How Is CBD Oil Made?
You've likely seen CBD oil online and in-stores, but have you ever wondered how it gets made?
Perhaps you have a bottle of CBD oil, and you're curious how the CBD gets from the farm into that little glass bottle.
Wonder no more because we're going to take an in-depth look at the journey CBD takes to get from the plant to the final product.
What Is Hemp?
The entire process begins with farmers growing hemp. Hemp is also known as cannabis sativa or marijuana, cannabis, ganja—they're all the same thing.
Now you might be wondering, isn't that illegal? Not at all, because hemp refers to a specific type of cannabis plant with very little or no THC at all.
High THC strains are illegal under UK law because THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the high from cannabis. CBD and other cannabinoids are non-psychoactive—meaning they don't get you high, and they're perfectly legal.
What Point in the Life Cycle is Hemp Harvested?
Hemp grows as an annual plant, meaning it's planted and harvested within one growing season. Farmers plant their seeds in Spring and harvest around Fall.
Only the female hemp plant is used because the flowers the female plants produce are rich in CBD and other cannabinoids. The flowers (or buds) start to form during the second half of their lifecycle.
Growers need to wait until the perfect moment to harvest their buds to get the maximum amount of CBD. Timing is everything because if they harvest too early or too late, they could end up with less CBD.
How Is Hemp Harvested?
Hemp flowers are delicate and easy to damage, so most hemp that gets made into CBD is harvested by hand. A careful harvest is essential to retain as much of the cannabinoids as possible.
The hemp plant is cut at the base and then hung to dry to prevent the plants from molding. From there, the hemp biomass—flowers, leaves, and stems are cut and sent for extraction.
How Is CBD Extracted From Hemp?
The next step is to get the CBD and other cannabinoids off of the plant efficiently. That's accomplished through a process called extraction.
CBD is extracted through several methods such as supercritical CO2 extraction, hydrocarbon extraction, and ethanol extraction.
All of these extraction methods use a solvent to extract CBD and other compounds from the plant. A solvent is just an organic chemical that can capture CBD, other cannabinoids, and terpenes.
Hydrocarbon extraction uses chemicals like butane, which is lighter-fluid. The problem with this extraction method is that butane frequently ends up in the end-product, which is harmful to ingest.
Ethanol, also known as alcohol—the very same in alcoholic beverages, can also be used for extraction. However, it isn't very efficient and dangerous to work with since it's very flammable.
That leaves us with supercritical CO2 extraction, which is by far the safest and cleanest method because no residue is left in the final product. Most CBD oils are extracted using CO2 because of its safety and efficiency.
How Does Supercritical CO2 Extraction Work?
The process begins with a complex system called a closed-loop extractor. Basically, it's a fancy machine with multiple chambers for the plant material, CO2, and final extract.
First, the hemp biomass is ground up into a consistency like coffee grounds and loaded into a chamber. Then CO2 is pumped into the chamber with the hemp at a specific temperature and pressure.
The CO2 flows through the plant material, collecting cannabinoids and other compounds. The CO2 then runs into the final extraction chamber, where the CO2 depressurizes, leaving only an oily hemp extract.
The process needs to be repeated a few times at different temperature and pressure levels. That's where the subcritical and supercritical terms come in.
Extractors start at subcritical levels—meaning the CO2 is at a low temperature and pressure. At subcritical levels, the CO2 can pull out terpenes, essential oils, and other fragile compounds.
The subcritical extract is gathered and placed aside. Then the process repeats at supercritical levels—when the CO2 is at a high temperature and pressure.
At such high a temperature and pressure, the CO2 is able to strip the plant of cannabinoids completely. The supercritical extract is then gathered and placed aside.
So now there are two (or sometimes more) oil extracts from the same hemp biomass. However, the oil that comes out is crude because unwanted compounds like wax, fats, and lipids also get extracted.
In order to get our final product, the crude oils are refined through various methods.
Full-Spectrum CBD Oil
For a full-spectrum CBD oil, the crude extracts need to go through a process called winterization.
First, ethanol is mixed thoroughly with the oil extract and then placed into a deep-freeze overnight. The cold temperature and ethanol precipitate the wax, fats, and lipids out of the oil.
Then the solution is run through a filter to collect the unwanted material. Finally, the oil is put into an extractor, and all the ethanol is boiled off, leaving a pure extract.
Both the subcritical and supercritical extracts are winterized separately. The extracts are finally combined to create a full-spectrum CBD oil with all cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils.
During CO2 extraction and winterization, THC will always end up in the final full-spectrum oil. To create a broad-spectrum CBD oil, the THC needs to be removed entirely.
That's accomplished through a fancy-sounding technique called flash chromatography. Chromatography is a technique that separates compounds using solvents, but there's no way to know which compound is which.
That's where the flash comes in. Each cannabinoid has its own unique ultra-violet (UV) properties and can be identified using a UV detector.
The CBD oil is run through the flash chromatography setup, and the THC is detected from its UV signature and then removed—leaving a broad-spectrum oil free from THC.
Pure CBD isolate, without any other compound, is refined after winterization through a process called short path distillation.
The winterized extract is heated at CBD's boiling point—the point at which the CBD becomes a vapour. The vapour floats up and condenses in another glass, where it's collected as pure (usually 99%) CBD isolate.
Other Variations of CBD Oils
Let’s take a look at some of the other variants of CBD oil that are also possible:
- RAW CBD Oil – This an oil that has gone through all the processes up until extraction point and then left in this state. The result is a dark green/brown oil due the left-in plant matter, lipids (fats), chlorophyll, and terpenes. Raw CBD oils are sought after by users who want to consume CBD hemp oil in its entirety to benefits from other the other nutritional components of hemp.
- Decarboxylated CBD Oil – Without an oil going under the process of decarboxylation, all cannabinoids including CBD as in their acid form denoted as CBDa. The acid form of cannabinoid oil has different properties and the acid group can be removed using an additional step through heating the hemp extract. There are also additional variants of this type of oil where both cannabinoids in their acid and decarboxylated form are both present, to provide the benefit of both types in one product.
- Filtered CBD Oil – This is a process can be applied to both the previous forms of oil where the oil goes under additional refinement to remove and plant matter, fats and chlorophyll which results in a golden coloured CBD oil.
Final CBD Products
Finally, the CBD oil extract, whether full-spectrum or broad-spectrum, needs to be diluted. Most manufacturers use MCT oil, hemp seed oil, sunflower seed oil, olive oil, or any combination thereof.
The resulting CBD oils are sold directly as tinctures, turned into salves, sprays, balms, or put into food and drinks.
CBD isolate is also made into a pure cannabinoid isolate oil, or sold as-is and customers can prepare it in any way they want.
Now that you know how CBD oils are made, you can shop with confidence, knowing that CBD products are made using safe and reliable techniques.
RUDERALEX® CBD Oils Made To Gold Standards
At RUDERALEX® we want all of our customers to experience using the best products on the market and we do this by conducting the latest research and using the technology to produce the best hemp extracts including finished products. Click here to shop for some of the finest CBD products available online today!