CBD is one of the buzz words in health and well-being circles at the moment. Although most people are aware that it comes from the Cannabis Sativa plant, understanding how it is actually made is a lot less well known.
CBD or Cannabidiol is one of over a hundred different compounds which are found in the plant – with the hemp plant being the most common strain that it used. Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis plant which has been bred to have high CBD levels, but with low levels of THC (another compound in the plant, but which will give you the ‘high’ that you would associate with Cannabis).
Due to these low THC levels (below 0.2%), the CBD oil which is extracted from these plants is legal across the UK and in many other parts of the world, so you won’t get in trouble with the law.
How is CBD Oil Made?
CBD oil is made by extracting the CBD and other cannabinoids from the plant and then mixing it with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, hemp seed oil or olive oil. This isn’t to give it a nice taste, it’s because CBD is not water soluble and therefore finds it difficult to absorb into the body. By mixing it with a carrier oil, the bioavailability (it’s ability to be absorbed) is increased and the CBD oil will be more effective.
What is the CBD Extraction Process?
They say that the quality of what you get out of something depends on the quality of what you put in. And this is certainly the case with CBD oil. It is important to start off with a good quality hemp plant to be able to make good quality CBD oil. To make it, the stalks and leaves of the good quality hemp plant are used.
Once the plant has been harvested and dried it then goes into extraction. There are generally three kinds of CBD extraction processes –
- Using olive oil
- Using liquid solvents
- Using Carbon Dioxide
- Depending on the kind of oil that you are looking to produce, in what quantities and with what budget, there are pros and cons to each method.
- Olive Oil
The process of using olive oil to extract CBD is relatively simple. In fact, it is a process that has been used for possibly hundreds of years. The raw plant material is heated up to a specific temperature to activate the cannabinoids in the plant, and then mixed with the olive oil. The mixture is then heated up – but not evaporated – so that the cannabinoids can be released into the olive oil and voilà! The CBD infused olive oil is ready.
This is the most affordable method of CBD extraction, and is commonly used by people at home. However, due to the fact that the olive oil cannot be evaporated, it’s ratio of CBD to olive oil is very low, meaning that concentration is low, and you will need to consume relatively large amounts of it compared to other CBD oils. It is also perishable, meaning that it doesn’t last for long and needs to be kept in a cool, dark place.
Another method of CBD extraction is through the use of liquid solvents such as alcohol, ethanol, butane or isopropyl. This is a popular method but is a lot more dangerous than the other two as these solvents are highly flammable.
To use liquid solvents for the extraction of CBD, they are passed through the hemp material, taking the cannabinoids as they go. This liquid is now rich in cannabinoids and can next be evaporated to leave an oil which is jam packed full of CBD and other goodness.
Although this method is relatively cheap to do, there is a downside. The burning off of the solvents can destroy some of the other cannabinoids, meaning that certain compounds in the plant will not be present, with the potential of making it less effective.
The CO2 method is the favourite method amongst businesses who make CBD products in large amounts and gives them a range of other options. The process is the same one as has been used to decaffeinate tea and coffee and make vanilla extract for years.
The CO2 method requires an expensive machine called a `closed loop extractor’. The closed loop extractor consists of three chambers –
- one for the CO2,
- one for the hemp,
- one to separate them.
In this process, pressurised CO2 is added to the chamber in a solid state – as ‘dry ice’ and then heated to a specific temperature which turns it into a ‘supercritical’ state. This means that is has some qualities of a liquid and some of a gas.
The Carbon Dioxide is then passed through the second chamber and the raw hemp material, extracting the CBD and other cannabinoids.
When they enter the third chamber, the CO2 rises, and the cannabinoid extract sinks to the bottom, separating them and allowing the producer to create CBD oil in its purest form.
The closed loop extractor allows producers to change temperatures and pressures, giving them the power to choose which cannabinoids are to be extracted and which ones not.
The CO2 method, although more expensive, does give the people producing it more options and control.
Different Kinds of CBD Oil
There are two main types of CBD oil available – full spectrum CBD oil, and CBD isolate. The difference between the two is about the purity of the product.
CBD isolate contains only CBD, and no other compounds, whereas full spectrum CBD oil will contain CBD as well as some of the other cannabinoids. Although ‘pure’ CBD might seem like the best one, often the other cannabinoids in the plant can have other health benefits or make the CBD more effective. Neither is better, it just depends on your specific circumstances.
Each CBD extraction method has its pros and cons specific to individual needs and musts. There is a lot of work that goes into the production of that little bottle of goodness, but it is all worthwhile when you see the positive effects that it can have.