With potential benefits ranging from reduced anxiety to relief from aches and pains to improved sleep, CBD is popping up in a variety of forms from tinctures to balms to patches. But the CBD you see at your neighborhood bodega likely follows a different production process than the products found at Standard Dose, and one of those differences lies in the method of extraction. Although it may not be the first thing on your mind when you’re looking for something to soothe sore muscles or ease you into a restful night of sleep, the way CBD is extracted really matters. Here are some of the most popular CBD extraction methods used:
The use of solvents is one of the more common ways to extract CBD oil from the hemp plant, and the process can be done using either hydrocarbons like butane or propane, or natural solvents such as olive oil or ethanol. In this method, hemp plant material (either just the flowers or the whole plant, depending on the brand) is placed into a container and the solvent is run through before evaporating and leaving the oil. Affordable and easy to complete, solvent extraction is appealing to many; however, traces of the solvent may remain. In the case of hydrocarbons like propane, this residue can be toxic. The use of natural solvents is much safer, but it’s important to keep in mind that this method dissolves some of the plant’s other nutrients and extracts chlorophyll, which may leave a slightly bitter taste if using a tincture.
In the steam distillation process, water is heated to separate the oil. As the steam travels into the flask where the hemp plant is kept, oil vapors containing CBD are separated and caught in a tube. This tube then compresses the vapors into oil and water, and distillation is used to extract the CBD oil from the water. Although this method does work, it is very inefficient as much more of the hemp plant is needed to extract the same amount of oil, and extracting specific amounts is quite challenging.
Supercritical CO2 Extraction
Despite being complex and requiring specialized equipment, supercritical CO2 extraction is one of the most preferred methods, as it is efficient and extracts an oil that is safe, potent, and free from chlorophyll. This is typically done using a closed loop extractor that contains three chambers. The first chamber holds pressurized CO2 and another holds the pressurized plant. CO2 is pumped into the chamber with the plant, breaking down the hemp so that the oil separates. Both the CO2 and the oil are pumped into a final chamber, where the CO2 evaporates and CBD oil is left. This method also makes it more simple to achieve exact concentrations of CBD, although it is much more costly. No toxic residue is found here, and the beneficial compounds of the plant remain. To some brands, such as Prima, preserving those elements is vital. “We extract our hemp using a proprietary supercritical CO2 method [...] to preserve the richness of plant active compounds like terpenes, flavonoids, and phenols,” co-founder Jessica Assaf says.