CBD extraction from hemp and why it matters
From time to time, a customer will ask us about the method used to extract the CBD and other cannabinoids from hemp in the products we carry. Maybe they’ve read something, or another CBD retailer has assured them it doesn’t matter.
Natural Ways believes the way in which your CBD and other supportive cannabinoids are extracted DOES matter. Quality, potency, and effectiveness are all affected by the way in which cannabinoids are pulled out of the plant!
In this ‘blog, we will explore the science and technology behind cannabinoid extraction, the different methods, and the benefits or disadvantages of each.
As always, our goal isn’t just to sell you quality CBD hemp products but to also educate you along the way. The more information you have, the better choices you’re able to make, and we believe you’ll not only choose Natural Ways, but you’ll stay with Natural Ways once you try our tinctures, edibles, bath and beauty products, premium U.S.-grown hemp flower, and all the other top-drawer CBD and hemp goodies we carry.
So, what is extraction and why is it such a big deal when it comes to cannabis?
When people talk about “how CBD is made,” what they’re usually referring to is how the cannabidiol and other cannabinoids are removed from the hemp plant. The most common methods of extraction include the use of carbon dioxide; steam distillation; the use of solvents (hydrocarbon or natural).
Each method has its pros and cons. You’ll soon learn why Natural Ways believes the CO2 method is the absolute best and why we make a point to carry products made with CO2-extracted CBD.
The folks over at CBD Awareness Project (www.cbdoil.or) have done a great job outlining the different methods of CBD extraction. Check out their explanations to below learn more:
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extraction
CO2 extraction uses supercritical carbon dioxide to separate the CBD oil from the plant material. “Supercritical” refers to the CO2 containing properties of both a liquid and a gas state, which is why you’ll sometimes see this method referred to as Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE).
During CO2 extraction, a series of pressurized chambers and pumps are used to expose CO2 to high pressure and very low temperatures, resulting in an extracted oil containing high amounts of CBD.
- At the start of extraction, one chamber will hold pressurized CO2, while a second pressurized chamber holds the hemp plant.
- The CO2is then pumped from the first chamber into the second. The presence of supercritical CO2 breaks down the hemp also in the chamber, causing the oil to separate from the plant material.
- Finally, the CO2and oil are pumped together into a third chamber. The gas evaporates, leaving an extract of pure CBD oil behind.
While it requires expensive specialized machinery, CO2 extraction is the preferred method for making CBD products. It’s extremely safe and efficient at producing high concentrations of full spectrum CBD in the resulting oil—as much as 92% according to one analysis.
With steam distillation, steam causes the CBD oil to separate from the hemp plant. The hemp plant is contained in a glass flask, with an inlet and an outlet. The inlet connects to another glass container, beneath the plant flask, that contains water that is set to boil. The outlet connects to a condenser tube.
- As the water heats up, the steam travels upwards into the plant flask, separating the oil vapors that contain CBD.
- These vapors are then captured in a tube that condenses them into oil and water.
- Once collected, the oil and water mixture is distilled to extract the CBD oil from the water.
The steam distillation technique is tried and true, having been used to extract essential oil for centuries, but it’s less preferred than CO2 extraction due to its inefficiency. Steam distillation requires significantly larger amounts of hemp plant, and it’s more difficult to extract exact amounts of CBD concentration using this method.
There’s also an element of risk with this method. If the steam gets too hot, it can damage the extract and alter the chemical properties of the cannabinoids it contains.
Solvent Extraction (Hydrocarbons and Natural Solvents)
Solvent extraction follows a similar process to steam distillation, except that it uses a solvent rather than water to separate the CBD oil from the plant material. This creates a resulting mixture of the CBD oil with the solvent. The solvent then evaporates, leaving pure CBD oil behind. Solvent extraction uses either hydrocarbons or natural solvents.
Solvent extraction is more efficient than steam distillation, and it’s also less expensive. However, the solvents used in hydrocarbon extraction (including naphtha, petroleum, butane, or propane) create cause for concern. The solvent residue can be toxic and increase one’s cancer risk if they aren’t fully eliminated during the evaporation step—which doesn’t always happen.
Some studies have found traces of petroleum or naphtha hydrocarbons residue in CBD products that used solvent extraction.
To avoid the risk of toxic residue, solvent extraction can use natural solvents instead, such as olive oil or ethanol. These solvents are just as effective at extracting CBD oil but remove the risk of toxic residue.
However, natural solvent extraction is not without its downsides. When natural solvents like ethanol are used, chlorophyll may also be extracted. This gives the resulting oil an unpleasant taste. If the CBD is used in capsules or topicals, this isn’t a big deal, but many CBD products are eaten or inhaled (such as gummies, tinctures, vape oils), so this can make them harder to sell.
The larger problem with natural solvents, though, is that they don’t evaporate very well. As a result, the CBD extract contains a lower concentration of CBD than it would with other methods.
Have you figured out yet why Natural Ways prefers to offer only those CBD products with CBD extracted via the carbon dioxide method?
- It means our tinctures are more potent than those cheaper versions you’ll find at convenience stores or smoke shops.
- It means customers get quicker results.
- It means pets receive their benefits faster, too.
- Labeling and dosing are more accurate as a result of having the higher percentage of actual CBD available through CO2 extraction
We could sell CBD products made cheaply with CBD extracted using solvents or steam, but why bother? Customers who have tried those cheaper versions, including some promoted by national chains, end up coming to us and staying with us because our CBD products really do make a difference.
We aren’t saying CBD products made using other extraction methods can’t be safe and high-quality, too, but there can be more risk with these products.
- CBD products made using hydrocarbon extraction may contain solvent residuals.
- Steam distillation and natural solvent extraction carry fewer risks, but they can produce lower or inconsistent amounts of CBD. This, in turn, means your product may test too high for THC in violation of federal (and some state) law. It also means that while your bottle of tincture says there are, for example, 33 mg of CBD per serving, you could be getting more, or less. Too much or too little actual CBD might not effectively address your situation.
Natural Ways is more than just our company’s name. It’s our philosophy: We believe hemp CBD products you use on or in your body should be of the purest, most natural quality available.
Visit our online store or, if you’re in the Houston area, come by one of our four beautiful brick-and-mortar locations to see what we mean. Meet our employees, bring your questions, and prepare to come away with not only some of the best CBD products on the market but a lot of education to go with it.
We love what we sell, we use what we sell, and we’re betting you will love and continue to use our products, too!