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How is CBD Extracted?

Over the last decade, CBD has increasingly found itself in the spotlight. For the most part, CBD has become popular because of its purported medical benefits and because it doesn’t produce a high. But while people know may what CBD can do, not many people know exactly how CBD is extracted. Generally speaking, there are three primary ways to extract CBD, each with their distinct advantages and disadvantages. Here are the three ways that you can extract CBD:

Liquid Extraction

The simplest and most cost-effective way to extract CBD is through liquid extraction. There are several different kinds of liquid solvents that can be used for this method, but the most common solvents are butane, isopropyl alcohol, hexane, or ethanol. By placing the hemp flowers and trim into the solvent of your choice, the cannabinoids and terpenes are stripped from the flower and transferred into the liquid solvent. As the solvent evaporates, the cannabinoids and terpenes are left behind in an oil.

There are a few downsides to using liquid extraction, however. Depending on the solvent, the chlorophyll in the hemp plant can also be stripped out. This will give the CBD extract a heavy green color and a bitter taste, which no one wants. There is also the risk of leaving impurities in the extract as well. Certain steps can be taken to ensure that no contaminants are left behind, but the risk is always there.

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C02 Extraction

As the name implies, this CBD extraction method relies heavily on C02. Like hemp, C02 can be incredibly versatile. Unlike some molecules, C02 can function as a gas, solid, or liquid. C02 extraction uses a machine known as a “closed loop extractor.” Closed Loops extractors use three chambers. The first chamber holds pressurized C02, the second chamber holds the plant material, and the third chamber is where the extracted CBD ends up.

In order to extract CBD, the first chamber pumps C02 into the second chamber. By keeping the second chamber at a specific temperature and pressure, the C02 turns into a quasi-liquid (known as supercritical C02) and get pumped through the hemp material; taking the cannabinoids and terpenes with it. The C02 is then transferred into the third chamber.

The third chamber is kept at a lower temperature and pressure than the second chamber. This helps turn the C02 into a gas. As the gas floats to the top of the chamber, the CBD extract separates and falls to the bottom of the chamber.

Unlike the liquid extraction method, C02 extraction carries very little risk of contamination. The downside to C02 extraction is that it is expensive

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Oil Extraction

Oil extraction is one of the easiest ways to get concentrations of CBD, and if you’ve ever made cannabis edibles, then you will probably be familiar with this process. To start, you have to heat up your hemp in order to activate the cannabinoids in the plant material.  This process is called decarboxylation.


Once you’ve done that, add your hemp to oil (olive oil or vegetable oil works the best) and heat it to 100°C for 1-2 hours. After you separate the plant material from the oil, what you’re left with is essentially full spectrum hemp oil.


The downside to this method is that you can’t separate the oil from the extract, making it unsuitable for commercial use. However, the oil extraction method is great for home cooking. Just be aware that the infused oil will spoil quickly, so it’s best to store it in a cool dark place.

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