How is CBD Oil Made

How is CBD Oil Made?

Table of Contents: How is CBD Oil Made

By now we all know what CBD is. Yes, we’re aware it’s a cannabinoid like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and comes from the same plant, cannabis. We’re all totally convinced that it doesn’t have psychoactive effects and we can show you scientific studies devoted to the subject. Heck, we even know that CBD stands for ‘cannabidiol’ and we can spell it backwards and upside down. Although this might be a bit of a stretch, it’s not absolute hyperbole. Our CBD hemp oil, our capsules, and even our muscle rubs have been full of CBD for what seems like ages now. So here’s a guide to how is CBD oil made.

Read also: What Is CBD Oil – Cannabidiol?

But how on earth do you get from one little innocent plant with evocatively shaped leaves to the CBD oils we know and love? We might know a bunch about the end product but we don’t really have a… let’s say ‘working’… knowledge or understanding about the intricacies of how it’s made.

Until now, that is.

What is CBD made out of? (High CBD/Low THC)

how cbd is made
Photo by Jakub Matyáš

Wait, didn’t I JUST say that we know that CBD comes from the cannabis plant? I did, and although it seems like I just pulled a cheap trick to get you to read further, it’s true. CBD does indeed come from the cannabis plant. However (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?), the cannabis plant can be separated into two distinct stains: the marijuana and the hemp plant:

  • Marijuana – Contains CBD and more than 0.2% THC.
  • Hemp – Also contains CBD but has only minimal amounts of THC (less than 0.2%). In fact we have a hemp oil that has 0% THC. Check it out here!

Why does this matter? Well, hemps can be grown legally in many parts of the world because it does not produce enough THC to be considered illegal in those places that still wrestle with THC’s legality. This is exactly why hemp, rather than marijuana, is touted as the plant that produces a variety of commercial and industrial products, including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, insulation, and biofuel. Oh, and CBD, naturally.

So now that we have a baseline for where CBD actually comes from (don’t worry, I won’t test you on this later), how is CBD oil made from hemp or how does it transform from a boisterous hemp bouquet to a tiny tincture of CBD oil?

CBD Extraction Methods

how cbd hemp oil is made
Photo by Chelsea shapouri

What exactly is extraction? Well, I mean, it’s the process of extracting CBD from the hemp plant, obviously and that is how cbd oil is made. But it’s not just about extracting CBD, it’s also about the other things you might possibly want (or not want) to extract while you do so. What is extraction good for? Absolutely everything, if you use safe, environmentally conscious, good CBD oil extraction equipment, and high quality methods, but more on that later. For now, let’s take a closer look at the most common forms of CBD extraction. And to do this, we can break things into a few different types:

1. Steam-Based CBD Extraction Techniques

This method uses steam to separate CBD from the rest of the hemp plant. The plant is contained in a glass flask that connects from one end to another glass container where the boiling water lives, and from the other to a condenser tube. The steam travels upwards into the plant flask, separating the oil vapors that contain CBD. These are then captured by said condenser tube where they condense into oil and water. Once collected, the oil and water mixture is distilled to extract CBD.

While certainly the oldest extraction technique, this method has largely been replaced for a few really good reasons:

  • Steam distillation requires a large amount of hemp to get a relatively small amount of CBD.
  • It’s more difficult to get exact amounts of CBD using this method.
  • If the steam gets too hot, it can damage the extract and alter the chemical properties of the CBD.

2. Solvent-Based CBD Extraction Techniques

A solvent is, quite simply, a substance that can dissolve other substances, resulting in a solution. This is the most commonly used extraction technique today – butane, propane, and ethanol (among others) are used to extract CBD from the plant material. This follows a similar process to steam extraction, except that instead of water, CBD is separated from other plant material with the use of your choice of solvent. The solvent then evaporates, leaving CBD behind. There are two broad types of solvents used:

Hydrocarbon Solvent Extraction –

Although commonly used because of how easy and cheaply this method of extraction can be performed, there’s a rather apparent red flag with solvent-based extraction as well. And, quite honestly, it’s much more a cause for concern. Hydrocarbon solvent extraction uses substances including naphtha, petroleum, butane, or propane.The solvent residue can be toxic and increase your risk of cancer if these aren’t fully eliminated during evaporation.

