Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is one of the many other naturally occurring cannabinoids that you can find in hemp plants. CBD can be found both in marijuana and hemp, but CBD related products are mainly made from hemp these days. While CBD is derived from marijuana, its effects differ from tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which produces the “high” effect cannabis is known for.
Amongst the other components derived from cannabis, CBD has risen in popularity due to the various benefits it offers. It has gained traction globally, with the global market expected to grow to $1.8 billion by 2022, due to its healing qualities, which range from helping people with mental issues to helping people suffering from cancer deal with the after-effects of chemotherapy like nausea. Having come into the limelight only recently, CBD has been in use for centuries by many people who have taken advantage of the benefits it offers. A common misconception, which is changing gradually, has been that CBD oil has the same effects as THC.
However, as CBD gains more awareness and an increasing number of people start using it, the clarity around this product grows as well.
Why is there a need to extract CBD?
Before we go into the details of hemp processing and how we can make CBD oil, we first need to understand why we need to extract CBD in the first place. CBD is extracted so that the cannabinoid can be separated into a concentrated form to make it fit for consumption by humans. The cannabinoids present in cannabis need to be decarboxylated, which means to apply to, first for them to be affected. If cannabis is consumed in its raw form, it can pose a health risk for the consumer due to the presence of a variety of microbes. Extraction through hemp processing can help eliminate these microbes and remove the other undesirable compounds that include lipids and plant waxes.
Many methods are used to extract CBD oil, and some of the main ones are:
CO2 (Carbon dioxide) extraction
The CO2 extraction method is a prevalent method to extract CBD oil and is popular amongst many people. This extraction method, also known as Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE), separates the CBD oil from the unwanted plant material by using supercritical carbon dioxide. Supercritical here refers to carbon dioxide with properties of a gas state and a liquid state both. In this extraction method, carbon dioxide is exposed to extremely low temperatures at high pressure with the help of a series of pumps and pressurized chambers.
At the beginning of the process, one pressurized chamber holds the hemp plant, while the other chamber holds the pressurized carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is pumped from one chamber to the other, and the presence of supercritical carbon dioxide helps the breakdown of the hemp in the chamber, causing the separation of oil from the plant material. After that, in the third chamber, the oil and carbon dioxide are pumped together, causing the gas to evaporate. This process leaves behind an extract that consists of CBD oil in its purest form.
In order to extract CBD oil through the method of CO2 extraction, specialized, and expensive machinery is required. The CO2 extraction method is still preferred despite the high cost of the machinery to make CBD oil due to its reputation for being extremely efficient and safe. CO2 extraction is exact, and this aspect makes it appropriate if the CBD oil is to be produced in specific concentrations. The CO2 extraction method is not only used to extract CBD oil, but it is also used to make different products like essential oils that are used in perfumes.
Solvent extraction method
Another common and effective way to extract CBD oil is called the solvent extraction method. While solvent extractions follow a similar process to steam distillation, it uses a solvent such as alcohol, ethanol, butane, or propane to extract the CBD. This extraction method is one of the cheaper ways to extract CBD while being efficient and easy to carry out too.
A container containing plant trimmings and flowers of the cannabis plant is filled with the solvent, which, when running through the plant material, separates the plant material from the CBD oil.
Solvent extraction method poses a few issues when solvents, such as propane, petroleum, and butane are used, leaving behind solvent residue. This solvent residue can be toxic, thereby posing health risks.
Hence, careful consideration needs to be taken about solvent residue. To overcome this issue, extraction using natural solvents, such as ethanol or olive oil, can be used for hemp processing, which not only eliminates the problem of toxic residue but is just as effective.
Steam distillation method
This extraction method uses steam to separate the CBD oil and the hemp plant. A glass flask is used to store the hemp plant with the inlet of the flask attached to another glass container, with a condenser tube connected with the help of an outlet. CBD containing oil vapors are separated with the help of steam that results from heating the water. The vapors then are condensed into water and oil in a tube. Once the collection is done, the CBD oil is extracted from the water once this mixture is distilled.
Although the steam distillation extraction method has been in use for centuries, it is not as efficient as the CO2 extraction method, thus less preferred. The inefficiency occurs because the hemp plant is required in significant amounts in this method, and the extraction of CBD in exact amounts is also tricky. Along with the element of inefficiency, the steam distillation method also has the potential of being risky. The extract can be damaged, and the cannabinoids can alter the chemical properties.
CBD is growing in popularity, and interest in this area is likely to increase. With the growth of demand and supply, extraction methods are expected to become more efficient with plenty of options to choose from. By knowing which process was used to extract the product you’re about to use, you can quickly gauge its quality and make an informed decision.
What else should one know about the methods used to extract CBD? Sound off in the comments below.