CBD Extraction Methods and What They Mean

CBD, otherwise known as cannabidiol, is a potentially beneficial component that is found in the hemp and cannabis plant. CBD is one of the many cannabinoids in hemp and cannabis (over 100) and has many attractive qualities. It has been shown to reduce anxiety, pain, inflammation, and even prevent diabetic neuropathy or seizures.

It’s also appealing for being a natural choice and is also non-psychoactive. This means that CBD will not give any “high” effect that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) does. CBD products require less than .3% of THC to be legal in all 50 states, with some variations. .3% THC is such a low trace amount that it will not show up on a drug test unless you drink a full bottle of our 1200mg which we don’t recommend!

Even though the benefits for CBD are vast and medically significant, the products that we are familiar with have to utilize one of the several traditional extraction methods. Our products such as oil tinctures, edibles, salves, and E Juices are all started in a controlled lab environment to provide the base formula that can be put into a wide variety of things. This is why extraction is becoming so popular in the market. It allows the creation of edibles, oils, etc. Keep in mind that CBD products are much more efficient when they use the entire hemp plant, and not just the seeds or stems. These parts contain much smaller amounts of cannabinoids. The traditional extraction methods are known as Ethanol, Lipid, CO2, and BHO. There are quite a few more extraction methods out there that are far less expensive and mainstream, but are worth the research!

Before we analyze these extraction methods, know that all of them have benefits and hindrances on production and efficiency. Even then, many CBD producers avoid publishing their lab results and methods. We recommend looking for these publications just to be confident in the product you want. These extraction methods are favored in many different ways, and the end product is why.

Ethanol Extraction

This method actually has an inspiring story, as the person who discovered it also used it to help cure his skin cancer. Rick Simpson discovered this method and began his journey in spreading the love for CBD. This method largely uses ethanol as a solvent. The FDA claims ethanol as ‘Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS)’ and is commonly used in the food industry as a preservative. Ethanol is a polar solvent, and this means that it can mix with water and break down water-soluble molecules. When the ethanol interacts with the compounds, chlorophyll is also extracted, which is one downside. Chlorophyll, if not filtered, will produce a dark, murky oil that tastes earthy, grassy, and an overall unpleasant taste. However, if the chlorophyll is filtered out, then so too is some of the terpenes that were extracted from this method. This means that the end product will not be as strong as it could have been. For those who desire a pleasing taste, ethanol extraction might not be a good choice. This process is beneficial for producers as it can be used in warm and cold environments. For a warm environment, ethanol is boiled then condensed on a cold coil. It then runs onto the plant to sweep away the cannabinoids/terpenes. While this is time efficient, batch sizes are small and contain chlorophyll.

Lipid Extraction

While lipid extraction is not generally used by any major CBD brands, we decided to include this method for anyone wanting to produce their own. This method is simple and is great for its absence of ethanol or CO2 solvents. A lipid is a fatty acid that absorbs the compounds from the plant. Most commonly used oils are coconut oil or olive oil. The first step is to be sure that the plant material is decarboxylated. This means that it needs to be set at a certain temperature to activate the acids. An absolutely necessary process because the original chemical, CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid) is not yet activated to its true form CBD. Once it goes under the decarboxylation process, the compound will be “activated.” To decarboxylate, heat at 248℉ for 60 minutes. Then add the material to the oil and heat the combination at 212℉ for ~2 hours. This is a great method for its affordability and simplicity. However, the end product is extremely sensitive to light and temperature from this method. The end product should be sealed and in a cool, dark place. Even though this method does not give massive yields, it’s your own personal touch!

CO2 Extractions (Supercritical)

This is a relatively new method in the extraction practice and is disregarded by many companies due to its high prices (especially compared to the other methods) on CO2 extraction equipment. This method will cost ~$200,000 in equipment alone. On top of this, the CO2 method has very small yields and much longer production times when compared to BHO or Ethanol. Its attractive property is its low risk. It works by putting carbon dioxide under immense pressure while also maintaining a low temperature. This gas turns into a liquid, which acts as a solvent. It’s then passed through the plant with high percentages. CO2 extraction is also beneficial to the environment. The end product will always be pricier than other products produced by other methods. With this method, chlorophyll is also left with the extraction. Again, this can bring some downsides in the quality and taste of the product. This method is efficient when it’s produced by a carefully regulated lab environment and experts.

BHO Extraction (Hydrocarbon)

A very common and reliable extraction method that is used by many CBD companies is BHO extraction. This method is used by many, but only utilized by professionals. Butane Hash Oil can be a very dangerous and risky practice if not done correctly. Butane has a low boiling point and enables the lab to use it as an extremely efficient solvent. Of course, it requires great caution to work with because of its flammability and combustibility. BHO is the fastest and most efficient method. It requires less time to yield greater amounts as well. Not only is the BHO method FDA approved, but can yield up to 99% purity. This method proves to have the highest consistency. Its starting point is also the most vital part. The plant material must be stored in a cool, dark area and vacuum sealed. Bags filled with nitrogen is also an option, but the main goal is to avoid ultraviolet rays from breaking down any compounds. Butane then submerges the plant material and dissolves the cannabinoids/terpenes from the plant. This solution is then washed into a dewaxing station.


However, the BHO method takes it a few steps further in reaching full purity. A common drawback from the BHO method is, of course, using butane. Butane is a risky solvent, especially if not filtered. However, this was a common problem when extraction was just beginning in the industry. Even though lighters use butane, people still try to avoid it. Our process works to hinder butane from the end product with a unique post-processing stage. Winterization, a sort of filtration, works to remove the solvents, but also other parts such as: plant parts, chlorophyll, fatty acids, etc. Cannabinoids and terpenes are contained in the extract and then frozen in alcohol. This freezing process separates the solvents from the cannabinoids. The final part is collecting, which starts by heating off any remaining butane inside of a chamber. From this point, efforts are put into storing the extract away from degrading properties.

Which One and Why?

The two major extraction methods are CO2 and BHO. While both have their benefits, BHO stands out from all of the rest due to its capabilities in production, purity, and cleanliness. A common stigma behind this method is the use of butane as a solvent, but the handling and care behind butane should be completed by experts in a controlled lab environment, and shouldn’t be considered by anyone else. While CO2 is pure as well, it’s unnecessarily pricier. As filtration processes become more advanced, extraction could always change and adapt. It’s important to look at what you want in a product. A lot of the time CBD has poor taste and efficiency when exposed to the elements during the extraction phase.

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