Cannabidiol (CBD) is showing much promise in the medical field. However, unlike most manufactured pain relieving and anxiety drugs, CBD is natural. It is extracted from the cannabis plant, which has both hemp and marijuana.
CBD is extracted from hemp since hemp does not have THC’s “high” effect found in marijuana. However, it is not easy to use hemp in plant form, which leads to the extraction of the naturally occurring products in the plant into the oil extracts. The extracted oil is then used to make the popular CBD products we have all come to know like the tinctures, capsule, among others.
But how is the CBD oil extracted from the hemp plant? Our article today will educate you more on how CBD is produced.
It all starts with the plant
The 2018 Farm Bill has made it the distinction between hemp and marijuana clear and separate for that matter. According to the Farm Bill, hemp is any form of cannabis with less than 0.3% THC in extracts or dry weight. Due to this, hemp is the only primary source of CBD oil products that are available for sale to the public in most regions.
Some farms use clones instead of seeds when planting because cloning makes it easier for them to get a crop of the exact type of plant needed to make CBD oil- one with less THC. the plants are then irrigated throughout the season, harvested when it is time, and put in a barn for curing (air-drying process). After curing, the flowers are stripped off the plant and taken for processing.
The next process involves the extraction of the CBD from the plant. The hemp products have many by-products, some of which have higher levels of THC. This is where the extraction process comes- to isolate CBD and other individual byproducts of the hemp plant.
There are three extraction methods commonly used to extract the CBD product:
1. Supercritical CO2 Extraction
When creating CBD-rich extracts, this method is widely considered as the best. The process involves putting carbon dioxide under high pressure while still maintaining low temperatures. The pressure transforms the gas into a liquid, which is then passed through the plant. The process has an extraction efficiency of up to 90%, and the resulting extract is a highly concentrated oil extract that is pure.
Unfortunately, this process uses expensive equipment and operators with experience. This leads to high prices of the end product, though the end product is of the highest quality.
2. Ethanol Extraction
The ethanol extraction process uses an alcohol solvent, but ethanol is the widely used product since it is FDA approved. Also, ethanol is a polar solvent, which means that it can mix with water, dissolve any molecules that are soluble in water, and the desired compounds in cannabis plants like cannabinoid filled oil and Chlorophyll.
A post-extraction process like filtering can be used to remove the Chlorophyll, although this leads to a CBD oil of lower quality. According to some ethanol extractors, the extraction of the components soluble in water is replaceable with cold temperatures extraction. The results of this process can be favorable, especially with an experienced operator.
Ethanol extraction has lower costs compared to the former method, but it can also be used to produce extracts of high quality. This will, however, require more processing after the extraction process.
3. Lipid Extraction
This process is rarely used compared. It involves using lipids or fats like coconut oil to absorb and encapsulate compounds produced from the hemp plants. This method does not require using carbon dioxide or harsh solvents.
After extraction, some additional processes are done to make the final product.
Activating through Decarboxylation
As mentioned earlier, the cannabis plant has natural cannabinoids, but they are in acid form. The original form of acid is preserved during extraction, especially when using the CO2 extraction. This is where decarboxylation comes in- to activate the cannabinoids and remove the acidic molecules by heating the extract
Purifying through Winterization
If the extracted oil has fatty acids, chlorophyll, plant materials, cannabinoids, and terpenoids, further purification is done using the winterization process.
Winterization involves separating residual solvents, lipids, and waxes by soaking the CBD extract in alcohol. This leaves an extract with a higher concentration of cannabinoids. This can create an adverse result on the entourage effect, which is a proposed mechanism by which non-psychoactive compounds present in cannabis alter the overall psychoactive effects of the plant.