It’s CBD Extraction Time: The Superior Science of the CO2 Extraction Method

by PP Health Admin / Oct 20, 2021

We all want to purchase the very best CBD products that we can find in terms of both quality and safety. For many, this will entail checking out the product and the company reviews, checking the Certificate of Analysis (COA) and looking out for third-party lab testing. However, one vital aspect of the CBD manufacturing process is the method of extraction.

This refers to how the CBD material is extracted from the hemp plant. This is one of the most critical parts of the production process, as getting it wrong could mean that unwanted ingredients are included in the final product or that a large percentage of the CBD is lost if it's not precise enough. There are different CBD extraction methods, and it will be down to manufacturers to decide which works best for them and what equipment they can afford.

This article is your guide to CBD extraction and explores why the CO2 extraction method is the superior method.

Back to Basics: What is CBD Oil?

Let's begin with a bit of a refresher into the world CBD. CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol, a cannabinoid – or chemical compound – from the Cannabis sativa plant. There are over 100 other compounds found in the plant, including vitamins, terpenes and flavonoids. CBD has risen in popularity over recent years as a natural wellness supplement.

It's a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, which means that it won't produce any kind of mood-altering effects. This is in direct contrast to the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cannabinoid, which is largely responsible for symptoms of intoxication. However, there can only be trace amounts of THC present in a product to be legally sold.

So, how is CBD oil made? CBD must be extracted from the hemp plant and then diluted with a carrier oil. Carrier oils are natural, such as olive oil, coconut oil and hemp seed oil. While CBD oil is one of the most popular ways to consume the cannabinoid, many other products are on the market. These include CBD gummies, CBD bath bombs, vapes, face masks, and more. You will need to decide what product works best for you.

Of course, while some individuals will prefer to stick with one, nothing stops you from varying your consumption methods. Remember to begin with a small dose of whatever method you choose; then, you can gradually increase it if you need to. It's essential to keep in mind that there's a variety of CBD concentrations out there – it will also affect how much CBD you will need to add to your routine.

Why Use CBD Oil?

So, why should you use CBD oil and what are the benefits of CBD? While it would be impossible to cover all the reasons here, we will provide you with a brief overview of two of the main potential benefits of CBD oil.

CBD for sleep is a popular area of research, as many people are searching for ways to get a better night’s sleep.  Sleeping disorders are a common problem for many people. In fact, it’s estimated that one-third of people from the United Kingdom will experience episodes of insomnia at some point during their lives. Insomnia can lead to struggles with falling asleep at night, feeling tired after waking up, waking up several times during the night and difficulties concentrating during the day. Short-term insomnia is when you experience these symptoms for less than three months, while long-term insomnia can last longer than three months.

Sleeping tablets aren't a desirable solution, as they aren't natural, can cause side effects, and shouldn't be taken long-term. Studies into CBD as a sleep aid are promising. For example, one 2014 study examines the way CBD can affect the sleep cycle. The focus is on how CBD can affect REM sleep behaviour disorder (RBD).

Symptoms of RBD can include poor sleep, shouting during sleep and rapid and abrupt movements. The study found that CBD was able to significantly improve the symptoms of RBD. These results are encouraging and warrant further investigation. Additional research from 2018 into CBD for sleep indicates that CBD could improve sleep due to its pain management potential. Pain is a major cause of insomnia and poor sleep; therefore, CBD may help improve sleep for individuals suffering from chronic pain.

CBD for anxiety is a popular search phrase for people seeking natural relief from their anxiety symptoms. There is a large body of research into the effect of CBD on the symptoms of anxiety. For example, one 2019 study examined the effects of CBD on 57 males as they performed a speaking test. Half of the group were dosed with 300mg CBD, while the others were given a placebo. The authors concluded that the group who received a dose of CBD experienced a significant reduction in their anxiety symptoms compared to the placebo group.

Furthermore, one large study examined the effects of CBD on 397 adults from New Zealand. Participants were provided with a CBD prescription for various issues, such as pain and mental health issues. Following three months of CBD treatment, the participants reported a better quality of life overall. This was especially relevant for those suffering from symptoms of anxiety and depression. They reported a reduction in pain and an improvement in their ability to complete their daily tasks. Overall, 70% of participants reported that they were happy with their CBD treatment, with their categorisations ranging from good to excellent.

Why Does CBD Extraction Matter?

CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant material.

Now, let's move on to CBD extraction. Some people don't consider how the cannabinoid has been extracted from the plant before purchasing the product. The extraction method is critical and something that you should take into account before making a purchase. There are many different extraction methods that manufacturers can use; however, some will be safer and more effective than others. This means that the final product may be influenced by this, affecting the purity and effectiveness of the CBD.

The Different Methods of CBD Extraction

Now, let’s take a look at the different methods of CBD extraction.

Olive Oil Extraction

Olive oil is referred to as a 'natural solvent' and can extract CBD from the plant. This form of extraction can also be done at home for individuals experienced with CBD extraction. The raw hemp is heated to a specific temperature – a process referred to as decarboxylation. It will then be added to the olive oil and heated to extract the cannabinoids. The oil will not evaporate, meaning that the product will resemble a CBD infused oil instead of an extract of CBD.

