How To Extract CBD Oil | Cannabis Oil Extraction Methods

How To Extract CBD Oil

Do you ever wonder how CBD oil is made or extracted? You may have noticed several companies that sell CBD oil products mention their extraction methods. But how is CBD extracted? What are the differences in the methods used to extract CBD? To begin, there are seemingly endless solvents you can use to extract cannabinoids (such as CBD) from cannabis, including:


  • Ethanol

  • CO2

  • Propane

  • Isopropanol

  • Pentane

  • Naphtha

  • Hexane

  • Butane

  • Ether

However, the three most popular are by far 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


Pros of this extraction method

  • 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


Cons of C02 Extraction

  • 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

  • Often produces a less-potent product


Extracting CBD 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 of Solvent Extraction

  • Very effective at exclusively extracting cannabinoids and terpenes

  • Usually produces a more potent end-product


Cons of Butane Solvent Extraction:

  • 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


Extracting CBD with Ethanol

Finally, we'll take a dive into the pros and cons of extracting CBD with ethanol. Ethanol is another of the most commonly used substances in the solvent extraction method. This is used to extract all the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant offering the potential of the entourage effect



  • 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



  • 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 is that it depends on what the user wants before determining which extraction method is best. Just like life itself, this is not a black and white issue.


While non-polar solvents like butane almost exclusively extract the non-polar components of cannabis (cannabinoids, terpenes - the ‘good stuff’), 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 a magical synergy that occurs when all the infinite constituents of the plant as it happens in nature are present.


My Personal Opinion on the Best Way to Extract CBD

"how to extract cbd"


We live in a strange world - take the product Emergen-C for example. People would instead take synthetic, isolated ascorbic acid for ‘immune health’ rather than eat an orange. Ascorbic acid is one of about 300 components of Vitamin C; when you ingest ascorbic acid on its own, your body must pull from its reserves to complete the molecule - ultimately depleting your nutrient stores.


Cannabis extracts seem to follow a similar trend, with the majority feeling they know best, and that they know which compounds produce the healing benefits that cannabis has to offer - and which novel chemical to use to extract it. I could not disagree more; I feel that nature is supremely perfect, and gives things to us in a way that we should not dissect, isolate, and ultimately destroy.


As 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.


And we haven’t even come close to discussing spagyrics - an ancient alchemical method of extracting the beneficial compounds from plants that include all the salts and minerals, as well as alkaloids and other wonderful chemicals (and probably millions of things yet to be discovered!)


Much love to everyone, and may you find the cannabis product that works best for you!


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