Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical compound that is derived from hemp, which are essentially the components of the cannabis sativa plant with extremely low THC levels. In the United States, industrial hemp/CBD is legally defined as possessing no more than a 0.3% concentration of THC. CBD has numerous health uses and benefits, and is popularly consumed in the form of oils and creams. CBD can be extracted from both cannabis plants that contain THC as well as industrial hemp plants cultivated with no THC. However, extracting CBD from cannabis plants that contain high levels of THC is technically more difficult and requires professional equipment.
One of the most common methods of extracting CBD from hemp is by using solvents. Liquid solvents, oil solvents, and CO2 are some of the easiest and most commonly used. To begin the extraction process with a liquid solvent, plant material (trim, flowers, etc.) must first be put into an isolated container. Then, liquid solvents (such as butane, alcohol, or ethanol) are run through the plant matter in order to strip and transfer cannabinoids into the liquid. The liquid can then be evaporated into the form of a highly-concentrated CBD oil. Similarly, oils such as olive oil can be used to extract CBD from hemp. One must first decarboxylate raw plant material, or heat it to a specific temperature to activate the plant’s chemicals. Then, olive oil is added to the plant matter and heated to 100 degrees Celsius for up to 2 hours in order to separate and extract the cannabinoids. Using olive oil to extract CBD is perhaps the safest and most organic approach, as it doesn’t leave any toxic residue (unlike other methods).
Thirdly, CO2 extraction is another incredibly common practice. To perform CBD extraction with CO2, one must use a piece of equipment known as a “closed loop extractor.” Simply put, a closed loop extractor consists of three parts: a first chamber that holds pressurized CO2, a second chamber that holds raw plant material, and a third chamber for the finished product. To initiate the extraction process, CO2 is pumped into the second chamber where it extracts chemicals by running through the plant material. In the third chamber, the CO2-cannabinoid mixture is kept at a higher temperature to create an oil of concentrated chemicals and flavors from the plant.
It is worth noting that all three of these methods for making CBD from hemp are best suited for different products and uses, of which there are many.