How to Choose the Best Extraction Method for CBD

Photo by CRYSTALWEED cannabis on Unsplash

 

Maybe you’re wondering how your cannabidiol (CBD) products are produced, or you’re interested in doing your own CBD extractions, but aren’t sure where to start or which one to use. Either way, the CBD extraction process is likely a bit of mystery. Some methods are known for their simplicity, while others are known for producing superior yields. Whether you’re trying to narrow down your purchasing choices or getting ready to DIY your own CBD at home, the decision can be a struggle. Each technique has its pros and cons, and we’re going to help you to sort through them. 

In this article, we’re going to review the most popular methods for extracting cannabidiol, and by the end, you’ll have a better understanding of each technique and solid reasons to choose one over the other.

Methods overview

There are three main methods of CBD extraction:

  • Supercritical CO2
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Ethanol

Each uses different chemical processes to separate cannabidiol from hemp plants in order to create concentrated oils and tinctures. Oils use an oil base while tinctures use an alcohol base, so your preference here may influence which technique that you use. Here are the most important details you should know about each: (1)

Supercritical CO2 extraction (2)

Extraction with carbon dioxide is a complicated process that requires sophisticated lab procedures. It’s not something you could attempt at home, but we’re still going to give you the logistics behind it. 

Supercritical CO2 extraction involves the introduction of carbon dioxide gas to hemp plant material inside of an airtight chamber. This separates cannabinoids from the plant and results in the production of CBD oil. 

While other forms of extraction use oil and alcohol solvents, CO2 extraction is chemical-free. For this reason, it’s considered the safest technique with the lowest chance of producing undesirable byproducts from poor lab conditions. 

It’s generally recognized that supercritical CO2 results in the best, purest cannabinoid extractions—however, most homebrewers don’t have the equipment or skills for it.

Hydrocarbon extraction (3)

Extraction using hydrocarbons requires the use of butane or propane as a solvent. These substances are easy to find on store shelves, so many DIYers opt for this method to create their own homemade CBD oils. 

Simply put, hemp is soaked in butane or propane, which is later refined in order to make a concentrate. The process uses these chemicals to capture the terpenes and cannabinoids in plant matter, which is then distilled down to CBD. 

The quality of the final product is often contingent upon the lab environment and technical skills used during the process, so results can vary tremendously. The better your technique is, however, the better your turnout will be. 

This is an excellent method for anyone wanting to try extracts at home. Hydrocarbon extraction can be as simple or advanced as you’d like, but like most things in life, you’ll get out of it what you put in. The use of chemical solvents does mean that there’s potential for contaminants showing up in your extract, but this won’t matter if you aren’t concerned with product purity.

Ethanol extraction (1)

The final CBD extraction method that many turn to is ethanol extraction. Like the hydrocarbons mentioned above, ethanol can be obtained easily—however, it can be expensive. For this reason, some use denatured ethanol, but the downside is impurities in the solvent often cause contaminants to end up in your final product. 

The ethanol extraction process is nearly identical to that of hydrocarbons, requiring you to soak plant matter in the solvent. The resulting liquid is later refined in order to create CBD tinctures.

In most cases, manufacturers use denature alcohol for their extractions. This means their tinctures are full of contaminants, but the FDA still classifies them as GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe). 

Ethanol extraction is another easy method you can try out at home, but it won’t yield the best results. Even in lab settings, impurities in denatured ethanol affect the extracts and result in subpar CBD products when compared to others made using superior techniques. 

The verdict

Choosing the right CBD extraction method is a matter of deciding how much money and effort you’re willing to put into the process. If you have access to equipment for supercritical CO2 extraction, it’s hands down the best option. But if you don’t, you’ll need to decide between hydrocarbon and ethanol extractions. 

Butane and propane are capable of producing purer extracts than ethanol, so they’re your best bet if you can get your hands on them. Otherwise, you’ll need to settle for ethanol. 

These are the three main CBD extraction methods, and each has its pros and cons. Which is best for you depends on your situation and the resources available to you. In any case, if one doesn’t work out, you can always try another. There’s always more CBD to go around. 

 

Disclaimer: This article is based on our independent research. While our team does everything in their power to provide accurate and current information from credible state-run websites and resources, we are not lawyers or legal experts. As such, none of the following information should be interpreted as legal advice. Content on these pages is provided for informational purposes only and those with legal concerns should consult experts within their state, such as the FDA.

 

Sources:

  1. “Guide to CBD Extraction Methods: The Best Way To Extract CBD”, Source: https://www.bestcbdoils.org/cbd-extraction-methods/#:~:text=made%20this%20way.-,CO2%20Extraction,subcritical%20and%20’mid%2Dcritical.
  2. “What Is The Best Way To Extract CBD From Hemp?”, Source: https://www.cibdol.com/cbd-encyclopedia/what-is-the-best-way-to-extract-cbd-from-hemp#nl-subscribe-popup
  3. “Your Guide To Hydrocarbon Extraction”, Source: https://www.cannabisbusinesstimes.com/article/your-guide-to-hydrocarbon-extraction/