How is CBD oil made?

by Gavin Crawley April 08, 2020

How is CBD Oil (Cannabidiol) Made?-for the Ageless

hemp field
When you’re buying CBD, it can be tricky to know which ones are the best. A basic understanding of how they are made will make it easier to sort the genuine items from the scams.

CBD oil is made from high-quality, low THC strains of Cannabis Sativa known as hemp. The hemp is grown to maturity, harvested, air-dried and milled into fine hemp grounds.


Processing hemp making CBDThen, the cannabinoids and plant nutrients are extracted from the processed material. The resulting extract is combined with a carrier such as hemp seed oil, olive oil, MCT oil or coconut oil. Finally, it is bottled, and samples of each batch are analysed for quality and purity.

Each manufacturer or CBD brand puts its spin on each stage of this process. The specific method that they use at each stage determines the quality of the final product and the levels of cannabinoids it contains.

The Cannabis Sativa L. growing process

Hemp Plants Cannabis CropsThe CBD oil production process starts with the careful selection of hemp genetics. Farmers look for legal hemp strains that are proven to produce high levels of beneficial cannabinoids. A good hemp strain is rich in cannabinoids like CBD, CBDa, and low in THC, this keeps the product legal and prevents it from producing intoxicating effects.

Cannabis CBD hemp plantHemp can be grown direct from seed or cloned from small sections of plant tissue. Cloning allows for the quick production of large numbers of genetically identical plants. Some farms prefer this method because it guarantees the quality of each plant.

Young plants are grown to maturity outdoors spaced well apart. This planting style has been specifically developed for harvesting hemp for CBD oil. The plants spread out to their full size and natural light reaches the whole plant producing healthy, cannabinoid-rich plants.

CBD - the extraction process

Cannabis seed type
When the hemp plants are mature, they are harvested and spread out evenly in large barns to dry. The dry hemp is milled to create a fine powder with a texture like coffee grounds.

CBD can be extracted from this raw hemp in several different ways. Supercritical CO2 is known as the ‘gold-standard’ method of extraction, but each has its pros and cons.

The butane/solvent method

Butane Solvent CBD Extraction
For this method, a solvent is selected. Several different options are available including alcohol, butane or other hydrocarbons like hexane or propane.

Solvent extraction was first used in the 60s and was originally designed to remove metals from their ore. When used to extract CBD, the solvent is passed through finely ground hemp. It dissolves the fats and nutrients, leaving the fibre and cellular materials behind.

After this waste is filtered out, the resulting mixture is heated inside a vacuum to evaporate the solvent leaving just the cannabinoids or target oils behind.

The pros of solvent extraction

If high-grade alcohol or hydrocarbon solvent is used, a reasonable quality of CBD oil can be produced. The main benefit of solvent extraction is that it is cheap. The solvents are easy to buy and very little specialised equipment is needed.

The cons of solvent extraction

Solvent extraction can result in a loss of around 10% of the cannabinoids. It is also one of the harsher methods available and can strip the raw material of chlorophyll and other plant structures. This results in bitter, green oil instead of the smooth, translucent oils that are preferred today.  

The main disadvantage is the risk of a toxic residue, from the solvent, remaining in the extract. Small amounts of solvent have been found in some oils made with this method. While solvent extraction can be conducted safely, without the proper safety standards, it can be extremely hazardous.

Solvent extraction also produces an oil that may contain contaminants present in the original plant material. Pesticides, heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are often present in the soil and can build up in the hemp plant. PAH’s are known to accumulate in CBD oils and are carcinogenic. Other extraction methods are more effective at reducing the level of contaminants in the final oil.

Hemp field CBD

The CO2 extraction method

CO2 CBD ExtractionCarbon Dioxide (CO2) extraction is a process that involves using cutting-edge industrial equipment to remove the required cannabinoids from raw plant matter. It is considered in the industry to be the best method, but it is also the most expensive.

First, the plant material is compressed at a low temperature. Then supercritical CO2 is passed through it. Supercritical CO2 is held at a temperature and pressure above its standard ‘critical’ state; this means that it becomes a liquid and acts as a solvent.

An extended version of supercritical CO2 extraction can be used to remove nearly all traces of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). To produce an extract with the lowest levels of THC, the process is longer and more expensive. When done correctly, it can create a product that is as close to 0% THC as possible with modern methods.

The pros of CO2 extraction

CO2 is known to be safe for human consumption and is often used by food companies to produce fizzy drinks. This extraction method is known to be the most effective way to deliver the highest yields of cannabinoids. 

It can also create an exceptionally pure oil, with little or no risk of contaminants being present. The process involves no harmful chemicals, so there is no risk of toxic residues being present in the finished product.

The cons of CO2 extraction

The equipment required to employ this method is too expensive for individual use or small companies wishing to create CBD products. The process involves specialist scientific equipment with an average cost often exceeding £30,000.

