How Its Made
To start, you must have a plant rich in CBD. There are several methods for extracting the CBD oil, the most common being CO2 extraction. Each method has pros and cons and will be discussed in this section. After extraction, the CBD oil may be refined and formulated into a variety of products: edibles, tinctures, gel capsules, vape oil cartridges, topicals, beverages, and more.
The purpose of extraction is to give a concentrated form of the CBD oil and other components of the plant. Separating the CBD from the plant gives a very thick, potent oil. The texture and purity of which relies on the methods used to extract it. These cannabinoids are considered terpenophenolic which means they are terpenes and phenols, that CBD is soluble in both oil and alcohol. Thus, the process of extracting CBD oil from cannabis often entails the use of a solvent that is good at dissolving an oil or an alcohol-based compound. Solvents that are commonly used to extract CBD from cannabis include supercritical CO2, ethanol, hydrocarbons (such as butane) and olive oil.
CO2 EXTRACTION OF CBD OIL
CO2 extraction is the most prevalent commercial method – as well as one of the safest ways – of separating CBD and other cannabinoids from cannabis biomass. At room temperature, carbon dioxide is a gas. But under high pressure and fluctuating temperature, CO2 liquifies while still maintaining the fluid dynamics of a gas. This form of CBD extraction is actually divided into supercritical, subcritical and ‘mid-critical’ categories but supercritical is by far the most commonly used. In fact, it is the most regularly used extraction method of all because it is safe and provides a pure end product. In this “supercritical” state, CO2 acts like a solvent, which flushes out the active ingredients from the plant matter.
Using the aforementioned equipment in a lab, you can turn CO2 gas into a liquid by ensuring the temperature drops below -69 degrees Fahrenheit while increasing the pressure to over 75 pounds per square inch (psi). At this stage, you have your starting point for CO2 Cannabis extraction. Once you have the liquid CO2, the next step is to increase the temperature and pressure past the point where the liquid becomes ‘supercritical.’ This term means the CO2 is now capable of adopting properties halfway between a gas and liquid simultaneously. Effectively, the supercritical CO2 is capable of filling a container (like gas) while also maintaining density (like a liquid). When CO2 is in its supercritical state, it is ideal for chemical extraction because it won’t cause the denaturing or damage that would make it unfit for human consumption.
This method is very effective because each compound can only be extracted by CO2 under specific conditions. Slight changes in temperature or pressure in a supercritical state allows for fine-tuning the extraction of CBD and other desirable plant components.
As the pressure drops, a crude, waxy, CBD-rich substance, golden in color, separates from the gas and deposits into a collection vessel. Afterwards, the golden oil undergoes a process known as “winterization,” which purifies and refines the extract to increase its quality and value. The plant waxes, which are not appropriate to include in certain kinds of products, are filtered out, resulting in a safe, clean, CBD-rich oil that is free of chlorophyll.
Supercritical CO2 extraction requires expensive equipment and a steep operational learning curve. But unlike combustible solvents, such as ethanol or butane, CO2 poses no danger of fire or explosion.
OLIVE OIL EXTRACTION OF CBD
While other liquids such as ethanol can be used in this process, olive oil is the most commonly used substance for this extraction which can be performed at home. The first step involves ensuring the raw plant material is decarboxylated. In layman’s terms, it means you have to heat the plant at a certain temperature for a specific length of time to activate the plant’s chemicals.
Most experts recommend heating at 248 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes or at 284 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Once this step is completed, add the plant material to the olive oil and heat to 212 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 2 hours (and at least 1 hour). This process should result in the extraction of the cannabinoids, and ultimately, you should receive oil with the CBD content you require.
DRY ICE EXTRACTION OF CBD
The dry ice extraction method is another method of CBD extraction that can be performed at home although it takes a bit more time and effort than its olive oil equivalent. As well as the cannabis plant itself, you’ll need the following equipment:
Around 3 pounds of dry ice.
A large piece of Plexiglas or a mirror.
A paint scraper or putty knife.
Thick gloves that are heat resistant 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.
Put on your gloves and eye protection, chop up the cannabis plant into small pieces and place it in the bucket. Cover the plant with the dry ice and leave it for 3 minutes; it is best only to fill the bucket halfway; this process causes the freezing of the trichome resins. Fit the 73-micron bag over the bucket and shake the ice & plant combo for around 4 minutes; this knocks the frozen trichomes off.
Turn the bucket upside down on the Plexiglas and shake as much resin through the mesh bag as possible. Scrap the resin off the Plexiglas with your scraper and place it into one of the jars. Repeat with the 160 and 220-micron mesh bags, and you’ll be rewarded with three different strains of extract.
ETHANOL EXTRACTION OF CBD
The use of ethanol to extract medicinal compounds from cannabis and other plants has been a common practice in many cultures for centuries. In 1854, the U.S. Pharmacopeia recommended ethanol-based tinctures of “Indian hemp” to treat numerous ailments, including neuralgia, depression, hemorrhage, pain and muscle spasm.
These odiferous tinctures were a standard part of American health care prior to the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which prohibited all forms of cannabis consumption. But homemade cannabis tinctures persisted as an underground folk medicine, particularly in marginalized Latino communities, despite federal law.
In recent years, ethanol has re-emerged as a popular means of extracting cannabis oil, in general, and CBD oil, in particular. Whereas a tincture made from a cannabis extract could be equal in potency to the original flower, a concentrated version of the same tincture will be much more potent. Today, food-grade grain alcohol is a widely used solvent for creating very potent, high-quality CBD-rich oil, which is suitable for oral ingestion.
Ethanol extracts available in medical cannabis dispensaries are typically referred to as Rick Simpson Oil (aka RSO) or Full-Extract Cannabis Oil (FECO). In order to make RSO or FECO, cannabis flower is soaked in ethanol, agitated, and strained; then the residual oil is gently heated until all that remains is a viscous, highly concentrated goo infused with cannabinoids, which can be difficult to dose accurately, given how thick it is.
Often sold in plastic, needle-less syringes to make dosing and administration a little easier, RSO should contain the full spectrum of cannabinoids extracted from the plant. This means that a small amount THC will also be present in a CBD-rich ethanol extraction. Consumers are cautioned not to ingest a dose larger than a small grain of rice. With this type of cannabis oil, in particular, it’s always best to start low and go slow.
HYDROCARBON EXTRACTION OF CBD
Using hydrocarbon solvents – such as butane, hexane and propane or mixtures thereof – to extract CBD from cannabis has major advantages as well as distinct disadvantages compared to other methods of manufacturing CBD oil. When properly implemented, this extraction technique is a very effective at separating cannabinoids and terpenes from unwanted cannabis components (e.g., chlorophyll), while preserving the unique scent and significant therapeutic attributes of the plant.
Potent cannabis concentrates made with hydrocarbons may resemble tree sap, ear wax, or brittle candy in texture. The product known as “shatter” (so named because of its glass-like appearance and the manner in which it breaks) is consumed via inhalation by using a “dab rig” or a high temperature vaporizer.
But butane and other hydrocarbons are highly flammable, neurotoxic solvents. If these solvents aren’t fully purged from the CBD oil extract, their consumption can be harmful – especially for someone with a compromised immune system. In addition to leaving toxic residues in the oil, unsafe manufacturing processes involving hydrocarbons have been known to cause deadly explosions.