How to Extract CBD from Hemp Plants

CBD extracts continue to rise in popularity for the simple reason that CBD’s medicinal applications seem to be almost endless. Yes, CBD oil has now been shown to have the potential to help people with conditions as diverse as chronic pain caused by arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, and fibromyalgia, depression and anxiety disorders, and seizures find relief. In addition, CBD extract is well-known to help with the symptoms of cancer treatment, and it can even help to treat acne when applied topically. 

Just how is the cannabidiol extracted from hemp plants to give you this wonderful medicinal product, though? Is any extraction method superior? Can you safely extract CBD from cannabis yourself, at home? 

An Overview of the Types of CBD Oil

Three broad varieties of CDB oil exist, each with a different set of ingredients. They are:

  • Full-spectrum CBD oil offers, as the name already suggests, all the goodness the hemp plant has to give. That includes terpenes, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E, and a whole range of minerals, among which are calcium, iron, and zinc. Yes, full-spectrum CBD oil also contains some THC. To be marketed as CDB oil, however, the THC content has to stay under 0.3 percent. This is the most expensive form because of more particular processing.
  • Broad-spectrum CDB oil differs from its full-spectrum cousin only in that the THC has fully been removed, making it ideal for users who want to reap the broadest possible medicinal benefit, as this variety continues to act as a nutritional supplement as well, without any psychoactive potential. This is one of the most common types of oil available for wholesale purchase because of it’s broad market applications/appeal to CBD entrepreneurs.
  • CBD isolate was designed to pack the highest possible concentration of CBD into a neat and small package; these oils may contain up to 99 percent cannabidiol, and little else. 

Once produced, each of these CBD oils can be put to use on its own, or manufactured into a new CBD product. CBD gummies, capsules, tinctures, and massage oil can all be made from all of these types of CBD oil.

full spectrum sublingual CBD

How Is CBD Extracted From Hemp or Cannabis?

Cannabidiol can be exracted from hemp or cannabis in several different ways — both commercially and at home as a DIY project for personal use. The methods you’d use to extract CDB at home differ radically from those employed by manufacturers producing CBD oil on a commercial scale, of course. 

Extracting CBD with the Help of Carbon dioxide (CO2)

CO2 (carbon dioxide) extraction is the most effective way to go about the process. It’s commonly chosen because it’s versatile and safe — although carbon dioxide functions as a solvent within specific conditions, the compound doesn’t come with the same potential dangers as other common solvents such as butane or ethanol

The exact process is complex — and understanding it requires some scientific knowledge. Here’s a rough idea of how extracting CBD with CO2 works, though:

  • Carbon dioxide is funneled into an extractor in its gaseous form, which depends on low temperatures. 
  • Within the right temperature range and under certain pressure conditions, the CO2 morphs into a liquid. The resulting supercritical compound shares some characteristics with a gas, and others with a liquid. It can now be moved through a dedicated chamber in the extractor, which also contains hemp.
  • The membranes of the hemp’s trichomes are dissolved during the extraction process, allowing a large portion of the active ingredients to move into the solvent.

The CO2 extraction process can itself be divided into three distinct categories. A supercritical extraction system leads to a full-spectrum of broad-spectrum CBD oil. If you’ve ever heard the term “winterization” in relation to CBD extraction, this refers to the process of refining crude CBD oil.

Over the course of winterization, lipid and other unwanted materials are removed from the crude product in order to create a CBD isolate. 

A final way to go about CO2 CBD oil extraction would be with a so-called subcritical system. This method doesn’t require pressures and temperatures as high as those needed to successfully extract CBD with a supercritical system, but it is both slower and less effective. For this reason, supercritical CBD extraction is by far the most common method commercial manufacturers rely on.

Extracting CBD with the Help of Solvents Like Butane and Ethanol

As with CO2 extraction, this method relies on an extractor, in this case with a closed-loop system that feeds more volatile compounds such as butane, ethanol, and even propane over the raw hemp or cannabis product. 

This way of extracting CBD might sound superior when you hear that it’s both inexpensive and much faster, but there’s an obvious drawback. The solvents used to extract CDB are combustible — don’t try this at home unless you absolutely know what you’re doing!

In addition, less-skilled people run the risk of extracting the impurities right alongside the CBD, which can lead to a less pleasant taste and odor.

Extracting CBD with the Help of Water

Finally, some people forget that water also serves as a solvent. Water extraction is by far the least common method used, because this technique requires skill and background knowledge.

However, in the right hands, extracting CBD with water (in the form of vapor or ice) can lead to an incredibly high yield. It can also be cheaper than the previous two techniques, even though it does take more time.

This method relies in very finely chopped plant material, to which ice or dry ice are then typically added, followed by liquid water. The final product is drained through a finely-woven mesh, similar to a cheesecloth, and the CBD extract is allowed to accumulate at the bottom.

By the end, the unwanted byproducts have already naturally been sifted out. 

Some cannabis enthusiasts prefer CBD extracted in this way, as it is the most natural and does not rely on chemicals. 

When CDB oil is manufactured by skilled and experienced professionals, each of these extraction methods has its own set of merits — and each can very much produce a high-quality end product. Should you be interested in extracting CBD yourself, however, you won’t have access to the same professional equipment. T

hose going the DIY route likely won’t know what they’re doing, either, at least the first time. 

