CBD is extracted from the hemp plant, a variation of the cannabis plant known for its low THC content. The hemp flowers are typically used for extraction, while the rest of the plant material (known as the hemp biomass) is often used for other purposes. Before the extraction process, it’s typical for the CBD plant to be: picked and trimmed, dried & finely ground.
There are several effective CBD extraction methods such as:
- Olive oil extraction
- Steam distillation
- Hydrocarbon extraction
However, these processes don’t guarantee a high-quality product and could even result in toxic residue.
The top two extraction methods — ethanol extraction and supercritical CO2 extraction — are preferred by CBD manufacturers interested in retaining quality control, and both methods are safe and commonly used in the food industry as well as for extracting CBD.
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#1 Super Cold Ethanol Extraction Method
Ethanol is used in a variety of food-grade products, including nutritional extracts, beer and wine and even whipping cream. It’s also a natural solvent and the key ingredient in this form of CBD oil extraction.
Ethanol extraction is a great choice for CBD oils and gummies. The process produces appealing-looking, great-tasting oil for connoisseurs who appreciate the natural taste of CBD oil.
Consider the following steps into this solvent extraction:
- Ethanol soak – Plant material is fully submerged in an ethanol solution. Protective gear and safety protocols are essential during the early stages of the process to ensure a quality product and a safe environment.
- Filtration – After the plant material has been soaked in ethanol, the solid plant material is slowly filtered out and removed.
- Cold factor – The ethanol is chilled to a super-cold temperature (-40°C or below) to ensure that fats and lipids are removed from the hemp extract. Without the cold ethanol, the resulting extract would be noticeably less pure and potentially less effective.
- Ethanol evaporation – In the final step of CBD oil extraction, nearly all of the ethanol is removed.
#2 Supercritical CO2 Extraction Method
This clean, safe and environmentally friendly method has been around for decades and is used to extract CBD from hemp grown on farms across the country, from Oregon to Kentucky. CO2 extraction isn’t just for cannabis products; it’s also used to extract hops to make beer.
The supercritical CO2 extraction method has long been the preferred method for extracting CBD for several reasons, including:
- Safety – CO2 leaves little worry for manufacturers and consumers alike. Carbon dioxide is a nontoxic and non-flammable gas that has no impact on human health at normal concentrations.
- High concentration – This extraction process may yield a stronger or more potent CBD or cannabis extraction. This may be ideal for consumers interested in a full-spectrum product.
How does this CBD extraction process work?
- Pressurization – The CBD is placed into a pressurized chamber and carbon dioxide is pumped into the extraction chamber. The pressurized carbon dioxide begins to extract the desired phytochemicals from the plant. The term “supercritical” signifies that when solvents are exposed to extreme pressures and temperatures, they fluctuate between intermediate states of solid, liquid and gas.
- Separation – CO2 extraction separates individual compounds in the cannabis plant during the extraction process, eliminating the need for additional purification.
- Condensation – Once the extraction is complete, the CO2 is condensed into a liquid form and may be reused for further processing in the future.
CBD extracts may come in three distinct forms, including:
- Full-spectrum – For those interested in ingesting all the cannabinoids (THC, CBD, and terpene) and other natural compounds in the hemp plant, full-spectrum CBD is your best choice. All of these components may work together to provide an “entourage effect” — a powerful synergistic experience for some CBD users.
- Broad-spectrum – Broad-spectrum CBD is further refined in the CBD extraction process to remove all THC. Broad-spectrum contains 80% to 90% CBD, no THC and a reduced level of other cannabinoids.
- CBD Isolate – This THC-free alternative is made by isolating CBD and then refining it into a single compound, which results in a nearly 100% pure CBD compound. CBD isolates are mostly found in a tasteless crystalline form.
What is the Entourage Effect?
- According to the proposed mechanism known as the CBD Entourage effect, cannabis compounds or cannabinoids act synergistically with each other to enhance the overall psychoactive effects of the plant. In other words, all the compounds in cannabis perform better when taken together, as opposed to being taken separately.
The Endocannabinoid System and Its Relationship with the CBD Entourage Effect
- The human body has a natural endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a biological system composed of endocannabinoids. The ECS works within the central and peripheral nervous system, including the brain. It is always active, irrespective of the external use of cannabinoids.
- The ECS regulates your sleep, mood, appetite, memory, metabolism, growth, temperature control, emotional processing, inflammatory responses, immune responses, and pain sensation. It controls homeostasis and helps your body return to stable conditions when attacked by external or internal factors.
- Phytocannabinoids like CBD and THC are chemically similar to your body’s endocannabinoids, which allow them to interact with your cannabinoid receptors. The interaction affects the release of neurotransmitters in your brain that have roles in immune function, pain, stress, sleep etc. It can thus help produce the same calming effects as your body’s endocannabinoids do.
- However, taking only one or just a few of the compounds can have side effects. For example, after taking THC, some people experience side effects like anxiety, hunger, and sedation. This is where CBD’s entourage effect comes in. As long as you take them together in their natural ratio, they tend to cancel out the negative impacts and produce a potent and holistic effect.
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