CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant. The cannabis plant is an herbaceous plant that has two primary classifications: indica and sativa. Marijuana and hemp are members of this plant genus, meaning that both marijuana and hemp come from cannabis. THC, a psychoactive compound found in cannabis, plays a role in the classification of whether a plant is considered hemp or cannabis. Hemp cannabis plants naturally have high concentrations of CBD and very little THC (below 0.3%), whereas marijuana cannabis plants have an abundance of THC compounds. With this in mind, on a molecular level, CBD is the same regardless of its source. It is still CBD whether it is coming from a plant high in THC or a plant low in THC
Hemp cannabis plants naturally have high concentrations of CBD and very little THC (below 0.3%), whereas marijuana cannabis plants have an abundance of THC compounds. With this in mind, on a molecular level, CBD is the same regardless of its source.
While CBD is CBD regardless of where it comes from, there are several different extraction methods to be aware of: CBD oil can be made in a variety of ways, with each yielding their own assortment of factors, such as color and chemical content.
CBD is commonly classified into two categories:
1. CBD Isolate
2. CBD Whole-Plant Full Spectrum.
If a product is made utilizing a full-spectrum extraction method, it means that on top of containing CBD, it will also include other cannabinoids, such as THC, and terpenes naturally found in the plant material. Research has found that full-spectrum CBD oil is more effective than isolate CBD oil due to how the body responds to cannabinoids (this is the body's endocannabinoid system at work).
CBD products utilizing CBD isolate or "pure CBD" are made through an extraction method that yields CBD oil without the inclusion of other cannabinoids. This extraction method is more refined than whole-plant, making it preferable for those seeking to use CBD without the presence of THC.
1. CO2 Extraction
To make CBD oil itself, a process known as CO2 extraction has become increasingly popular, even though it is expensive due to the equipment needed. This process uses fluid CO2 as a solvent—similar to how the food industry works to make coffee and omega-3 oils—to extract the CBD compound from the cannabis plant.
Another extraction method is known as hydrocarbonation, which involves hydrocarbons such as propane or butane as a solvent to extract the concentrate so it can then be used to create oils, shatter, wax and other products. During both hydrocarbonation and CO2 extraction methods, the solvent works its way through the ground plant material to then separate components such as the CBD, essential oils, lipids and more. The solvent is then removed from the product, producing oil that is naturally high in CBD. As previously noted, CBD isolate extraction methods are more refined than whole-plant extraction methods.
Another popular method is called ethanol extraction, which utilizes ethanol as a solvent to remove CBD. While it requires less expensive equipment than CO2 or hydrocarbon extraction methods, ethanol is flammable and comes with its own set of precautionary measures.
4. Solventless Extraction
Solventless extraction is another go-to method that numerous companies utilize. This process doesn't require any additive chemical substances, save for water, allowing for a concentrated extract that is is completely free of any residual solvents commonly found in other extraction methods, such as butane or propane.
This solventless method extracts CBD oil through the application of heat and pressure, resulting in an extract that is potent in quality and rich in terpenes and trichomes found naturally in the plant.
When the beginning plant material, also known as the flower or bud of the plant, is placed under high pressure and temperature, it results in a substance typically referred to as rosin. Once the cannabinoid-rich oil is extracted, it can then be made into a variety of forms for consumer use, such as an edible or tincture.
After CBD oil is extracted from the cannabis plant, it will then go through different steps before it is ready to be tested (often by a third-party), packaged and sold. This can either include a process known as winterization, which subjects the CBD oil to cold temperatures to remove fatty acids, or through distillation, which removes some of the contaminants and will result in a clean concentrate of a high potency.
While it's great to explore the differences between various extraction methods, ultimately the quality of CBD is reliant on the quality of the starting material itself, the cannabis plant. Since not all CBD is made equal, taking extra precautionary steps to learn more about CBD and how it's made will ultimately enrich your experience.