Why is there Ethanol in CBD Oil?

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Without a doubt, CBD oil is the most popular form of cannabidiol (CBD) found on the market. It’s produced directly from hemp extracts and, once acquired, you can use it however you like. Drop it on your tongue or use it in a recipe—either way, you get to experience the richness of cannabinoids. But there’s one quality of CBD that has some users confused.

If you’ve tinkered with CBD oils for any amount of time, you may have noticed that some have a slightly alcoholic smell. This leaves many wondering what oils are actually made of, especially those who are sensitive to alcohol. As off-putting as it can be, there’s no reason to be alarmed by the scent. Many CBD oils contain ethanol, and it’s completely normal.

In this article, we’re going to explain why some CBD oils contain ethanol. At the end, you’ll have a better understanding of CBD, hemp extraction, and how your favorite products are made. If you’ve been in the dark on ethanol in terms of how it pertains to everyone’s favorite cannabinoids, this is sure to be an eye opener. 

Hemp extraction methods

CBD oils aren’t created out of thin air. They’re extracted from hemp plants through chemical processes. In each method of extraction, CBD molecules are separated from plant matter via a solvent and eventually form a tincture or oil.

So, how does this relate to ethanol?

Supercritical CO2 extraction (1)

CO2 extraction of cannabinoids is arguably the most sophisticated method for collecting CBD from hemp plants. The basic method involves mixing carbon dioxide gas with hemp in an airtight chamber in order to extract the desired molecules. In the end, the CBD molecules are collected in an oil form, funneled into a dropper bottle, and sold by retailers.

Hydrocarbon extraction (2)

In the previous example, CO2 acted as a solvent for extracting CBD and producing oils. Similarly, hydrocarbons such as butane and propane can be mixed with CBD for the same purpose. Soaking hemp in hydrocarbons is one the easiest ways to create your own extracts, as the materials needed for the process can be found on shelves at your local hardware store. However, these extracts can end up smelling a little like lighter fluid due to the chemicals involved, and that leads us to why some CBD oils smell like ethanol.

Ethanol extraction (3)

The reason there is ethanol in some CBD oils is because they’re produced through ethanol extraction. Like with hydrocarbons, hemp can be soaked in ethanol to create a cannabinoid tincture. While some extractions are purer than others, each contains trace amounts of the solvents used to create them—thus, it’s typical to find CBD products that have an ethanol scent due to the methods with which they were made.

Which extraction method is best? (1)

Each extraction method has its pros and cons, with hydrocarbon and ethanol extractions being generally regarded as the cheapest. Supercritical CO2 extraction requires skilled lab technicians and equipment in a controlled environment, so it’s seen as the top tier concerning CBD extraction methods. Regardless, methods are only as good as the hands behind them, and poor technique can result in impure or low-quality products. Under ideal circumstances, CO2 is the best solvent for extraction, with hydrocarbons and ethanol tied for second.

Is ethanol in CBD safe?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FBA), ethanol is GRAS (generally regarded as safe), so unless you have a specific allergy, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Many hemp extracts contain ethanol as well as a number of other impurities that make their way into the final product. 

You can ensure that you have the best experience possible with CBD by consulting your healthcare provider and making sure to purchase from reputable suppliers who use expert extraction techniques.

Where can I purchase CBD?

It’s important to be careful when considering the available CBD options; due to the lack of regulation in the market, there are more unreliable companies. Make sure when purchasing that you check for transparency on the label and proof of third-party lab testing.

Highland Pharms provides Buena Vida Botanicals with high-quality CBD products. In our online store you’ll find a vast selection of CBD tinctures, topicals, soft gels, and more. The raw hemp ingredients are cultivated by the most experienced growers from Colorado, so you’re always getting the best when you shop with Buena Vida Botanicals. Visit our online store, and choose your preferred way to experience the potential wellness and health benefits of CBD. 


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.



  1. “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
  2. “Your Guide To Hydrocarbon Extraction”, Source: https://www.cannabisbusinesstimes.com/article/your-guide-to-hydrocarbon-extraction/
  3. “Why Ethanol Works So Well For Cannabis Extraction”, Source: https://kush.com/blog/why-ethanol-works-so-well-for-cannabis-extraction/#:~:text=Ethanol%20works%20as%20a%20polar,method%20leave%20only%20cannabis%20oil