Common CBD extraction methods
Updated: May 20, 2022
CBD extraction in short, is a process wherein a chosen solvent passes through CBD rich plant material known as biomass and strips that material of its desired properties. Different solvents are able to attach themselves to specific cannabinoids, terpenes and other valuable molecules at different rates of efficiency.
Once the solvent has been exposed to the biomass for a sufficient amount of time to dissolve and remove the majority of the targeted cannabinoids and terpenes, it is transferred to a separate vessel, away from the CBD void plant material it was extracted from.
At this point in the process, the residual solvents are removed from the CBD extract using evaporation or a vacuum system, depending on the solvent and method used, leaving behind only the desired CBD rich extract in its raw form.
In addition to extraction, decarboxylation and winterization methods are generally used to further process full spectrum raw extract before it is ready to be further processed into broad spectrum distillate or isolate.
Decarboxylation is necessary to transform CBDA molecules into CBD. It is a process which removes the “A”, or acid molecule, from the CBD molecular chain. It takes place when CBDA is heated to temperatures around 170 degrees Fahrenheit for specific amounts of time. Before this molecule is removed, the CBDA molecule is too large to pass the blood brain barrier and processed through the human body with little to no benefit to the user (although there is mounting evidence suggesting there are benefits of CBDA – it has yet to be determined what those benefits are and if they are uniquely different than those of CBD, or whether they are the same benefits, but observed at a lesser efficacy due to the reduction of absorption).
Winterization is a process which removes unwanted fats, waxes and lipids from CBD extracts. These elements are generally useless biproducts that produce a bitter taste and are better removed than left in extracts that are to be manufactured into consumable products such as tinctures, topicals and edibles – although they are otherwise harmless, they are undesirable. Essentially, winterization occurs when extracts are exposed to extremely cold temperatures either during or after the extraction process. At these cold temperatures, the fats and waxes rise because of their density and are skimmed off of the top, or removed in a centrifuge, leaving behind an extract that is simply purer than it was before the process.
After winterization and decarboxylation, a processor has achieved what is known as full spectrum CBD crude oil. This can be used in the creation of full spectrum CBD products by adding carrier oils and other ingredients to dilute them to a potency that is legal and easier to control relative to determining exact dosages. Quite simply, the more an oil is diluted, the greater the margin of error when consuming a final product. The potency of full spectrum CBD crude generally falls somewhere in the range of 60-75% purity immediately after the it’s initial extraction. It is then formulated into product that vary in potency. For example, a 1 ounce, 1000mg CBD oil is around 3% in potency, far less than the crude it was created from.
Full spectrum oils are often processed into Broad Spectrum products by removing delta-9 THC from the extract, and are generally otherwise identical to full spectrum products. I am careful to say that broad spectrum products are generally otherwise identical to full spectrum products, because there are some companies within the industry that create broad spectrum products by mixing together different isolates created from separate batches of full spectrum oil – by basically adding a dash of this and a dash of that, so long as it is not a dash of delta-9 THC, and are able to call their products broad spectrum by definition.
Broad spectrum oil can also be further processed into CBD isolate, which is the CBD molecule isolated to a purity of around 99% and void of all other cannabinoids and terpenes.
Common extraction solvents used in the current CBD industry include:
The main differences between extraction methods are the heat and temperatures necessary for the chosen solvent used to transform into a state that is the most efficient to dissolve cannabinoids from biomass and then attach itself to those molecules. Other differences are found in the way that residual solvents are removed from the raw extract once it has been obtained. Finally, safety, yield and cost are considerations that processors take into account when determining their chosen method.
Currently Co2 extraction has proven to be very popular among processors. It is safe, it is efficient and it produces high yields. Ethanol is a close second within the industry for the same reasons, and because it is a delicate process that easily preserves many of the fragile terpenes and cannabinoids lost in the relatively more brutal process of Co2 extraction. Less popular methods include propane and butane extraction. These gases can be very dangerous during the extraction process and can result in explosions. They are also dangerous when consumed, whereas Co2 and ethanol pose little to no risk to consumers in trace amounts.
At Beck’s Farma, we use cryogenic ethanol extraction to winterize our full spectrum cannabidiol as it is extracted. The biomass used for the extraction of our cannabidiol is grown in our fields, by myself, on a small farm in Minnesota. Beck’s Farma uses only organic farming methods and at no point are fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides ever used in our field. Before growing hemp, our field was allowed to return to prairie for a period of three years to allow time for the rain to filter our soil; and when it came time to plant our first crop, we started from scratch, in fresh earth. Our products are small batch, artisanal, hand farmed and hand crafted. After their formulation, our products each undergo rigorous full panel third party testing. The laboratories that conduct these tests have been independently audited and ISO 17025 accredited by the American Association of Laboratory Accreditation, to ensure the quality and accuracy of the testing methods and equipment used. Every measure is taken along every step of the way – quite literally, from walking the rows of the field, to walking into the post office - as our products make their way from our seeds to your shelf. As a small farm and a small business, Beck’s Farma is able to take the time that is needed to produce pure and safe CBD products – and our high standard of testing ensures that quality has been met.