Which CBD oil extraction method is the best?

If you’re on the BeYou site, you probably care a lot about self-care, and that means you don't want to put just any CBD into your body. When you buy CBD, how can you make sure what you’re taking is quality, and as close to natural as possible? Don’t worry, we’re on hand to answer that question for you. 

Rather than buying CBD, you might also be testing out your green thumb and doing some home extractions. However, if you don't know how to properly execute a CBD oil extraction, all of that natural goodness will go to waste. Lucky for you, we're here to help. Let's start at the top. 

 

What is CBD? 

If you're thinking about CBD extraction methods, you probably already know what CBD is. Just in case, though, here's a quick summary. Looking for something more in-depth? Take a peek at our CBD guide

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a natural ingredient derived from the cannabis plant. It's probably not the most well-known substance derived from cannabis, though. That honour goes to tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. 

CBD and THC differ in one major way — ingesting THC will give you the negative psychoactive effects typically associated with smoking or otherwise ingesting marijuana. Meanwhile, CBD will never get you high. 

Your body has built-in receptors for CBD that make up the endocannabinoid system. In fact, you already produce cannabinoids that are quite similar to those found in CBD. That means your body can process CBD super easily!

 

How does CBD oil extraction work? 

Now, onto the question of the hour — how do we extract CBD oil?  Obviously, when we harvest CBD, we want to retain as much of its natural balance as possible. So, we use hemp plants that yield high amounts of CBD, and we extract it with care. 

CBD isn't the only element that makes up a hemp plant, though, meaning extracting it isn't as simple as you'd think. However, many of the methods used have been around for ages — people have used similar tricks for extracting essential oils from flowers, for example. 

CO2 CBD oil extraction

Most CBD manufacturers use carbon dioxide, or CO2, extraction to get their CBD. It's the most popular way of getting high-quality oil, but it's also the most expensive. That's because it works so well and avoids the contamination that can happen with other methods. 

Indeed, CO2 has long been used across a slew of industries to extract desired – or undesired – elements from plant products. For example, CO2 can decaffeinate coffee or pull flavours from spices to create flavoured extracts. 

CO2 CBD extraction can be broken down into two more specific categories: supercritical and subcritical. The former is the most common way of breaking down hemp plants to create CBD spray or CBD oil.

In general, both supercritical and subcritical CBD extraction methods follow the same procedure. Pressurised CO2 separates phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, from hemp. These plant-based elements are the ones then used to make CBD drops. Let's look at how these CO2 extraction methods differ. 

 

Supercritical CBD oil extraction with CO2

Supercritical CBD extraction begins with CO2 in its liquid form. Then, the temperature and pressure increase in the container until the liquid reaches a supercritical form, somewhere between gas and liquid. The CO2 can fill out any container, making it like gas, but it is as dense as a liquid. 

Once CO2 reaches this state, it behaves like a solvent when it meets the hemp plant. It soaks up all of the desired elements without compromising them. This process works wonders, but it can be costly. It requires specialist equipment to perform supercritical extraction because pressure and temperature have to be just right throughout. 

The supercritical CO2 full of dissolved hemp isn't the end of the story, though. The gas-liquid then passes through a separator, which pulls the desired CBD elements from it. This is how to produce the highest quality CBD. That's why it's so popular, especially with businesses that take pride in the standard of their CBD oils and CBD drops

Subcritical CBD Extraction With CO2

Your other CO2-centric CBD oil extraction method is subcritical. You can probably guess why it's called subcritical — it relies on a lower temperature and less pressure to pull CBD-making ingredients from the hemp plant. 

Because there’s less pressure and heat on the CO2, subcritical extraction takes longer than supercritical. However, lower temperatures make it even harder to damage the cannabis plant's most desired compounds. 

In the end, subcritical CBD results in a smaller amount of CBD. However, it gives more delicate oils and compounds the chance to emerge from the plant, too. 

 

Solvent CBD oil extractions

Not every CBD manufacturer will have access to the tools required for CO2-based extractions. On the other end of the spectrum, you have solvent extractions as another option. It's undoubtedly the cheapest way to get CBD out of a hemp plant. It's a much easier process, too. 

But solvent-based extractions open up more possibilities for things to go wrong, thus putting a perfectly good hemp harvest in danger. Solvent extractions usually involve running butane or ethanol over the hemp plant to strip the CBD away. Then, the solvent gets evaporated, so only an oil-based hemp compound remains. 

You might be wondering what can go wrong in such a simple process. Sometimes, these solvents pull more than just CBD from the hemp plants. They also remove chlorophyll, a pigment that helps the plant perform photosynthesis. If chlorophyll ends up in a batch of CBD, it can create a bitter taste, and lead to a lower quality product. 

On that note, the solvents can also degrade the desired elements that it removes from the hemp plant. That's why so many companies have begun to steer clear of this method. It's cheap, yes, but the imprecision also reduces quality to a point that has become unacceptable for any respectable CBD brand. 

Olive oil CBD extractions

Now, home growers might not be able to invest in the equipment required for CO2 or even solvent-based extractions. They're not out of luck, though — a pantry staple can help pull CBD from hemp plants, too. 

If you want to try it out yourself, you don't necessarily have to use olive oil — any oil will do. But most people opt for olive because it has a pleasant flavor, especially when combined with the earthy taste of hemp. 

The process begins with either grinding down your hemp or decarboxylating it. This fancy word means you have to heat your hemp to 105 degrees Celsius in the oven for 25 minutes. The heating-up phase is vital in extracting as much goodness from the hemp as possible. 

The high temperature converts the chemicals within the cannabinoids, boosting their potency and making it easier for you to remove them with olive oil. On that note, you will heat your hemp one more time in olive oil. This step releases all of the CBD goodness into the carrier liquid. 

This extraction method is great for home growers, but not for mass producers. It has a low yield and results in a perishable product. However, if you want to make a little CBD for yourself, it's worth a try. 

 

Dry ice CBD oil extraction

Now after reading the words "dry ice" you're probably imagining a science lab with blocks of the extra-cold stuff creating an eerie fog, but it’s much less high-tech than that. This method of CBD extraction can actually be performed in your house! Plus, it removes the need for any type of solvent, which makes your resulting CBD purer. 

All you have to do is flash-freeze your hemp extract (simple, right?), then pour it through a mesh bag. This step will remove unwanted elements from your final product, giving you a high-quality, homemade vial of CBD drops or CBD spray

Some people have riffed on this method by chilling their hemp in a freezer and then sieving it. But dry ice is the best way to do this, as it cools your CBD quickly and thoroughly. So, if you want to try it, get your hands on some dry ice first—but always be careful!

 

Which CBD oil extraction method is the best?

For professional CBD producers, there's only one answer to this question — CO2. It creates a high-quality product with a high yield. You can also combine multiple methods to create an even purer product. 

If you're making your own CBD, though, experiment with the at-home options you have. It's up to you to decide the process that provides you with the best homemade oil. We’d strongly recommend simply buying CBD from a trusted source though, since it can be very difficult to gauge strength and dosage at home. 

 

Buying CBD 

Before you buy CBD, it’s always best to make sure you’re all read up and informed! Check out our quick guide to CBD for newbies, as well as our full slate of CBD-based products to get you started. We’ve got CBD oils, CBD drops, CBD sprays and CBD balms! Got some questions? Then our team of CBD experts is on hand to help on our contact page

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