How is CBD Extracted?

Feb 24, 2020

The purpose of cannabidiol (CBD) extraction is to capture the cannabinoid in highly concentrated forms in order to make it suitable for human consumption.

This article will examine the four most common CBD oil extraction methods used today for those interested in extracting CBD oil for personal use or for their business.

Learn more about CBD dosage here.


CBD Extraction 

The Complete Guide to Different CBD Extractions Methods

There are four methods for CBD extraction - CO2 Extraction, Olive Oil Extraction, Dry Ice Extraction, and Solvent Extraction. All of these methods have been proven to work effectively, though some are a much better option, depending on your situation.


The CO2 Extraction Method

This particular form of CBD extraction is divided into the following categories: supercritical, subcritical, and “mid-critical.”  The most common technique is the supercritical technique because it provides a pure product and is widely considered to be a safe process. To put it simply, CO2 extraction utilizes pressurized carbon dioxide (CO2) in order to “pull” cannabidiol (CBD) and other compounds from the plant.

Pros of CO2 Extraction

  • High Safety Profile: CO2 is widely used to produce carbonated soft drinks and is a common food additive as well.

  • Effectiveness: The CO2 extraction method has been utilized by the food industry for years. For example, it is used as an extraction solvent for the production of essential oils and to remove caffeine from coffee.  

  • Purity: Cannabinoids are potent and chlorophyll-free with minimal risk of contamination.

Cons of CO2 Extraction

  • Expensive: This process can only be completed with the use of extremely expensive and highly specialized equipment; the estimated cost being somewhere around the $39,000 mark.

  • Technical Ability: The CO2 extraction method is not something that should be attempted by amateur chemists.


The Olive Oil Extraction Method

While ethanol and other liquids are commonly used in the extraction process, olive oil is the most common substance that can be utilized for at-home extractions. Once the raw plant has been properly decarboxylated (meaning that the plant’s active compounds have been activated), it is then introduced to olive oil and heated for anywhere from 1-2 hours. This process results in the extraction of the plant’s cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD).

Pros of Olive Oil Extraction

  • Very Safe: This method of CBD extraction can easily be done at home and you don’t need to utilize expensive and highly-specialized lab equipment.

  • Inexpensive: You can set up everything that you need without breaking the bank. Olive oil is an easy-to-find and inexpensive item that can be picked up at your local grocery store, and you probably already have an oven to use for heating.

Cons of Olive Oil Extraction

  • Perishability: It doesn’t matter if the infused oil is high in CBD, THC, or both, it is extremely perishable. Store product in a cool, dark place when not in use.  

  • Low Yields: This type of extraction produces considerably lower yields. This drastically lowers the chance of a company utilizing it due to the labor-intensiveness of this method.  


The Dry Ice Extraction Method

Another extraction technique that can be utilized from the comfort of your own home is the dry ice extraction method. It is important to note, however, that this process takes considerably more effort and time when compared to its olive oil equivalent. In addition to the hemp or cannabis plant itself, you will need the following equipment:

  • About three pounds of dry ice

  • A large mirror or piece of Plexiglas

  • A putty knife or paint scraper

  • Thick heat-resistant gloves, and eye protection

  • A clean 5-gallon plastic bucket

  • 3 bubble hash mesh bags; sizes are: 73, 160, and 220 microns

  • 3 large, clean glass jars for storage

After the hemp or cannabis is chopped into small pieces, it is then placed into a bucket. The plant is covered with dry ice and then left alone for about three minutes. This process causes the trichome resins to freeze. (Note: It is best to only fill the bucket about halfway.) The 73-micron bag is fitted over the bucket and then shaken for about four minutes – this removes the frozen trichomes.

The bucket is then turned upside down over the Plexiglas and shaken again to remove the highest amount of resin possible through the mesh bag. The collected hash is scraped off the Plexiglass with a scraper and then placed into jars for storage. This process is then repeated with 160 and 200-micron mesh bags, yielding three different extracted strains.  

Pros of Dry Ice Extraction Method

  • Ease of Use: The process discussed above is very simple to understand and instructions are easy to follow.

  • Clean: Unlike other extraction methods, the dry ice extraction process requires very little clean-up time.

  • Decent Yield: This process yields a lot more in comparison to the olive oil extraction method.

Cons of Dry Ice Extraction Method

  • Low-Quality: This is completely dependent upon the preparer, but the quality of the product can be easily ruined if shaken for too long.

  • Not Always Easy to Obtain Dry Ice: The accessibility of dry ice is widely dependent on where you live. It isn’t always easy to get your hands on three pounds of dry ice with the exception of online ordering, which may be quite expensive to ship.


The Solvent Extraction Method

Butane, ethanol, and low-grade alcohol are the most common substances that are utilized in the solvent extraction process. Ethanol is capable of extracting a full range of the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes, but it extracts the chlorophyll as well, which can lead to some pretty unpleasant side-effects. It is possible to remove the chlorophyll by filtering the extract, however, this significantly reduces the potency of the oil. The extraction liquid (either ethanol, butane, or alcohol) is added to the raw plant material to strip it of its flavor and cannabinoids and will probably take away some of its green coloring as well.

Once enough of the cannabinoids have been collected in their liquid form, the liquid is then heated to evaporate its contents down to the base CBD oil. Butane yields a strong oil as compared to ethanol, but it is also far more likely to contain irritating solvents that could potentially harm the lungs.

Pros of Solvent Extraction Method

  • Appropriate for Certain Products: If a high-grade alcohol is being utilized, the resulting product will be high-quality oil that is suitable for vaping cartridges.

  • Straightforward Process: Once the equipment is obtained, the process is not at all difficult to understand and complete.

Cons of Solvent Extraction Method

  • Extremely Dangerous: Ethanol and butane are both highly combustible – making it too dangerous of a process to undergo in one’s home.

  • Potentially Harmful: In addition to destroying plant waxes, this extraction process may also produce an oil that contains harmful contaminants like chlorophyll.


Final Words About CBD Extraction

When searching for a CBD-infused product, it is important to know which extraction method was utilized in its making. It would also be beneficial to have a general understanding of the various CBD extraction processes because they each have major impacts on the quality of the end product (not to mention your health).

Supercritical CO2 is the method most widely used by various CBD companies, however, it is a costly process. Consumers who create their own CBD-infused oil and products tend to use either the olive oil or dry ice methods because they are by far the easiest to follow and provide great purity and yield. Keep in mind that there are other extraction methods that were not discussed in this guide.

For more information on CBD oils, learn more here.