How to Extract CBD Oil: Which Method Is Best?

CBDNerds Staff
Authored: Oct 25, 2018
Updated: Oct 19, 2020
How to Extract CBD Oil | Guide | CBDNerds 2020

You may be wondering how to extract CBD oil from either cannabis or hemp plants since most companies that sell CBD products mention their extraction methods. Moreover, you may be curious about the solvent extraction or the difference between things like supercritical CO2 extraction and ethanol extraction. Science!

To begin, there are seemingly endless solvents you can use to extract cannabinoids (such as CBD) from cannabis, including:

 

  • Ethanol
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Propane
  • Isopropanol
  • Pentane
  • Naphtha
  • Hexane
  • Butane
  • Ether

However, the three most common are CO2, ethanol, and butane. These are the three methods almost all CBD manufacturers use. Let's take a deeper dive into how this is done.

 

Extracting CBD with Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

c02 cbd oil extraction

 

How to extract CBD oil with Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

CO2 extraction is one of the most popular methods used because it’s efficient, considered non-toxic, and produces a relatively pure CBD oil.  There are typically three categories of CO2 extraction:

  1. supercritical
  2. subcritical
  3. mid-critical

These categories relate to the temperature of heat used during extraction, with supercritical being the highest. A simple rule of thumb – the higher the temperature the higher the yield, however, high temps are also known to cause damage to terpenes.

Pros:

  • Very clean, usually no residual solvent left in the end product
  • A large amount of material can be processed at one time
  • CO2 can be recycled through a closed-loop system
  • Yields pure CBD oil

 

Cons:

  • Significant loss of terpenes often occurs
  • Substantial financial investment required for the equipment
  • Special training required to operate the extractor
  • Extract usually needs to be winterized to remove pigments, waxes, etc.
  • Negative effects on the atmosphere when releasing CO2 from the machine
  • Possibility of suffocation if not properly operated/ventilated
  • CO2 extracts are not water-soluble and have limited bioavailability
  • Product can be less-potent than others


 

How to Extract CBD oil from Hemp with Butane

Extracting CBD with Butane is another common way to create what is known as butane hash oil. Butane typically results in a stronger oil than say ethanol but there is the potential of solvents that can hurt the lungs. This form of extraction falls under the category of "solvent extraction forms". 

 

Pros:

  • Very effective at exclusively extracting cannabinoids and terpenes
  • Usually creates a more potent end-product

 

Cons:

  • Highly explosive, can explode at as little as 2% concentration in the air
  • Not environmentally-friendly as it is a petroleum product
  • Not uncommon for residual butane to end up in the extract


 

The Extraction Process with Ethanol

Ethanol is another of the most commonly used substances in the solvent extraction method. Ethanol is used to extract all the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant and enhance the potential of the entourage effect

 

Pros:

  • Maintains the original chemical balance found in the plant
  • Creates a truly full-spectrum extract
  • When an organic acid (such as CBDa or THCa) combines with ethanol, it creates an organic ester; water-soluble and highly bioavailable

 

Cons:

  • Extremely time and labor-intensive
  • Extracts water-soluble compounds like chlorophyll
  • Difficult to perform on anything more than small amounts of material
  • Expensive due to the cost of high-quality ethanol and labor


 

Solvents: Polar vs. Non-Polar

People often say that opinions are like armpits - everybody has them (and they stink!). The internet is rife with conflicting views on which extraction method is superior. The simple truth – it’s all relative. What’s important is that you determine what you want (CBD isolate, full-spectrum, etc.) before deciding how to extract CBD oil. For instance, if you are looking for a CBD rich oil that includes terpenes and other plant matter you may opt for ethanol extraction.

While non-polar solvents like butane almost exclusively extract the non-polar components of cannabis (cannabinoids, terpenes), many believe the other parts of the cannabis plant have equal health benefits. The entire argument of full-spectrum extracts revolves around the idea of the entourage effect. You can most easily understand the entourage effect as what happens when you ingest “whole-plant” CBD, by including all the compounds of the plant, the benefits and therapeutic effect that CBD has on the body is enhanced.

 

How to Extract CBD Oil: What’s the Best Way?

Since ethanol is both polar and non-polar, it is the only solvent with the ability to extract all of the carboxylic acids, polysaccharides, medicinal oils, and all other beneficial compounds from cannabis. Another massive advantage of ethanol extraction is the formation of organic esters - the result of an organic acid (think THCa and CBDa) meeting ethanol. Esters are more water-soluble and therefore highly bioavailable.

Bioavailability is a big deal when it comes to cannabis extracts and supplements in general. The human body is mostly water, and it only makes sense that a water-soluble extract would result in enhanced efficacy. The problem? Ethanol extraction takes longer, costs more money, and can’t process nearly as much plant material as something like CO2 extraction. Considering most people are in this industry to make money, well, you do the math. 

At the end of the day, choosing the best extraction method really comes down to which results you are desiring from CBD oil. It’s always good to determine if you want a broad spectrum, full-spectrum, or isolate, then research companies and their extraction methods to choose the best CBD product you.

Now that you know how to extract CBD, we suggest trying a company like cbdMD, which uses the CO2 method and produces excellent products.
 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

    1. What is the best CBD extraction method?

The best CBD extraction method ultimately depends on the desired outcome. Many would claim CO2 extraction is the most efficient and yields some of the purest high-quality CBD oil, which is true if you are looking for a CBD isolate. However, if you are interested in full-spectrum CBD oils, which offer a full range of cannabinoids and terpenes, ethanol solvent extraction is often the method used.

 

    1. Can I extract CBD oil at home?

Yes, there are a few different ways to extract CBD oil from cannabis in your very own kitchen. One simple method requires a slow cooker, CBD-rich (low or no THC) cannabis flowers, and a carrier oil (like coconut oil). Allow the ingredients to infuse over low heat during a 24hr period, then just strain the oil using a cheesecloth (to separate the plant material and oil). Voila! You have a batch of DIY CBD oil.

 

 

 

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