Which CBD oil extraction method is the best?
Extract the full spectrum of CBD
When prioritising the best CBD products, it’s important that each step of the process is carried out with care and precision. You can grow high-quality hemp, with a large percentage of cannabidiol (CBD), but all of that goes to waste without the proper extraction techniques. So, that raises the question: which method is best?
At Vitality CBD we often discuss the importance of choosing a quality CBD oils, and how premium extraction techniques contribute to a better product. To truly understand why high-end extraction methods matter, let’s first explore how CBD is synthesised.
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of over a hundred different cannabinoids found in plants from the Cannabis family. The most famous of these cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the one that induces the “stoned” effects typically associated with recreational Cannabis use. On the other hand, studies have repeatedly shown that CBD does not get you high.
Currently we know that when introduced to your body, CBD interacts with your pre-existing endocannabinoid system. Understanding that the human body already generates cannabinoids that bear a great similarity to CBD in structure and function is step one in understanding why CBD oil is proving so popular.
Cannabidiol is actually synthesised in the trichomes of the female hemp plant, alongside the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. The need to create CBD oils that retain CBD and other cannabinoids whilst removing the THC is part of why extraction techniques are so important.
How do you extract CBD?
When we extract the best CBD, the end goal is to harvest it in a concentrated form so that it can then be mixed into CDD e-liquids, CBD oils and CBD topicals. That’s why we use a strain of hemp called Cannabis sativa L., renowned for its high CBD levels.
As we’ve mentioned, CBD is actually a constituent in a vast sea of hemp compounds, so extraction isn’t as easy as it first may seem. However, all of these techniques were first developed for other purposes, like extracting essential oils from flowers.
At Vitality CBD we use two different techniques specifically (typically in conjunction) but we’ll discuss all the options available, and how they affect the end result. As always, if you have any further questions drop us an email on our contact page.
CO2 extractions of cannabidiol
The most expensive and most popular CBD extraction method (particularly amongst manufacturers offering a premium product) involves using CO2. This is because it provides a clean, precise extraction that massively reduces the contamination potential of other methods.
The applications of CO2 extractions stem far beyond just hemp products. CO2 extractions are used to decaffeinate coffee beans, to extract the nicotine from loose-leaf tobacco, and to precisely extract spices and flavours.
CO2 extractions can be split into supercritical and subcritical categories (there’s also ‘mid-critical’, a halfway point between the two), but supercritical is the most common, and the one we use at Vitality CBD for all of our CBD products. We’ll breakdown the differences between each below.
The shared methodology between the two essentially entails running pressurised carbon dioxide across the hemp plant to strip away the desired phytochemicals (literally: plant chemicals). When treated to certain conditions, CO2 actually acts like a solvent, without any of the potential side-effects.
Supercritical CBD extraction
Starting with the liquid form of CO2, a supercritical method involves increasing the temperature and pressure of the CO2 until it becomes ‘supercritical’. This means that the CO2 has properties of both gas and liquid: it is able to fill a container like a gas, whilst also having the density of a liquid.
In this supercritical state, CO2 acts as a solvent when applied to the hemp plant without denaturing any of the compounds. The need to maintain the right pressure and temperature explains why CO2 extractions use expensive equipment, resulting in the best CBD.
Once the supercritical CO2 has been passed through the hemp extract, the resultant solution is passed into a separator to be (you guessed it) separated. The CO2 is stored to be used again, whilst the desired hemp compounds are removed and taken to the next step in the process.
Subcritical CBD extraction
The immediate distinction with a subcritical hemp extraction is the lower temperature and lower pressure. As a result, the process takes longer, but it also further reduces the chances of denaturing the more delicate compounds, like terpenes.
Whilst the yield is smaller than with supercritical, it also allows for lighter oils and other sensitive compounds that might otherwise be dismantled in the process to be extracted. However, the trade off is that heavier, more resinous material will typically get left behind.