Natural Solvent Extraction –

There are, however, a few natural solvents that eliminate the health concerns associated with the hydrocarbon method. These most commonly consist of ethanol/alcohol and olive oil. Although the risk of toxic residue is eliminated with this method, the process of using natural solvents can release chlorophyll from the plant matter. This has a resultant unpleasant taste, and although this doesn’t seem like a huge deal, it could be if you’re trying to turn that CBD into a delectable edible or oil. A much more poignant problem, though, is that natural solvents don’t evaporate very well, which means that the end extraction will have less concentration of CBD than other methods.

3. Supercritical Fluid-Based CBD Extraction (SFE), or CO2 Extraction

If you use CBD products regularly, you’ve definitely heard that CO2 extraction is the way to go for the best quality CBD products. But I bet not a lot of us have even ever heard of SFE extraction, which is the method of extraction that uses CO2. Without getting too complicated, SFE works by using a specialised extraction machine that freezes and compresses carbon dioxide until it reaches a supercritical cold liquid state. This liquid then passes through the plant material, which extracts cannabinoids.

CBD Extraction: Why is CO2 Extraction the Best Method?

Not to be biased towards fourfivecbd’s own trusted extraction process on how is CBD oil made, but the CO2 extraction method is sophisticated and exact. And why is exactitude important, especially with CBD? It really comes down to THC legality and the overall safety of the end CBD oil consumed by the customer. So what are some of the reasons why CO2 extraction is the way to go?

  • It allows for the extraction of clean and safe concentrates.
  • Does not use additional additives or potential contaminants.
  • It allows for highly efficient yields so producers can get the most out of their hemp crops.
  • Uses CO2 as a consumable, which is very inexpensive.
  • CO2 is an inert gas, making it much safer than butane or ethanol.
  • It doesn’t result in residual solvent runoff when processed into CBD crude oil, and is better for our increasingly delicate environment.

CBD Extraction: What comes next?

Of course, we haven’t told the whole story yet on how is CBD oil made. What steps are needed to finish off the process?

Removal of Unwanted Compounds

The crude extraction of CBD up to this point will create a usable extract containing a full profile of terpenes and cannabinoids (this would be considered full spectrum CBD). This extract is ready to be used in the creation of CBD oil, if indeed the producer is looking for a full spectrum product. If the producer requires CBD Isolate or Broad Spectrum CBD oil, (where at least one or some of the original compounds from the hemp plant are removed) there are additional processing steps needed.

Introduce a Carrier Oil

So at this point we have a full spectrum, broad spectrum, or isolate CBD extract. How does it then transform into CBD oil? By becoming fast friends with a carrier oil, of course! Carrier oils have two main functions:

  • They allow for the producer to dilute the mixture and adjust the potency of the end product.
  • They make it easier for the CBD to be absorbed into your system.

Creating CBD oil can be done with a wide range of carrier oils including hemp seed oil, coconut oil, olive oil and MCT oil. These oils usually come packed with a range of their own benefits – MCT oil is a great source of energy in its own right and helps CBD get absorbed into your system incredibly quickly, hemp seed oil is rich in fatty acids, olive oil has a great flavour.

CBD Hemp Oil Testing and Standards

cbd oil extract
Photo by Science in HD

After a robust extraction process, the manufacturer of any CBD oil should be carting it away to a 3rd party lab to be tested for things like impurities, heavy metals, pesticides, or any cannabinoids that were supposed to have been removed during the extraction. But because CBD regulation is still relatively infantile, 3rd party lab testing is still something easily avoidable.

Because of this, companies may try to sell you something that could be impure. But, if everyone is using the touted CO2 extraction process, why would companies want to avoid 3rd party lab testing? Sadly, the ideal world of CO2 extraction as far as the eye can see is just that, an ideal. The thing is, CO2 extraction might use a cheap substance to perform its function, but the process itself can be very expensive.

CO2 tanks feature thick casings to contain the pressure during extraction for safety reasons. As a result, the machinery is heavy, bulky and large. This makes the CBD oil extraction equipment not only expensive, but also impractical for many CBD producers. Small producers may just be able to get away with using cheaper, more dangerous, and less environmentally friendly methods of extraction if they can avoid rigorous testing regulations. So what can we take from all of this about how is cbd oil made? It’s important to be careful as a consumer when purchasing CBD oil. Buy from brands you trust, like fourfivecbd, who are open and transparent about their production.

So how to tell if CBD oil is pure? Check how is CBD manufactured and ask for a certificate of analysis or lab report. Indeed, lab reports should be easily accessible on any reputable company’s website. An informed consumer is a happy consumer, and in the world of CBD, it’s up to all of us to make sure we’re getting the absolute best quality CBD oils.


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