If there is one factor that determines the overall quality of a CBD product commonly overlooked, it’s the extraction process used to lift the compounds of the plant from the actual plant material. Any cannabidiol-based product that isn’t simply the raw flower buds contains some type of hemp extract. Basically, the manufacturer used some means for concentrating the desired compounds and turning into a fat-soluble, oil-based extraction.
The reality is that the extraction method plays a huge role in the quality and effectiveness of the final CBD product. There are various methods that companies can choose from, and companies must choose wisely.
Factors Determined by the CBD Extraction Method
How CBD was extracted can have surprising effects on how much a hemp formula can suit your needs.
The chemical stability determines how stable each compound is, as unstable compounds are more likely to break down molecularly and therefore lose their potency. The use of pressure, heat and other environmental factors can either preserve the compounds or destabilize them.
The purity level refers to how pure the hemp extract is. Some methods rely on the use of solvents which can introduce impurities into the final product.
Bioavailability is a term that ultimately refers to how effective cannabidiol is, as determined by how efficiently the compounds absorb into the body. Bioavailability is a complex biological science, but what’s important to know is that various factors affected by the extraction process can play a role in how bioavailable the resulting extract is.
Best Extraction Methods Used by CBD Manufacturers
Now, we can examine the four most common extraction methods used to produce a hemp extract.
CO2 extraction gets its name from the use of pressurized carbon dioxide which is pushed through the plant material. This is to gently, yet still effectively, be able to separate the compounds from the undesirable parts of the hemp plant. This type of extraction method is extremely advanced, requiring serious technological skill and special equipment, not to mention a lot of available space. For this reason, CO2 extraction is only performed in manufacturing plants, and cannot be replicated at home.
It relies on a closed-loop extractor, which consists of three individual chambers. One chamber holds the raw hemp material, and the other contains the CO2. The CO2 enters the hemp chamber through enormous pressure. The third chamber collects the resulting extract.
CO2 extraction is the most commonly used extraction method in the hemp industry for a few reasons. One is that it doesn’t use solvents, which results in a purer product. Further, CO2 does not destabilize the compounds in hemp, so you end up with a highly stable product that boasts a uniquely long shelf life.
Solvent-based extraction is another commonly used method, but fewer legitimate hemp companies rely on it these days because of a few reasons, which we will be addressing.
Solvent-based methods rely on combining the hemp with a solvent, which is usually ethanol, butane or isopropyl. This solvent dissolves the natural wax of the plant material, thus removing the compounds from the plant. The solvent is simply run over the hemp plant until the desired compound concentrations are lifted away, and then the extract is evaporated to increase its concentration. It’s a method that some people have been able to master at home, but it’s not advisable to do yourself due to the highly flammable nature of it.
This type of extraction method is cheaper and faster than the CO2 method, and that’s the main reason why some companies use it. But it does have its setbacks.
- It inevitably allows chlorophyll to remain in the resulting extract which can cause a bitter taste, while diluting the potency of the desirable compounds.
- The solvent tends to leech into the extract, which introduces impurities into the final product.
- Solvent-based extractions may be less chemically stable, and therefore have a shorter shelf life.
Oil-based extractions are typically a DIY routine, as few companies use them, mainly due to the fact that they offer the shortest shelf life of all. This type of extraction process has been used for centuries and is quite easy to do.
To create an oil-based extraction, one simply has to heat the raw hemp flower in the oil of their choice at a low temperature. Eventually, the oil takes on the chemical composition of the hemp flower, while the remaining plant material is no longer useful.
Distillate extraction is a secondary process that follows one of the above extraction-type methods, and is primarily used to isolate individual cannabinoids to create a compound-specific concentrate. The distillation process involves setting a specific distiller device to a specific temperature to evaporate the undesirable compounds, thus purifying the extract to concentrate cannabinoids selected by the manufacturer. The result is a concentrate that has 80 to 90 percent of the desirable cannabinoid, with the remaining percentage consisting of the additional compounds in the hemp plant including terpenes and additional cannabinoids.
Concentrates are a separate category of CBD goods, being extremely concentrated compared to the standard formulas like tinctures and vape oils, while having unique consistencies that require specialized vaping or smoking devices. These can be produced through numerous means, as there is a massive array of concentrates out there, including shatter, wax, budder, rosin, hash and more. Some of them rely on solvent-based methods, while others are the result of a more natural process which relies on removing the sticky trichomes from the hemp flowers and pressing or heating them to create a highly potent product.
Choosing the Best Extraction Method from the List Above
Now that you know just how crucial the extraction method is, you probably want to know which one is the best choice in order to deliver the most effective CBD experience possible.
- You have to know what you’re looking for. If you want a highly concentrated product, a concentrate is the way to go. If you’re looking for an isolated compound extract, seek out distillates, which are widely available on the hemp market.
- If you’re looking for more standard CBD goods like gummies, tinctures and so on, we do recommend going with a company that uses the CO2 extraction method. As we said earlier, this consistently yields a more chemically stable, pure, and bioavailable product.
- Companies producing CBD goods should always disclose the extraction method that they use to customers. If you can’t find this information on their website, you can always reach out to the company via customer service in order to ask them.
Throughout centuries, hemp enthusiasts have been developing new and advanced ways to turn the raw plant material into a compound-rich extract that’s easy to use in a variety of applications. As you can see, today’s hemp industry largely prefers the CO2 extraction process, and for good reason.