The CBD Manufacturing Process – How CBD Oil is Made
CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is one of the many chemical compounds found in hemp and marijuana plants. CBD oil is a supplement that can be added to a variety of different products, such as lip balm, lotion, drinks, and gummies. CBD oil is created by extracting cannabidiol from the flowers and buds of hemp or marijuana plants. The plant cannabis sativa can be classified as either hemp or marijuana, depending on the amount of THC, the chemical that creates a high when consumed, in it.
If the particular sativa plant contains less than 0.3 percent THC, it is technically hemp. If the plant has more than 0.3 percent THC, it’s classified as marijuana. Hemp is generally used more for CBD extraction, as it contains more CBD and is legal in all 50 states. But how is the CBD extracted from the plant? The process varies by CBD manufacturer.
There are many ways to extract CBD from a plant, and they vary in safety and efficiency. It’s important to know the difference since how CBD is extracted affects the final product’s purity and efficacy. This article will explain the different methods of how CBD oil is made. If you’d like to learn more about the business side of CBD, you can check out our article on how to start a cannabusiness.
One of the more popular extraction methods for CBD oil uses carbon dioxide, or CO2. This system takes advantage of how CO2 can function as a gas, solid, and liquid. Closed-loop extractors are most commonly used for CO2 extraction.
The process starts with a solid piece of CO2 in a chamber that is then pumped into a second chamber containing the cannabis material. The second chamber is kept at such a pressure that the CO2 stays in a liquid-like state and absorbs the plant’s oils and flavors. Then, the CO2-cannabinoid mixture is pumped into a third chamber where the CO2 returns to a gas state, leaving behind the plant’s oil and flavors. CO2 extraction is exact and can produce some of the purest cannabinoid extracts when done correctly. However, this is not always the case because of the high cost of equipment and the steep learning curve.
When this is done well, CO2 extracted CBD oil is some of the world’s purest, but there is ample room for error when done in less-than-optimal conditions. That potential for error is why subcritical CO2 extraction is used mainly by more “boutique” CBD brands.
Ethanol extraction is another popular extraction process, as it is safe, simple, and effective. In this method, high-grade grain alcohol (ethanol) is used as a solvent to separate CBD and other cannabinoids from the plant itself. Ethanol extraction can be done under warm or cold conditions and is considered extremely time-efficient compared to other CBD extraction processes like CO2 extraction. The CBD oil created with this method is often used for vape pen cartridges and other products. However, this extraction method destroys the cannabis plant waxes, which may have health benefits that some product-makers favor.
The idea of using a liquid to absorb CBD oil from the cannabis plant doesn’t stop with CO2 or ethanol. Naturally liquid substances are also used, including butane, hexane, or isopropyl alcohol. The process works much like the CO2 or ethanol extraction process, as a liquid solvent is run through decarboxylated hemp to remove cannabinoids and terpenes.
Liquid solvent extraction is a less expensive and easier way to extract CBD oil and is easy to scale for commercial production, but it has its downsides. Not all solvents can remove all impurities, and the chlorophyll from the plant may remain in the oil, giving it a greenish tinge and a bitter taste. A CBD manufacturer must adjust the process as needed to avoid impurities. As many of the liquid solvents used are highly flammable, this method can be considered more dangerous than others.
Oil infusion is one of the oldest techniques for extracting CBD oil, and many home growers and producers still use this method today. It’s one of the most straightforward ways, but it does come with some drawbacks.
Before starting oil infusion, the plant material must first be decarboxylated or heated to a specific temperature to activate the compounds. The plant material is added to olive oil or a similar carrier oil and heated at 100 degrees Celsius for a couple of hours. The olive oil can’t evaporate out of the CBD oil, so one of the primary downsides is that a lot more oil is used compared to the amount of liquid solvents used in their processes.
As some of the above processes result in impure CBD oil, many manufacturers choose to use one or both of the following secondary processes in order to further purify their product.
Winterization is the secondary process of removing undesirable substances from the oil to result in pure CBD. After the oil is extracted, it is combined with 200 proof alcohol and stirred vigorously until thoroughly mixed. The alcohol thins the crude oil out, as the desirable parts of crude will go into solution with the alcohol while the unwanted parts will coagulate and freeze, allowing them to be filtered out.
The mixture is then placed in a deep freezer at below-zero temperatures. Once it has time to freeze overnight, it looks cloudy and is ready for filtration. The filter removes the fats and other such materials. The oil and alcohol mixture is placed in vessels that use paper filters. The actual CBD oil remains with the alcohol solution and passes through the filter while the unwanted frozen parts are caught by it. When the oil is of the desired quality, the mixture can be heated to alcohol’s boiling point, which is lower than that of CBD oil, to boil off the alcohol. The alcohol evaporates, and CBD oil is left behind.
For further CBD oil refinement, it is run through a process called short path distillation. This secondary takes advantage of the fact that different CBD oil compounds each have their own boiling point. Short path distillation starts by slowly heating the CBD oil until the unnecessary substances such as terpenoids, flavonoids, and contaminants, begin to boil off. Sometimes a vacuum is also used to separate the vapors with a lower boiling point.
The vapors formed travel through a distillation tube until they reach cooling coils, where they condense and drip down into a separate collection container. The process continues until only pure CBD oil is left in the original container.
Outlined above are the basics of what CBD is and how CBD is made. Following the manufacture of the oil itself also requires manufacturing of delivery mechanisms, which include containers such as vials and bottles, to vape cartridges and other mechanisms. Of course there is a lot more to the manufacturing process such as CBD product packaging. To find more information on domestic commercial and industrial suppliers of custom manufacturing services and equipment on all levels of the supply chain, visit the Thomas Supplier Discovery Platform, where you will find information on over 500,000 commercial and industrial suppliers.