By Lucas De Vries

November 22, 2019
Reading Time: 4 minutes


When we talk about the manufacture of CBD oil, manufacturers mainly refer to the extraction method. The most common ones use carbon dioxide, steam distillation, hydrocarbons or natural solvents. We will explain them to you below, so keep going.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction

In general,CO2 extraction uses supercritical carbon dioxide to separate CBD from plant matter. The term “supercritical” so ,refers to the properties that allow CO2 to change from liquid to gaseous state, which is why it is sometimes referred to as supercritical fluid extraction (SFE).

During CO2 extraction, a series of tanks used, as well as pressurized chambers and pumps to subject the CO2 to high pressure and very low temperatures.

– At first of the extraction, one of the chambers will contain pressurized CO2, while another chamber will contain the cannabis plant.

– Then, the CO2 will be pumped from the first chamber to the second and the presence of supercritical CO2 will decompose the grass, allowing the oil to separate from the plant material.

– Finally, the CO2 and oil are pumped together to a third chamber. The gas evaporates to leave only a CBD oil extract.

If this technique requires specialized (and generally very expensive) machines, it is the preferred method for manufacturing CBD-based products. It is extremely safe and effective in obtaining high concentrations of CBD in the resulting oil, and up to 92% in the analysis.

Thanks to the high precision of CO2 extraction, it will be perfect for the production of precise concentrations of CBD oil. Manufacturers will only have to adjust the CO2 and pressure to obtain the desired CBD concentration.

CO2 extraction is also used to create many other products, such as decaffeinated coffee or tea, or the extraction of essential oils for perfumes.

Steam distillation

Basically,with this technique, the vapor will cause the CBD oil to separate from the cannabis plant, which is present in a double-ended glass vial, usually spherical and with a straight, narrow neck. The inlet is connected to another glass container, placed under the vial of plant material and filled with boiling water. The output is connected to a condenser tube.

Once, the water is heated, the steam rises to the plant vial, separating the oil containing the CBD. These vapors are captured in a tube, which condenses them into oil and water. Once recovered, the mixture is distilled to separate the CBD oil from the water.

Steam distillation has been used for centuries to extract essential oils used in the perfumery, but it is less used in the cannabis sector because of its lack of efficiency. Steam distillation requires much larger quantities of plant material, and it is difficult to extract exact quantities of CBD. You will also have a fundamental risk factor since if the steam becomes too hot, it can damage the extract and alter the chemical properties of cannabinoids.

Extractions with solvents

This method follows a process similar to steam distillation, except that it uses a solvent rather than water to separate CBD oil from the plant material. This results in a mixture of CBD oil and solvent, which then evaporates to leave only the CBD oil.

Extraction with solvents is more efficient than steam distillation and much cheaper. However, substances used in hydrocarbon extraction (such as petroleum, butane or propane) raise concerns that residues could be toxic and increase the risk of cancer if they are not completely eliminated during evaporation, which is not always the case. Some studies have found traces of hydrocarbon residues in CBD-based products using this type of extraction.

To avoid these risks, you can use natural solvents, such as olive oil or ethanol, which are as effective but without toxic residues. However, this option is also not free of inconveniences since, as it uses ethanol, chlorophyll could also be extracted, giving the oil an unpleasant taste. If CBD is consumable as capsules or skin products, it is not serious, but many CBD products are smokable or by inhalation (candies, dyes, oils, etc.), which can make it difficult to sell.

However, the main problem with natural solvents is that they do not evaporate very well. Because of this, the CBD extract will contain a lower concentration of CBD than other methods.

What happens after extraction?

So,after extraction, the CBD oil produced is “full-spectrum“. This means that other cannabinoids (including CBDA, CBDV, THC, and others) will always be present, not just CBD. On the other hand, as long as the product comes from industrial hemp, the THC concentration will be 0.3%, or lower (legality threshold in many countries).

Full-spectrum CBD oils also contain other beneficial elements of plant material, such as terpenes and amino acids. Some consumers prefer full-spectrum CBD oil because of the surrounding effect, because CBD can act more effectively on the endocannabinoid system in the presence of more cannabinoids.

However, some consumers will still want to avoid any trace of THC, even in very low and legal quantities. So,these people will tend to opt for isolated CBD extracts, in which the extracts will be cooled and further purified in the form of crystalline concentrates. You will also,obtain crystals or white powder, products without any taste. Knowing that it contains only CBD, the CBD concentrate will have a lower cost per milligram, will not contain THC and will have no odor since it eliminates terpenes from the equation.

Finally, whether in concentrate or full-spectrum form, CBD oil is added to other substances to create CBD-based products to conquer the cannabis market.

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