It’s crucial that the process is safe and easy, then. Can you extract CDB yourself effectively, meaning you’ll wind up with a great CBD oil and you won’t risk your health during the process?

health benefits of CBD extract

How to Safely Extract CBD at Home: A Guide for DIY Lovers

Browse around the web, enter the right search terms, and keep looking until you find exactly what you’re looking for, and you’ll definitely be able to find guides on how to extract cannabis at home using all of the commercial methods we just looked at. 

If you’re reading this, though, you’re likely a “noob” — and yes, that very much means you shouldn’t be messing around with combustibles in your kitchen. Do you still want to extract CBD from the cannabis you bought at your local legal dispensary, or even from your very own homegrown outdoor weed?

Don’t despair. There’s a perfectly safe, and perfectly simple, way of going about this.

To make your own cannabutter, you’ll need:

  • A slow cooker.
  • A strainer — and that can mean either a cheesecloth or one of those fine metal strainers.
  • A wooden spatula. 
  • Some sort of storage vessel to pour your finished product into. Jars work, but small freezer containers are ideal if you want to mimic the shape of a butter stick. 

You’ll also need your ingredients — two cups of ground decarboxylated cannabis (decide on the THC content yourself, depending on your needs) and two cups of unsalted butter. Alternatively you can use plant-oils for your infusion if you’re vegan.

You’re now going to fire your slow cooker up to 160º Fahrenheit. Remember that anything over 200 will ruin your cannabis. Once it heats up, you’ll first add your butter, and stir it while you’re waiting for it to melt.

You’ll then slowly mix in the cannabis, and allow your slow cooker to do its job for around three hours to coax the CBD out.

Next steps? Get your strainer ready. Place it over your container. While you turn your slow cooker off and wait for your butter to cool off, chill out yourself, too. Then, squeeze the butter through your strainer to weed out the impurities, into the container you chose.

Now your freshly home-made cannabutter is ready. Store it in the fridge and enjoy it however you want to. 

This isn’t the only way to make cannabutter, but it’s the easiest and therefore the best for beginners. Once you’ve got some experience under your belt, you can move up to more complex CBD methods.

Below is a simple home CBD DIY video produced by the fine folks over at Endoca CBD. They are an organic, full-spectrum producer of hemp oils that are extremely highly reviewed in the fitness community among others. If you’re more of a visual learner this is a great explainer video to the process of CBD extraction.

How Should CBD Oil Be Stored?

Extracting CBD from hemp or cannabis might sound complex enough on its own, but the extraction process is only half the job. Once extracted, the CBD oil needs to be meticulously looked after to stay good, as well. 

Just how is CBD oil best stored? 

Keep in mind that, once extracted, the CBD concentrate isn’t stored just in the hemp’s own oils — where good old butter acts as your carrier oil if you decide to try making cannabutter at home, commercial CBD oils come with other carrier oils that keep the CBD fairly shelf-stable as well as helping to deliver that goodness all around your body. 

Some of the most popular choices include olive oil, coconut oil, hemp seed oil, MCT oil, and even vegetable glycerin. This means that consumers should basically treat their CBD oil the same way they would a very fancy olive oil:

  • Not in the fridge, but in a dark and dry pantry. The problem with storing CBD oil, or any other oil for that matter, in the fridge lies in the fact that it’s likely to cool down into a solid — and refrigeration won’t make your CBD oil last any longer, either, so there’s no benefit.
  • In an upright position. 
  • Definitely not in a plastic container, but in a glass bottle, and ideally a dark, tinted one.
InfinityJar review

How Can You Use CBD Extract?

CBD extracts can be put to great use in a wide variety of ways. Some of the most popular ways to reap the many health benefits of CBD oil include:

  • In the form of a fast-acting tincture, in which case it’s typically applied straight under the tongue (sublingual administration) and kept there for two to three minutes. This method is perfect for people who need quick relief from their symptoms, whether that’s anxiety or chronic pain.
  • As a CBD balm, typically made primarily with beeswax, to find relief from muscle pain or other skin conditions.
  • Mixed with food — sprinkled over a salad, or put into a brownie as an edible, among numerous other possibilities. Some research suggests that the effects of CBD are more potent when it is added to food, due to the fact that eating already kick-starts your metabolism. This is also the obvious way to administer CBD to pets, increasingly emerging as a treatment for pain and anxiety

If you’re already sold on the benefits of CBD extracts but don’t want to go through the process of manufacturing it yourself there are companies that will deliver products monthly to your door, including “monthly CBD subscription boxes” that contain a new mix of popular CBD products every month to keep things interesting…kind of like a wine club but healthier!

topical uses for CBD

What’s the Best Way to Extract CBD?

The fact that most commercially-produced CBD oils rely on the CO2 extraction process speaks volumes. Extracting CBD with the help of carbion dioxide is almost universally agreed on to be the most effective method, especially in the case of the full-spectrum CBD oil that will also give you THC.  This is because the CO2 method is effectively able to eliminate almost all impurities, resulting in a clean and health product. 

The safest way to enjoy CBD oil is also precisely that — purchasing a high-grade CBD or full-spectrum extract commercially. Take note of the concentration, which will clearly be labeled on the bottle. You can typically choose between 300mg, 600mg, or 1000mg.

Those folks who are into cooking and would simply love to make their own, though, are best off sticking with cannabutter (this machine can make it for you if you don’t know how). This is a safe and easy way to enjoy CBD that doesn’t force you to use dangerous combustibles, but still results in a great home-made CBD product. 

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