Cannabis field CBD

CBD extraction with olive or coconut oil

Oil CBD ExtractionThe simplest method to extract CBD from hemp has been used for centuries and is easy to do at home. It involves steeping hemp grounds in natural plant-based oil and allowing the cannabinoids and plant compounds to absorb into it.

First, the raw material must be finely ground and decarboxylated; this converts the cannabinoids into their most active form. For example, cannabidiolic acid is a precursor of CBD; when decarboxylation occurs, most of the CBDa becomes CBD. Decarboxylation can be achieved by slowly heating the dry plant material.

The activated hemp grounds are then combined with a good quality oil such as olive or coconut oil. The mixture is heated and gently simmered for at least two hours. After this, it is cooled and filtered to remove any plant residue.

The pros of oil extraction

Oil extraction is relatively inexpensive, very gentle and easy to reproduce at home. When you hear about hemp oils being produced centuries ago, this is often the method that was used.

The cons of oil extraction

CBD oil made using this method is more dilute and less potent than those achieved with more sophisticated techniques. It is also inefficient and leaves a large portion of cannabinoids in the plant material. Large scale operations don’t use it because it wastes valuable cannabinoids.

CBD oil produced this way is also likely to contain large particles of plant matter, giving a sharp, bitter flavour. As a result, it perishes quickly and must be stored with care. To prolong its shelf life, it should be stored in cold, dark places.

Oil extracted CBD will also retain most of the contaminants present in the hemp plant. These could include pesticides, heavy metals or PAHs.

Creating the final product

Why organic hemp farming is the bestTo turn the extract into the CBD oil you find in shops, or available on the internet, it is combined with a carrier oil. The carrier oil allows the manufacturer to adjust the potency and makes it easier to use and be absorbed into your body. You will find CBD oils made with a wide range of carriers including hemp seed oil, coconut oil, olive oil and MCT oil.

The carrier oil brings benefits of their own. For example, MCT oil and coconut oil can provide an energy boost and delivers the cannabinoids to your bloodstream quicker. Hemp seed oil offers a beneficial blend of fatty acids and olive oil has a fantastic flavour.

Organic farming
Once a carrier is added, the CBD oil is bottled and a sample from each batch is analysed by a third-party lab. The results of this analysis provide a guarantee of the quality of the oil.

Most certificates of analysis will tell you how much of each cannabinoid is present in the oil. The best labs also present a terpene profile and the results of contaminant screening.

How to make CBD oil at home

Watering Cannabis Hemp PlantA great way to make your own CBD oil is from CBD paste. While it won’t be the same as shop bought oil, making CBD oil yourself means that you can tailor it to your precise needs.

1. First, decide how strong you want your oil to be. A syringe of 50% paste, containing 2500mg in 5mls, made up to 10mls of oil, can be made up to the following concentrations:

     1/4 of the syringe = 625mg (6.25% CBD oil)
     1/2 of the syringe= 1,250mg (12.5% CBD oil)
     3/4 of the syringe = 1,875mg (18.75% CBD oil)
     All of the syringe = 2,500mg (25% CBD oil)

2. Add your chosen amount of paste to a sterilised 10ml bottle.

3. Now you can choose a carrier oil to add to the paste. Hemp seed oil, olive oil and coconut oil are all great choices with pleasant flavours. Once you’ve made your selection pour it into the bottle but make sure you leave a space of 1 or 2 cm at the top.

Harvesting hemp4. Secure the lid and give the bottle a vigorous shake.

5. Leave the oil to settle for an hour, then shake it again

6. Now, take off the lid and add the remaining oil to fill the bottle. Replace the lid and shake again.

7. Your oil is ready. For best results, shake it before each use.

Conclusion

Harvesting hemp cannabis fieldHow a CBD oil is made gives a strong indication of its quality. CBD brands who are transparent about their raw materials and production methods often produce the best oils. If you can’t find any details about where the hemp is sourced or how the cannabinoids are extracted, the oil may not be genuine or of good quality.

Look for CBD oils made from legal hemp strains and extracted with supercritical CO2. The most trustworthy brands will back this up with information about specific farms or practices. Some even provide copies of quality certificates awarded to their hemp farms alongside their third-party certificates of analysis.

The more information and evidence of good practice available, the better the chance that it is an excellent oil.

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Gavin Crawley
Gavin Crawley

Author

Gavin is a content writer with many years of experience in a wide range of fields, including cannabis. His passion for researching and engaging with the readers of his work, combined with his skill in his craft has led him to create lasting relationships with top UK websites.


1 Response

Jim Dunham
Jim Dunham

May 04, 2019

Great Stuff.. It seems, you have researched a lot before posting the blog. Thank you for sharing such a important information, as rarely people know this use of CBD. I know about CBD but not aware the CBD can be use in this way as well.

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