Solvent CBD extractions
Probably the cheapest and easiest of all the methods available (you could easily do it at home without buying any specialist equipment. not that we recommend this), solvent extractions are also generally considered to be the most likely to cause issues with the end product.
A solvent extraction involves running the solvent in question—typically either butane or ethanol—to the hemp plant matter. This strips the cannabinoids into the liquid, which is then evaporated so as to leave behind a concentrated oily residue with the hemp compounds in.
The main problem is that the solvent not only removes the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, but also inadvertently extracts chlorophyll. This occasionally leads to unwanted side effects, and will cause the taste to become much more bitter.
Likewise, the compounds that the solvent does remove can either be denatured, or just degraded entirely during the extraction process. As such, whilst it’s the cheapest and easiest method to do on a mass scale, there’s a reason why many companies are phasing it out. When you buy CBD with us, you can be confident it’s not been treated this way.
Olive oil CBD extraction
An olive oil extraction is most commonly done by home brew enthusiasts looking to create their own CBD oils. Though near any oil can be used in this process, olive oil is preferred due to its masking flavour and versatility.
The first step is to either grind the hemp very finely, or to decarboxylate it, a complex word which here means: heat it at a certain temperature. Through this process, several of the cannabinoids have their chemical make-up converted, making some more potent and others easier to extract.
After the initial heating, you then heat the hemp matter further in the olive oil, a process by which the compounds are extracted to the oil. Whilst this is perfect for home users, it results in a low yield and a highly perishable product that isn’t practical on a mass scale.
Dry ice CBD extraction
Whilst the name alone suggests high-tech scientific experimentation, this is another method that can be performed at home (assuming you have access to dry ice). It also benefits from the lack of denaturing solvents, resulting in a cleaner and purer end product.
The process involves flash-freezing the loosely chopped hemp extract, and then sieving the frozen trichomes through a mesh bag. These in turn can then be used as the basis for your cannabidiol oil—it’s really that simple.
Since this is a relatively haphazard and difficult to measure method, the quality is not always ensured depending on how well the hemp is frozen and how vigorously it is sieved. However, if you can get safe access to dry-ice this is a clean alternative to solvents for creating your own CBD oil.
Which CBD extraction method is best?
At Vitality CBD, we would recommend either of the two mentioned CO2 extraction techniques, depending on what compounds you want to prioritise extracting. All of the others have their uses, of course, but CO2 is the best all-rounder.
For an example of utilising the right method for the right situation, whilst we predominantly use CO2 extractions, when creating our whole plant e-liquid we will simultaneously use solvents. The reason? Certain waxes and oils are too stubborn to be removed with a CO2 extraction alone, so we use both methods in conjunction.
Learn more about CBD
As mentioned earlier, grasping why a clean and accurate extraction is important is premised on understanding just what is being extracted. Read on here for our piece on whole plant CBD, and our supporting articles on terpenes and flavonoids.
If you’ve got any further questions about CBD extraction techniques, or some information you’d like to share with us, our experienced team are always on hand to field any questions. You can reach our friendly team via our contact page, or alternative you can go check out our full CBD range here!
Extract the full spectrum of CBD When prioritising the best CBD products, it’s important that each step of the process is carried out with care and precision. You can grow high-quality hemp, with a large percentage of cannabidiol (CBD), but all of that goes to waste without the proper extraction techniques. So, that ra
What Is The Best Way To Extract CBD From Hemp?
Keep reading to find out how to extract CBD, and which method produces the highest-quality CBD oil. While they all harness the power of CBD, they don’t all achieve the same degree of purity.
Why does CBD extraction matter?
To produce CBD oils, cosmetics or supplements, you must first extract the cannabinoid from raw plant material. Fortunately, the most abundant source of CBD is hemp, a selectively bred crop used extensively in dozens of commercial industries.
Although there are many ways to extract CBD from hemp, some methods are much more efficient and safer than others. It’s essential to know the difference, since how you extract CBD affects the purity and efficacy of the final product.
What are the options for extracting CBD?
Below, you will find a breakdown of some of the most common extraction techniques used, including their main pros and cons.
