An overview of extraction methods.

You may be wondering how the CBD in your oil tincture or Healing Balm gets there. It’s a great question, and surprisingly has a few very different answers. Below we’ll discuss the most common methods of CBD extraction, examine how each is different, and explain which is best.

Ethanol

One of the most frequently used methods to extract CBD oil (as well as THC oil from marijuana) is by using high-grade alcohol. No – not vodka or whiskey.

Ethanol and butane are commonly the solvents used in this process where minced plant flower is mixed with the solvent, and then filtered multiple times to remove the alcohol and leave the by-product cannabis oil. With regards to CBD, this process can be done to extract from either hemp or marijuana plants.

Hemp is relatively low in CBD when compared to marijuana, which has higher CBD content (but also much higher THC content). That is why a large amount of hemp much be processed to extract CBD.

As a result of so much hemp being used, there is an increased risk of chlorophyll and solvent contamination in the oil. Ethanol extraction of THC and CBD from marijuana, on the other hand, presents a lower relative risk of solvent contamination (but still not zero!).

Liquid Carbon Dioxide (C02)

These risks bring us to another extraction method which effectively eliminates contamination from solvents. That is C02 extraction. More technically called supercritical C02 extraction, this method does not use any solvents. Instead what happens is carbon dioxide is made liquid by freezing and pressurizing the gas (dry ice is solid state C02, so think of this as melted dry ice).

The liquid become “supercritical” when it is heated inside large chambers. Then the carbon dioxide is mixed with plant material before more chambers separate the C02 and plant extract. Finally you are left with all the good stuff from the plant matter like terpene oils and cannabinoids. Excess C02 which is recycled for the next batch. Sustainable and safe! 

C02 extraction is actually used in other industries from coffee to beer to perfume. So why wouldn’t everybody just use this safer and more effective alternative over ethanol? The biggest reason is that C02 extraction involves a large amount of sophisticated and expensive equipment, so costs to get set-up are very high. Nonetheless, this is the only method used by Nuvamed.

Others

There are a handful of other extraction methods that can be used, but they are only effective on a much smaller scale – like at home in your own kitchen. From using dry ice to olive oil, there are some DIY ways to make your own extract.

The important takeaway is that not all extraction methods are created equal. When shopping for CBD products you should consider what method of extraction was used, as well as what plant is involved. Always look for independent lab test results for any CBD products you are considering. Those lab results will indicate if there are any dangerous chemicals present. 

Thank you for reading! Knowledge is power, and learning is key to living a better life.

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