Cannabidiol (CBD) Extraction Methods


Extraction process of CBD-rich cannabis oil requires a CBD-rich plant material. The methods of extracting the oil from the plants with different solvents are many with each methods having its advantages and disadvantages. Some methods are safer and more effective than the others. The use of neurotoxic solvents like hexane and butane may compromise immune function and delay healing.

The various methods of extraction include:

  • Carbon dioxide extraction (CO2): This form of extraction can be supercritical, subcritical and mid-critical but the most common is the supercritical. The supercritical method is a tasking procedure because it requires expensive equipment and a precipitous operational learning curve. It involves the use of CO2 under high pressure and very low temperatures to sequester, preserve and maintain the purity of the medicinal oil. If carried out well, the end product (cannabinoids) is safe, potent and chlorophyll free.

This method is safe because CO2 is a common food additive used in producing carbonated drinks. Its effectiveness is related to the frequent use by food companies to remove caffeine from coffee and to extract when producing essential oils.

  • Olive oil extraction: It involves heating the plant at a certain temperature and specified duration (248ºF for 60 minutes or 284ºF for 30 minutes). This is to decarboxylate the raw plant material (activation of plant chemicals) then the plant material is added to the olive oil and heated to 212ºF for 2 hours. It is a safe and inexpensive method as the solvent is not flammable and it can be carried out in the household. The cannabis-infused olive oil end product should be stored appropriately in a cool, dark place.
  • Solvent (ethanol and butane) extraction: Ethanol fully extracts the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plants (making consumption safe), it also extracts chlorophyll (which may lead to displeasing side effects). The chlorophyll can be filtered but the oil’s potency will be reduced. Butane proffer a stronger oil with contents that may irritate the lungs. In this process, the liquid is added to the plant material and it is left for a while where the extraction liquid strips away the cannabinoid and flavor from the plant. The resulting liquid is heated to evaporate it down to the base oil.

This method is appropriate for some products e.g., a high grade alcohol produces high quality cannabis oil used for vape pen cartridges. It is a straightforward process that is not rigorous to complete and it destroys the plant waxes which are beneficial for some product makers.

  • Dry Ice extraction: This is an easy process but it requires more time and effort when compared with the olive oil process also it produces more yield. The use of personal protective equipment (gloves and eye protection) is important. The plant is cut into tiny pieces, placed in a bucket and covered with dry ice filled half way for 3 minutes allowing the trichome resins to freeze. A 73-micron bag is fit over the bucket and the bucket is shaken for 4 minutes to knock the frozen trichomes off. The bucket is then placed upside down on a Plexiglas to shake of as much resin through the mesh. The hash (cannabis concentrate using ice water) is then scraped of and placed in a jar. This process can be repeated using different sizes of mesh bags (160 and 220 micron) to obtain different extract strains.

It is key to understand the various extraction methods of CBD because they have high impact on the end product’s quality. The solvent method is usually not recommended because it is a dangerous process and can cause health problems. The supercritical CO2 method is costly hence the use of dry ice or olive oil method is encouraged since it provides great purity, yield and an easy procedure.



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