CBD extraction is the process by which CBD is separated from cannabis flowers. Cannabidiol or CBD is the main cannabinoid produced by the hemp plant, which differs from marijuana in that it lacks psychotropic effects. In recent years, it has become tremendously popular because of its many properties.
But how is CBD extracted from hemp flowers? In this article, we explain the various methods of CBD extraction and what each one involves.
How is CBD extracted from hemp?
The CBD extraction process begins with the harvesting of the hemp plant. Once the cultivated specimens have been harvested, the CBD-rich buds should be separated from the rest of the plant matter, such as leaves and branches, which contain hardly any cannabinoids.
It should be noted that both CBD and the rest of the cannabinoids are produced mainly in the flowers, which is why these are the parts of the plant that contain them in greater quantities.
Once the flowers are free of leaves and branches, they are dried in order to extract the CBD. This can be achieved through various methods, although the most common industrial method is extraction with CO₂. This is a method that uses carbon dioxide to extract CBD from the plant safely and effectively.
There are also other methods, such as extraction with ethanol, or by dissolving in plant-based oil. Below we briefly describe what each of them involves.
CBD extraction with ethanol
The process of CBD extraction with ethanol involves dissolving the cannabinoid and other compounds from the cannabis plant in ethanol, which is an organic solvent. Ethanol is capable of dissolving a wide range of compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, which also have various properties.
The process of CBD extraction with ethanol consists of three main steps: dissolution, filtration, and purification. Each of these is explained very briefly below:
- Dissolution: In this step, the dried plant material is submerged in ethanol for a certain period of time to dissolve the relevant compounds.
- Filtration: After the dissolution is finished, the mixture of ethanol and hemp extract is filtered to remove solid residues.
- Purification: In this last step, ethanol is removed from the ethanol extract through evaporation, resulting in a full spectrum CBD concentrate.
CBD extraction with CO₂
CBD extraction with CO₂ is a very popular method of extracting cannabidiol from the hemp plant, which is used industrially. It begins with the loading of a chamber with cannabis flowers. CO₂ is then put into the chamber at a specific pressure and temperature, bringing it to a liquid state.
As the CO₂ passes through the chamber, it dissolves the CBD and other cannabinoids contained in the buds. Subsequently, a separation process is carried out in which unwanted components are removed and a pure CBD extract is obtained.
Subcritical extraction can also be carried out to obtain a naturally scented CBD extract. This is a type of extraction in which the CO₂ reaches lower temperatures, which allows the preservation of some terpenes, which are the molecules responsible for the aroma.
CBD extraction with CO₂ has several advantages over other CBD extraction methods. Firstly, it yields an extract with high levels of purity, free of residues and unwanted components. It should also be noted that carbon dioxide is a safe, non-toxic solvent that leaves no residue in the CBD extract. Lastly, this type of CBD extraction with CO₂ is very efficient and produces large amounts of extract.
CBD maceration with plant-based oil
Maceration is a method of CBD extraction that involves leaving hemp flowers submerged in a plant-based oil so that the cannabinoids dissolve in it over time.
Although this method is less effective than others, such as extraction with CO₂ or ethanol, it can be an alternative option for those looking for affordable CBD extraction at home. Moreover, unlike the previous methods, maceration doesn’t require any special equipment or preparation.
The procedure is very simple, just soak the CBD-rich cannabis flowers in the chosen plant-based oil (olive, coconut, etc.) in a glass container. It is then sealed and left to stand in a cool, dark place for two weeks, shaking once a day to ensure that the CBD and other cannabinoids are effectively dissolved.
After that time, the mixture is filtered through cloth or a fine-mesh strainer to separate the flowers and obtain the plant-based oil containing CBD. This CBD oil will not be as concentrated as that obtained by other extraction methods, but it is a cost-effective option.
Lastly, it’s worth remembering that the procedure described above would not be a permitted use for CBD flowers in Europe, as they are considered a collector’s item and that is how they are marketed.