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How are CBD extracts made?

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

How are CBD extracts actually produced? You can find out here in our blog post.

In order to produce CBD products such as CBD oils from the cannabis plant at all, it is necessary to extract the CBD from it. There are different extraction methods that can be used for this purpose. Most cannabinoids are present as an acid, in the case of CBD as CBDA (cannabidiol carboxylic acid). The inactive passive ingredient CBDA is converted into active CBD through a process called decarboxylation. To achieve this, the plant material is heated or treated with UV before extraction. Through this treatment, a carbon dioxide molecule is split off and active CBD is created.

After this is done, the material can be extracted. We have listed the most common methods for CBD extract production below.

Extraction with supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2 extraction):

In this process, carbon dioxide is used to dissolve components such as cannabinoids, terpenes or flavonoids from the hemp plant. Co2 extraction is divided into two categories:

  • Supercritical CO2 extraction

  • Subcritical CO2 extraction

During CO2 extraction, the carbon dioxide behaves similarly to a solvent, but without the health hazards and risks. For the production of CBD extracts, CO2 extraction is a very popular process. However, it is also one of the most expensive and complex processes that require a high level of experience and expertise. To achieve the highest level of concentration in the extracts, the supercritical process is used. In this variant, the carbon dioxide is placed in a supercritical state, which causes the Co2 to assume an aggregate state of gas and liquid. In terms of density, it resembles a liquid; in terms of consistency, it resembles a gas. In this state of aggregation, the carbon dioxide is then above the so-called critical point. To reach this state of aggregation, it is necessary to establish certain pressure and temperature conditions. The temperature must be above 30.980 °C and the pressure above 73.75 bar.

Supercritical CO2 extraction promises the highest yield compared to most processes. It also allows the extraction of other plant compounds such as chlorophyll, fatty acids, carotenoids and plant waxes.

Supercritical CO2 extraction is performed in three steps. In the first step, the plants are heated, with temperatures ranging from 100 to 150 °C. The plant parts are crushed. The plant parts are crushed and decarboxylated. This is the step in which CBDA is converted into CBD. In the second step, cooled liquid carbon dioxide is compressed. This carbon dioxide is then fed into a special extractor that contains the plant material. In the final step, the already extracted ingredients are fed into a so-called separator that uses pressure and temperature to separate the substances. This extraction process is really very complex. Supercritical CO2 extraction offers the great advantage that it produces an absolutely pure end product and is free of solvent residues.

Extraction by solvent:

Solvents are very suitable for CBD extraction and are frequently used. Different solvents can be used, such as hexane, butane, alcohol, isopropanol or ethanol. One thing all these solvents have in common is that they are very flammable. This means that handling them is very dangerous. If this process is used industrially, the extraction is done in closed systems. Ethanol is often used for CBD extraction. The solvent not only dissolves the cannabinoids from the plant, but also the chlorophyll. This provides a bitter taste in the extract. Filtering out the chlorophyll is possible, but also reduces the CBD concentration in the extract.

Extraction with oil:

Extraction with oils is a very cheap and also simple method to extract CBD and other cannabinoids. However, the yield of cannabinoids is not very large, and the oil obtained is also quickly perishable. This method is well usable for private use, but for the professional field only conditionally suitable. In this method, the plant parts are dissolved in vegetable oil intended for consumption. For this purpose, the plant material is covered with the vegetable oil and then gently heated. Cannabinoids are fat-soluble (lipophilic), so it is possible that all components, including substances such as chlorophyll, can be dissolved in this oil. Common oils for the process are e.g. hemp seed oil, MCT coconut oil or olive oil.

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