Solventless CBD extraction (by hand)
How does one make CBD extracts without using a solvent? Simply enough, you just have to apply heat, pressure, or a bit of friction to hemp flowers and leaves. How do you do that, you wonder? Well, if you freeze hemp flowers, you can shake the small trichomes loose and gather them together. These trichomes, as you might know, contain the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes found in the hemp plant.
Pros of solventless extraction
• No additional equipment needed
• Makes use of the whole hemp plant
• Cheapest method of extraction
Cons of solventless extraction
• Yields are low and impractical
• No way of controlling purity, with minimal levels of CBD
• CBD extract contains plant material and unwanted cannabinoids
Olive oil CBD extraction
First, to perform olive oil extraction at home, you need to make sure your plant material is decarboxylated. In short, that means it undergoes the process of acidic cannabinoids being activated via heat. That, of course, happens when you smoke or vape it, but it can also happen if you put it in the oven.
Once decarboxylated, mix your plant matter with olive oil and heat it on the stove for several hours. CBD, other cannabinoids and essential terpenes will bind to the fats in the oil, creating an infused product. Finally, the mixture is left to cool before being filtered to remove any leftover plant material.
Pros of olive oil extraction
• Can be performed easily at home
• Relatively safe, with no previous extraction experience needed
• Greater degree of purity compared to solventless extraction
Cons of olive oil extraction
• Little control over the final extract
• Weak and unreliable CBD content compared to more professional methods
• Not suitable for commercial sale
Basic solvent CBD extraction
Solvent extraction is a rudimentary and risky practice, but it has fans. Essentially, it involves running a liquid solvent through decarboxylated hemp to remove cannabinoids and terpenes. The usual solvents include butane, ethanol, and hexane, so you need to safely evaporate any residual solvent post-extraction to ensure usable CBD extract.
Pros of solvent extraction
• Cheap and requires relatively small amounts of equipment
• Solvent CBD extracts have a respectable degree of purity
• Easy to scale for commercial production
Cons of solvent extraction
• Working with solvents can cause injury if not used correctly, they are highly flammable
• The oil can remain contaminated with solvent, which is dangerous for the end-user
• Higher temperatures risk destroying some essential terpenes and other smaller compounds
Supercritical CO₂ CBD extraction
In this method, CO₂ is manipulated to enter a supercritical state. With characteristics of both a gas and a liquid, it’s pumped through raw plant material under controlled conditions, stripping away essential terpenes and cannabinoids without damaging them.
Pros of supercritical CO₂ extraction
• Allows for the extraction of clean and safe concentrates without the use of additional additives or contaminants.
• Offers highly efficient yields, getting the most out of the hemp plant.
• CO₂ extraction is sustainable and environmentally friendly
Cons of supercritical CO₂ extraction
• Co₂ extraction is an industrial process, making it highly expensive
• Requires expertise to perform correctly
Which CBD extraction method is the best?
CO₂ extraction has significant advantages over other methods of producing CBD oil. First, you can pump supercritical CO₂ through hemp in such a way that it selectively picks up the cannabinoids and other compounds, leaving everything else behind.
Second, since it uses CO₂, it produces CBD oils free from chemicals and contaminants. And, when the extraction process is over, you can either reuse the CO₂ or release it safely back into the atmosphere. Thanks to this outstanding level of control, supercritical CO₂ has become a leading tool extraction and one that Cibdol uses to create all of its CBD extracts.
However, highly sophisticated extraction is only the beginning. Cibdol goes above and beyond for its customers, publishing a detailed analysis of every CBD product batch. Performed by an independent third-party, these analyses indicate levels of all common cannabinoids, allowing you to make the most informed decision possible.
You can browse the complete selection of our third-party tested CBD products from the Cibdol store, including CBD oils, cosmetics, supplements and isolates. Or, discover more about independent testing and what its means using our beginner-friendly CBD Encyclopedia.
If you want to learn more about extracting CBD, including which methods produces the highest-quality CBD oils, and which methods you should avoid.