CBD has become increasingly popular in the last couple of years, and with every passing day more and more people are using CBD oil for a wide variety of reasons such as for treating pain, insomnia, reducing inflammation and a assortment of other ailments and conditions. Despite the popularity of CBD oil, most people have no idea how CBD oil is made. In this article, we will explain each step in the CBD Oil production process and this knowledge will allow you to identify and choose the best type of CBD oil for yourself.
It is crucial to explain the difference between CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) before we proceed further. THC is the substance that gives you a “high” or the feeling associated with smoking hemp or marijuana and is classified as a highly psychoactive substance. A psychoactive substance affects your nervous system and leads to changes in mood, perception, cognition, behaviour, and consciousness. Cocaine, LSD, cannabis, hashish, tobacco are all examples of psychoactive substances.
THC is considered a psychoactive substance, while CBD is a non-psychoactive substance that is also extracted from the same plant. This fundamental difference is vital in the CBD extraction process as CBD oil is mostly derived from low THC strains of Cannabis Sativa.
Hemp Growing Process
Choosing the right hemp strain is the first step in the CBD oil production process. UK CBD regulations require a hemp plant to have a THC content below 0.01% and most farmers or companies engaged in hemp farming need a prior licence from the Home Office.
So, the hemp strain chosen must have a low level of THC within the prescribed limits. A good hemp strain will have a high level of CBD and a low level of THC. This ensures that the product is legal and does not have any intoxicating effect as is associated with THC.
Farmers can choose to grow hemp either through hemp seeds, or they can use a small section of a hemp plant tissue to create a genetically identical clone. Cloning is often the preferred method as it allows a farmer to grow vast quantities of high quality and similar hemp plants.
CBD Extraction Process
Young plants are spaced apart to ensure that light reaches every single plant, and they are allowed to mature. Once mature, the plants are harvested and spread out in large barns to dry. These dry hemp plants are then milled to create a fine powder that has a texture like coffee grounds.
Now CBD can be extracted from this raw hemp powder using a wide variety of methods. There are several extraction methods, and each has its pros and cons.
The solvent method is one of the most popular techniques for CBD extraction from raw hemp. For this method, a solvent is selected, and alcohol, butane, propane, or hexane are commonly used as a solvent. The preferred solvent is passed through the finely grounded hemp. It dissolves the fat and nutrients and leaves the fibre and cellular material behind. Once the waste has been filtered out, this mixture is heated in a vacuum which leads to the evaporation of the solvent used and the cannabinoids or CBD are left behind.
The solvent method is relatively cheap and does not require specialised expensive equipment. The quality of CBD extracted via this method depends on the quality of the solvent used.
CO2 Extraction Method
CO2 extraction, also known as the Supercritical CO2 method, is the gold standard in the CBD industry and delivers the purest form of CBD oil. This method also happens to be the most expensive one as it requires specialised, state of the art equipment.
During the CO2 extraction method, the first step is to compress the raw hemp material at a low temperature before supercritical CO2 is passed through this. Supercritical CO2 means that the CO2 has been held in temperature and pressure above its critical state or the temperature and pressure where it exists as a gas. Supercritical CO2 is liquid in form and acts as a solvent.
The supercritical CO2 process can also be used to remove all traces of THC from raw hemp, and it can deliver CBD oil with almost 0% THC content.
The CO2 extraction method is considered the most efficient method for extracting CBD oil and is used by almost all large and well-established companies. Due to the cost of the equipment involved, small companies rarely use this method. If you want the highest quality of CBD oil, then go for the one that has been extracted using Supercritical CO2 process.
Oil Extraction Method
The oil extraction method is perhaps the oldest method used for extracting CBD oils as it has been used for centuries and is relatively easy when compared with other extraction methods. In the oil extraction method, the raw hemp is first milled into a fine powder and is then decarboxylated. Decarboxylation refers to the process of removing CO2 from any substance. Decarboxylation allows one to convert cannabidiol acid into CBD. During the oil extraction process, dry raw hemp powder is heated slowly to achieve decarboxylation.
The cannabinoids are in their most active form once the CO2 has been removed through decarboxylation. The activated hemp is then mixed with a good quality natural oil such as coconut oil or olive oil. This mixture of activated hemp and oil is then heated for a few hours, and once it has cooled down, it is filtered to remove any plant residue.
Oil extraction is the easiest method to extract CBD oil and can be done without any specialised equipment. It is also the method preferred by newbies or DIY CBD enthusiasts to extract CBD from their homegrown hemp. The main drawback of the oil extraction method is that the CBD oil produced is not as potent or as pure as the CBD oil extracted via solvent method or Supercritical CO2 method.
The Final Product
Many companies also use additional methods such as winterisation, and short path distillation to further purify the CBD oil extracted via the methods mentioned above. The final product that you use has gone through multiple processes to ensure that the CBD oil is pure and confirms to the legal and regulatory standards. That said, make sure you always check third party lab reports and look into the extraction method used.