Cannabis has come a long way since its sole association was with getting high. Much of the population is much more comfortable with recognizing its medicinal benefits, especially those of CBD. Though it’s gained popularity as THC’s non-psychoactive sister, the question now circulates: how is CBD oil made?
Where does CBD come from?
The vast majority of CBD oil comes from industrial hemp, a plant in the cannabis family. While hemp is closely related to marijuana, the hemp plant only contains a maximum of 0.3% THC (the chemical that gets you high) and thus does not have the powerful intoxicating effects of marijuana. THC is much more abundant in marijuana, making it the psychoactive plant in the cannabis family. Hemp is not.
CBD is just one of the many components of the cannabis plant. There are hundreds of chemical entities to cannabis, including cannabinoids and terpenes. The cannabinoids are what produce therapeutic effects and, of the hundred or so that are known to exist, THC and CBD are among the most well-known.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is responsible for being psychoactive and inducing the high most commonly associated with marijuana. CBD is non-psychoactive and has a list of its own favorable functions. CBD oil has been touted as a miracle remedy for many different diseases and illnesses. In fact, the FDA recently approved the first-ever drug to use CBD in the treatment of a disorder that includes frequent, violent seizures.
CBD may be painted as the hero, but some argue that the other cannabinoids are just as important. Known as the “entourage effect,” there is some evidence to suggest cannabinoids are greater than the sum of their parts, and that they work together synergistically in ways we don’t currently understand.
How is CBD Oil Made?
CBD oil is made from highly-concentrated CBD extracted from the hemp plant. The oil can be turned into the various products that are accessible today, from tinctures to gummies. There are a few different ways that the hemp plant’s chemical byproducts, including CBD, can be extracted and separated.
Extracting CBD oil using carbon dioxide (CO2) is a common practice of extraction, however it is also exceedingly sophisticated. As a gas, CO2 can be deadly to humans, but when it’s frozen to a supercritical temperature it becomes a safe liquid solvent into which CBD can disperse.
Getting CO2 to frozen liquid levels requires heavy, expensive machinery. This extraction machinery is equipped not only to freeze CO2 to below -69 degrees Fahrenheit, it also acts to assert 75 pounds of pressure per square inch.
Harvested hemp plants join this liquid in an extractor before raising the temperature to a point where the CO2 turns into a substance halfway between gas and liquid. When the CO2 is at this point, passing it through the plant will pull out its essential terpenes and trichomes.
This method might seem slightly mind-boggling, but many retailers entrust their CBD extraction to extra-cold CO2. This method produces a product that is safe for human consumption, and it is generally regarded as producing the purest and highest-quality extracts.
Ethanol acts as a solvent during the process of CBD extraction. Soaking the hemp leaves in ethanol (grain alcohol) works to separate the hemp leaf from its beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes.
Once it’s soaked long enough, the remainder of the solvent needs to be evaporated, leaving CBD oil. Ethanol doesn’t need to reach the intensity of supercritical point as CO2 to make CBD oil.
This process is relatively simple but does not yield completely pure CBD oil in these two steps alone. As it extracts the cannabinoids, it may also extract chlorophyll, which can cause unwanted side effects. To purify it, the oil can be filtered further but this is a trickier step and, in the end, may reduce the potency of the final product.
There is also the danger that is inherently present with cooking with ethanol. Ethanol is highly flammable and the process should be carried out with extreme care (i.e., by trained professionals).
Butane acts similarly to ethanol in its extraction methodology. The hemp leaves are also left to soak in the liquid gas until it strips the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant.
Using butane does not allow for byproducts, like chlorophyll and plant metabolites, when extracting CBD. This practices also lends itself to purity and simplicity in that butane’s boiling point is low. Instead of having to reach supercritical temperatures, butane is burned off with relatively little effort.
But this seemingly perfect process has its pitfalls. Butane is notorious for being noxious. In Canada, the land of cannabis freedom, there have been home explosions a result of attempting to extract CBD from hemp with butane.
Though jerry-rigging CBD oil via butane may be dangerous in your garage, it is still a viable option for larger facilities that are well-equipped to handle and control the gas.
Though we suggest you leave CBD extraction to the pros, this method could conceivably be used in a home kitchen. This is a two-step process for soaking of the leaves and then cooking them to extract the CBD. It involves putting the full leaves in olive oil and heating the olive oil in a pan to 200 degrees F, bringing it just below a simmer. It is then stirred continuously, making sure it doesn’t start to cook, for at least one hour.
This kitchen heating process is extremely safe, providing CBD-rich oil. However, olive oil won’t evaporate and therefore won’t produce a concentrated form of CBD. Also, though it’s not flammable like butane or ethanol, CBD infused olive oil needs to be handled with care. It’s important to keep it stored in a cool, dry place as sunlight will deplete its potent properties.
This method is good for safety, easy sublingual application, or as an ingredient for a nice relaxing dinner at home.
Summary and Conclusion
Most of the methods to make CBD oil involve the “whole plant extraction.” Using the whole plant allows for the preservation of the terpenes that add taste and the additional cannabinoids that can boost the CBD oil’s effects.
Extracting CBD from the whole plant seems somewhat easy, but there is still a science to it. Dealing with combustible chemicals in order to extract invisible-to-the-naked-eye components is a process that is best in the hands of the experts.
Dispensary-bought CBD can give you the best bang for your buck, too. You will know that their extraction methods are tried and true, providing you with high-grade CBD oil. Check out the company’s website to find out how they extract it and, thanks to this guide, pat yourself on the back for knowing the various methods of exactly how CBD oil is made.