons: Highly perishable

CBD Supercritical CO2 Extraction Process

The supercritical CO2 extraction process is the leading purest and safest way to extract CBD from the plant as it produces the purest cannabidiol, supercritical CO2 extraction is already a standard extraction method for the food and herbal supplement industries.

Supercritical CO2 extraction is mainly a commercial process…

Supercritical CO2 extraction is normally the main method used by commercial CBD manufacturers to extract cannabidiol from the plant, the machinery used, namely a ‘closed-loop extractor’. This machine has three chambers: the first chamber holds solid, pressurised C02 (commonly known as ‘dry ice’), the second chamber contains dry plant material and the third chamber separates the finished product. These machines are too expensive for ordinary folks which is why the CO2 extraction process is normally done by larger commercial manufacturers.

Supercritical CO2 extraction methodology…

During the supercritical CBD extraction, the solid C02 that has been placed in the first chamber is pumped into the second chamber that holds the plant material. This second chamber is kept at a specific pressure and temperature that turns the CO2 into a liquid which goes through the plant material extracting the chemicals. Then, the C02-cannabinoid mixture is pumped into a third chamber where it is kept at an even lower pressure and higher temperature so that the C02 gas rises to the top of the chamber while the oils containing the chemicals from the plant material fall to the bottom to be collected. This is the CBD product.

Supercritical CO2 extraction pros and cons…

Pros: Purity of the cannabinoids, safe, potent, free of chlorophyll, minimal risk of contaminants.
Cons: Expensive equipment, steep operational learning curve.

CBD Liquid Extraction Process

By a long way the CBD liquid extraction process is the cheapest option for extracting cannabidiol from the plant - but it also can be one of the more impure and unsafe extraction processes to go with.

The main liquid’s used in extracting cannabidiol through liquid extraction are:

Butane - stronger terpenes, more flavour but the butane method is more likely to contain residual solvents and may cause irritation to the lungs and is very combustible.
Ethanol - most effective although ethanol also extracts chlorophyll which can cause some unpleasant side effects

Liquid extraction methodology…

Liquid extraction of CBD from the plant is a fairly straight forward process. Add the liquid, (usually butane, hexane, or ethanol), to the plant material, the liquids used for extraction will strip the plant material of the cannabinoids and flavour, (there may be some colour). Once you are satisfied the plant has been stripped and all the cannabinoids are now in liquid form you then heat the liquid to evaporate down to the base oil which should be rich in CBD.

Liquid extraction pros and cons...

Pros: High grade grain alcohol can be used to create high quality cannabis oil appropriate for vape pen cartridges and other products.
Cons: This extraction method may destroy plant waxes, may contain chlorophyll, may leave unsafe residues.