Cannabidiol, abbreviated as CBD, is one of the most common chemical compounds found in cannabis plants. To make CBD oil, CBD is mixed with a “carrier oil” such as olive oil, coconut oil, or hemp seed oil. CBD oil has become a popular product because of its perceived health and therapeutic benefits. Studies are being conducted to determine whether CBD oil can be used to help patients suffering from chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia, among other conditions. 

Many CBD users simply take their favorite CBD oil gummies, vape juice, or gel without first understanding how their preferred product is made. is important to know how CBD oil is made because the process determines the level of CBD in the oils and how safe they will be for your consumption. This article will explore the various processes used to make CBD oil.

How is CBD Oil Made?

CBD is extracted more from the hemp plant than the marijuana plant. Whereas hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, the marijuana plant contains considerably higher amounts.  THC creates psychoactive effects and the feeling of being “high”. Since CBD oil is mostly made from hemp, it is often referred to as “CBD hemp oil”, which should not be confused with “hemp seed oil”. Hemp seed oil is produced by cold-pressing hemp seeds. The seeds contain very little traces of CBD. CBD is more prevalent in the stalks, leaves, and flowers of the hemp plant. CBD is extracted from these parts of the plant to make CBD oil. Extraction is completed through the following processes:

1. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extraction

Carbon dioxide extraction is one of the most popular methods of making CBD oil because CO2 can function in liquid, gaseous, and even a solid state form. First, liquid CO2 is pumped into a chamber that contains cannabis material. Liquid CO2 acts as a solvent, and the pressure in the chamber ensures that it retains its liquid state. When the CO2 interacts with cannabis material, it absorbs the oils and flavors from the plant. Thereafter, the mixture of CO2 and CBD oil is pumped into another chamber where the carbon dioxide is converted back into a gaseous state, leaving behind CBD oil with traces of flavor from the plant.

Some of the benefits of this method of CBD oil extraction are:

  • It is very selective and can therefore be adjusted to obtain different molecular weights of CBD

  • No residual solvents are left behind in the CBD, making it an excellent choice for vaping

  • Effective at preserving the CBD terpene in CBD oil in order to retain its natural aroma

  • The costs of creating CO2 extraction facilities are very minimal

  • It is comparatively easy to meet safety requirements 

  • It is very easy to automate this process which helps control labor costs

However, the use of CO2 extraction for CBD oil also has its cons. Some of the downsides of using CO2 extraction include:

  • High-quality equipment is very expensive, and less-expensive equipment offers slow extraction rates

  • If you opt for manual operation of the system, you might find it too complex and difficult to learn

2. Hydrocarbon Extraction

Hydrocarbon extraction, also known as oil infusion, is mostly used by home growers and is one of the least expensive and easiest methods of extracting CBD oil from the cannabis plant. It involves the use of solvents such as acetone, isopropyl alcohol, hexane, propane, pentane, or butane. The low boiling points of these types of solvents allow for the easy extraction of CBD oil. However, commercial CBD oil companies tend to shy away from this method because it results in lower concentrations of CBD and terpenes. Heating the plant, in a process known as decarboxylation, could also activate the THC in the plant and cause the CBD oil to create psychoactive effects.

Besides being less expensive than CO2 extraction, other pros of this method of extraction include:

  • Effective at creating “dabbable” CBD oil

  • Faster extraction rates

  • The potency levels of CBD oils obtained are very high.

Despite the pros listed above, this method is rarely used for the extraction of CBD oil is because of its many cons. Some of them include:

  • The heating of the cannabis plant leads to the activation of THC and using such CBD oil can result in a high feeling

  • There is a likelihood of unsafe residues from the solvents remaining in the CBD oil, which could pose health risks to users.

  • It can be difficult and expensive to automate this process

  • The requirements set by regulatory authorities for setting up facilities for this method are very strict and therefore very expensive

3. Ethanol Extraction

Ethanol extraction is also a low-cost method of extracting CBD oil and is used by many CBD oil companies. It requires expertise and post-extraction processing is needed for creation of a high-quality CBD oil extract. In this method, ethanol is used to dissolve water-soluble molecules and the CBD oil. In the process, chlorophyll is also extracted from the hemp plant, creating a dark-colored product that has a grassy and bitter taste until post-extraction filtering removes the chlorophyll.

Some pros of ethanol extraction include:

  • If handled by an experienced person, CBD oil that matches the quality of that obtained through CO2 extraction can be obtained at a lower cost

  • The process is easily scalable

  • Extraction rates are faster than many other methods

  • It is less power-intensive than CO2 extraction.

However, this method also has its cons, including:

  • It cannot be tuned to obtain different molecular weights of CBD

  • It extracts chlorophyll from the plant, which could interfere with the taste and the aroma of the CBD oil unless post-extraction filtering is completed. 

  • The solvents may carry impurities from the plant into the CBD oil.

  • This process is very flammable.

The above extraction methods are the major methods through which CBD oils are produced. However, there is also another lesser-known extraction method known as lipid extraction. In lipid extraction, fats from coconut oil are used to absorb CBD oil from the plant without the use of CO2 or any harsh solvents. It is common for boutique companies to use the lipid extraction method to obtain CBD oil for their products.

Whichever method of extraction is used, CBD oil is most likely to be extracted from the plant alongside other compounds found in the plant. When used, these compounds interact with each other and influence the effects each one has in your body; this is known as the “entourage effect”. To have pure CBD isolate that doesn’t contain other compounds, further distillation is usually conducted to the extracted CBD oil through processes known as winterization and short-path distillation:

Winterization

Winterization is used to create pure CBD oil that is free from other unwanted substances. The end product is known as CBD isolate. 

CBD oil is frozen overnight with 200-proof alcohol and then filtered to remove unwanted substances such as fat. Once the desired quality of CBD oil is achieved, the mixture is heated to remove alcohol. Alcohol has a lower boiling point than CBD oil, so CBD oil isn’t lost in the process.

Short-Path Distillation

Short-path distillation allows CBD oil to be refined even further. The CBD oil is slowly heated so any extraneous substances can boil off. As a result, a vapor is formed. This vapor travels through a distillation tube to cooling coils where it is condensed into a liquid that drips into a collection container. The process is repeated until only pure CBD oil remains. The difference in boiling points of the compounds enables this process.

Factors To Consider When Choosing An Extraction Method

It is always important to ensure that the CBD oil, regardless of the method of extraction, is safe for human consumption. Some of the factors you should consider when choosing an extraction method include the following:

  • The design of the equipment; it should be able to handle the solvent you are going to use

  • The purpose for which the CBD oil is intended; some uses may require pure CBD oil

  • How safe the facilities are for the people who will be working in it

  • How safe, and to what levels, the solvents you are using are safe for human consumption

Conclusion

Unfortunately, there is very little regulation of CBD oil manufacturing processes, which can result in unscrupulous companies selling bogus products to CBD oil users. Some companies also employ substandard extraction methods that leave contaminants found in the hemp plant. 

Purchasing and using a product made using a substandard process can be very harmful to your health. It is always important to shop only from reputable companies that pay utmost attention to the manufacture of high-quality CBD oil products. For trustworthy CBD oil products, you can always shop at Buy CBD Products. Not only are our CBD oil products 100% organic and GMO-free, but they are also all small-batch tested in a third-party lab to ensure the best possible experience for our customers.