CBD Extraction Methods

CBD Extraction Methods

There are 3 CBD extraction methods: CO2 extraction, Steam Extraction, and Solvent Extraction.  These extraction methods all produce CBD from the cannabis sativa plant, or the variant hemp.  A lot of consumers are curious about how hemp becomes CBD.  While some believe that all CBD products contain CBD oil, it is a misconception.  As much as CBD oil has been a popular product after extraction it is typically ingested which limits its bioavailability to about 10%.  

When using CBD oil a person has to take a dose 10 times as strong as compared to when it is absorbed orally, as is the case with our gum.  There are 2 primary benefits to oral absorption.  Firstly more of the CBD actually ends up in your system and isn’t digested.  Secondly when it is absorbed orally instead of being swallowed it takes effect 5 times as fast. 

1. CO2 Extraction

CO2 extraction is more costly but also is more effective.  It produced a more pure form of CBD as is used in our 10mg CBD Isolate Gum.  In this form of extraction supercritical carbon dioxide is used to separate CBD from the hemp plant.  Supercritical is when carbon dioxide has both the properties of a gas and liquid state.  Another name for carbon dioxide extraction is Supercritical Fluid Extraction or SFE. 

How CO2 Extraction Works

For carbon dioxide extraction to work a series of pumps and pressurized chambers are employed to expose carbon dioxide to very low temperature and high pressure.  This combination of low temperature and high pressure is the most efficient CBD extraction method.  It is also how laboratories get carbon dioxide to it’s supercritical state.

  1. First the primary chamber holds the pressurized carbon dioxide while the other chamber contains the hemp plant.  
  2. Second the supercritical carbon dioxide is pumped into the second chamber.  As the hemp plant is exposed to the supercritical carbon dioxide it’s CBD is separated from the plant.  
  3. The last stage is when the supercritical carbon dioxide and atomized molecules of CBD are pumped into the 3rd and final chamber.  In the third chamber the temperature and pressure are normalized leaving just the CBD behind. 

CO2 Extraction is the most efficient method of CBD extraction, In The Journal of Supercritical Fluids it is noted that this extraction process is capable of producing CBD that is 92% pure.  

When the CBD extraction process is this efficient dosing the proper amounts into CBD products is more accurate. 

2. Solvent Extraction

Solvent extraction is similar to steam distillation.  The difference between these extraction methods is that solvent extraction is a chemical process instead of a process of heat and steam.  There are two types of solvent extraction, natural and hydrocarbon solvents.  While hydrocarbon solvents are efficient in extracting CBD, they may leave behind toxic chemicals.  Common hydrocarbons include propane, petroleum, butane, and naphtha.  These are well known carcinogenic compounds and should be avoided.  

Natural solvent alternatives include ethanol and olive oil.  These options are not as efficient as the hydrocarbon solvents but do remove the risk of toxic carcinogens.  While natural solvent CBD may be safe from toxins this process is known for extracting chlorophyll.  This leads to unpleasant flavors like you’re chewing on a tree branch.  Ultimately solvent extraction doesn’t perform as well as CO2 extraction.

3. Steam Distillation Extraction

In steam distillation extraction is achieved much the way we sweat.  Steam is applied to the hemp plant causing the CBD to separate.  While the steam extraction method is one that has been used for centuries it is being replaced by CO2 extraction.  This is due to the fact that steam distillation extraction requires much more hemp and doesn’t yield the same concentrations of CBD.  

  1. In this method the hemp plant is in a glass flask that has both an inlet and outlet.  
  2. A boiler heats up water which causes steam to rise into the tank housing the hemp plant.  
  3. From there the CBD separates and rises with the steam into a condenser.  
  4. The condenser then drips the CBD and condensed water into a collection flask.  
  5. The collection flask then separates the water and CBD. 

The other drawback to steam distillation is the risk of overheating the cannabinoids.  While it shouldn’t affect the consumer; it does.  Waste in steam distillation may result in less pure harder to dose CBD that’s basically been overheated. 

Which Is The Best CBD Extraction Method?

It is generally accepted by CBD users that CO2 extraction is the best method.  While it may be more costly it yields a more pure, toxin free, more palatable CBD product.  It is the hallmark of quality when you are searching for CBD products.  ViB proudly uses the very best CO2 extracted CBD when making our Gum.  

It is important to buy from companies who use unbiased 3rd party laboratories that verify not only the CBD content but that the CBD is free from toxins.  This is why we made our 3rd party laboratory results, from Atlantic Test Labs, public along with clearly listing accurate milligram doses for all of our CBD Gums.  


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