In terms of the cons of this method, the product will likely be relatively unpleasant to consume compared to other methods. In addition, the product will be less concentrated in terms of CBD content, meaning that you will need to consume more of the product to achieve your desired effect. This means the product won't last as long. However, one of the main pros to this method is that you can do it yourself at home. This means that you will know precisely what has gone into the final product and that it's safe to consume. It is also one of the least expensive extraction methods out there.

Extraction by Solvent

Extraction via solvent is one of the most common methods of CBD extraction. A solvent, for example, a hydrocarbon such as propane or food-grade ethanol is used. It is washed over the trimmings of the hemp plant to draw out the compounds. If hydrocarbon extraction is used, it can extract both cannabinoids and other compounds, like terpenes. If these are not desired in the final product, the mixture will need to be further processed before the solvent is removed. This will leave a concentrated CBD oil behind. Using ethanol will require the liquid to be distilled to separate the hemp compounds from the ethanol.

So, what are the pros of this form of extraction? Well, it is an efficient process overall that doesn't require lots of specialised equipment. This means that it doesn't cost as much as other extraction methods. Finally, solvent extraction – particularly if hydrocarbons have been utilised – are helpful in preserving the flavour of the plant, resulting in an excellent final product. However, there are safety concerns with this method, as solvents are highly flammable. Therefore, the manufacturer will need to take special care during the extraction process and remove the solvents from the final product, as they can remain behind if the manufacturer is not thorough. In terms of taste, this extraction method is not held in high regard, particularly when it involves ethanol, which can give the final product a sour taste.

Steam Distillation

Steam distillation is a popular method of CBD extraction. Steam is used to extract cannabinoids from the plant and other compounds. It frees up the compounds from the plant and produces a vapour packed full of the compounds. This vapour is then cooled and compressed. Finally, the water and oil are separated to create the final product.

As you can see, this is an uncomplicated method of extracting CBD and is also free from solvents. Due to its simplicity, the manufacturing cost is also relatively low. However, this method can produce inaccurate and inconsistent CBD concentrations due to needing more plant material to make the final product. It could also potentially cause damage to some of the delicate enzymes and vitamins that are heat-sensitive.

CO2 Extraction

We have left the best for last, in our opinion. CO2  – carbon dioxide – is used to extract cannabis plant materials. It is the most scientifically advanced method of extraction on our list. There are three chambers involved in CO2 extraction. In the first, the CO2 is converted from a gas to a liquid state. This is achieved by altering the pressure and decreasing the temperature. Both the pressure and temperature are then increased slowly so that the CO2 can reach what's known as a 'supercritical' point in the extraction process. At this point, the CO2 is in a kind of 'in-between' state – it's neither a liquid nor a gas. It can expand as gas does, and it is also concentrated, just like a liquid.

The CO2 will then be moved to the second chamber that’s holding the hemp plant material. The CO2 can then move through it and separate the oil – containing beneficial compounds – from the plant. In the third chamber, the CO2 evaporates and separates from the plant material. This leaves behind a form of concentrated CBD. This is arguably the best form of CBD extraction, as its precise methods ensure that the final product is pure cannabinoid plant material. Furthermore, no solvents are used; thus, it is regarded as a safe method. Even though this is a costly form of extraction due to the equipment required, it's more sustainable as it uses less energy and plant material than other methods.

What Is the Best Method of CBD Extraction?

Two bottles of full-spectrum CBD oil, with hemp leaves in the background.

Here at PP Health, we believe in the superiority of the CO2 extraction method. The CBD that it produces is free from contaminants, solvents and chemicals. Furthermore, once the extraction process has been completed, you have the option to reuse the CO2 or to release it safely into the environment. Therefore, this method is friendlier to the environment. These are some of the reasons why we use the CO2 method of CBD extraction for all of our products.

All of our CBD oils are full-spectrum, meaning that the oil will contain the naturally occurring compounds from hemp. For example, our Gold Mild Oil contains CBD, cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN), cannabivarin (CBV), cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabigerolic acid (CBDA). THC is removed during the CO2 extraction process, meaning that it's at the legally allowable amount to be sold and consumed. Terpenes and flavonoids are also present in the oil, including beneficial vitamins B and E and the natural fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6.

You can purchase our oil in various CBD concentrations, including 10%, 20% and 30%. Thanks to our gentle method of CO2 extraction, all of the delicate ingredients remain intact and help you get the most out of your CBD experience. This includes the reported entourage effect, which can only be accessed when the natural plant materials are left intact, as this allows the compounds to work together synergistically.

Final Thoughts

The extraction of CBD matters, which is why we at PP Health utilise the gentlest, safest, and most effective method – CO2 extraction. This is the best method for retaining all of the delicate compounds present in our full-spectrum oils. This means that you can potentially get the best outcome from the product, as we are harnessing the full power of the plant. Overall, we recommend reading around before making your purchase. The majority of companies will include details about how the CBD is extracted, along with other vital information, such as third-party lab tests and COA. This ensures that you will buy the best CBD products for both you and the environment.