How is CBD extracted?


Although cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring compound, there is work required in order to extract it from its natural origins, the hemp plant. There are various ways of extracting CBD, from DIY home solutions, to the method used by manufacturers of CBD products — supercritical extraction.

A key step in CBD extraction is decarboxylation — meaning that the plant has to be at a specific temperature for an exact amount of time in order to activate the plant’s chemicals.

For a smaller scale operation a liquid extraction is often the method of choice, many liquids can be used in this process, but olive oil is the general favourite. The plant material is added to the liquid of choice, and then decarboxylated. For an olive oil extraction this requires the solution to be heated at 212 degrees for 1-2 hours. At the end of this process you should have an oil which is infused with cannabinoid extracts and the desired CBD content. Whilst this method is safe and inexpensive, the final product is easily perishable and there is a relatively low yield of CBD. Consequently larger producers of CBD will not employ this method, but rather a process called supercritical extraction.

Supercritical CO2 Extraction

There are three subcategories under the umbrella term of ‘critical extraction’: supercritical, subcritical, and ‘mid-critical’.

Supercritical is by far the most commonly used extraction method used by large scale, high quality CBD producers. This is because it safely obtains a large yield of CBD with high purity. To summarise, pressurised CO2 is used to extract the CBD molecules from the plant. When cooled to -69 degrees fahrenheit, or lower, CO2 becomes a liquid; when the temperature is then subsequently raised, and the CO2 is between a liquidus and gaseous state, it is described as ‘supercritical’. The supercritical CO2 is then passed through the plant matter using an extractor, which will pull the essential elements out. Whilst this method of extraction is by far the safest and most effective, the equipment and technological expertise that is needed makes it extremely expensive so can only be employed by large-scale committed companies.

In addition to supercritical extraction, there is also subcritical and mid-critical. Subcritical extraction deploys low temperatures and low pressure for the process, this takes longer than its subcritical counterpart and produces a smaller yield. However, as the process is more drawn out, the terpenes are extracted with greater care and are less likely to be damaged. Mid-critical extraction covers the range between subcritical and supercritical.

If you’re looking to obtain a CBD based product, extracting your own CBD is not the best option as it is a long process which needs certain infrastructures in order to be finessed. If you want to know more about how your CBD product came to be, don’t hesitate to contact the company to find out more. Having full traceability is essential for the customer and leaders in the industry, such as Reakiro Europe, can offer this visibility.