The short answer is yes.
With the ever-growing popularity of CBD oils, consumers are more educated about products and their range of health benefits.
As manufacturers, it’s crucial to understand the various CBD extraction processes and, more importantly, how they can influence the end product and its health benefits.
Let’s take a look at the main ways of extracting CBD and evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each method.
What is CBD extraction?
The purpose of CBD extraction is to separate the waxes and fats that you don’t want in the product from the cannabinoid (and others) that you do want. This will ensure that the cannabinoid is in a highly concentrated form and so suitable for human consumption.
This can be accomplished by using particular cannabis strains rich in CBD. Cannabis strains such as AC/DC and Charlotte’s Web, have a high CBD concentration (up to 18% in some cases) and a low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration (as little as 5%).
You need a favourable CBD/THC ratio. The extra-high CBD content renders the psychoactive effects of THC inert even in plants that have a THC concentration of up to 6%. This was proven in research carried out by Western University and published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Why does the CBD extraction process matter?
Although there are various methods for extracting CBD from hemp, some methods are much more efficient and safer than others. It’s important to know the various processes, as each one will affect the efficacy and purity of the end product differently.
So let’s look at the ways you can extract CBD.
What are the different methods of CBD extraction?
There are three main types of CBD extraction methods.
1. Carrier oil extraction
In this process, the plant material is heated to a specified temperature to activate the chemicals inside the plant material. The plant material is then immersed in a carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil and re-heated for several hours.
This process draws the cannabinoids out of the plant material and into the carrier oil. This may be a cheap CBD extraction method, but it’s not very effective as it yields low levels of active cannabinoids.
As this oil can’t be concentrated, it can only be used for low-strength oil. Another thing you will need to consider if choosing this method is that the extracted oil is perishable, therefore preservatives must be added.
2. Alcohol extraction
This method of CBD extraction uses ethanol or ethyl alcohol. Ethanol is considered safe for consumption as it is simply a by-product of plant material that has been fermented. Food-grade ethanol is used in this extraction method and is passed through the plant matter a number of times to ensure maximum extraction.
Ethanol is used because the cannabis plant can produce more than 500 compounds, and ethanol extraction creates the best wide-spectrum CBD product possible.
Ethanol is a polar solvent, so as well as binding to cannabinoids and terpenes it will also bind to chlorophyll and other water-soluble and undesirable plant compounds, such as:
- Amino acids (all eight essentials)
- Alkamides (immune-promoting compounds)
Ethanol extraction operates under zero vapour pressure and is significantly less-flammable than CO2 — making for a safer extraction environment.
There are some common misconceptions that come with solvent-based extraction, one of which is that they’ll be residual solvent left in the product. In one aspect it is correct that there are trace amounts left over, but it will then go through a heating and purging process using decarboxylation or distillation. When searching for a supplier that uses this extraction method be sure to ask about their purging process.
However, to ensure consumer safety and confirm you meet EU regulations, you can get your CBD product analysed for residual solvents at PhytoVista Laboratories.
3. Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is now the most popular method of CBD extraction. It is considered to be the industry standard as is the cleanest way to extract CBD from cannabis – and removing much of the THC as well. CO2 extraction is widely used in the manufacture of herbal supplements and in the food industry – for example, to make decaffeinated coffee.
There are three different forms of this process – supercritical, mid critical and subcritical – and the supercritical process is the most widely used. CO2 is a safe and effective solvent when used for CBD extraction.
CO2 extraction uses high-temperature carbon dioxide forced at high pressure through the plant material to extract as many desirable cannabinoids as possible. The process removes the plant’s essential cannabinoids, terpenes and waxes. The end results produce CO2 oil, which is amber in colour. This oil can then be used as a tincture or vapouriser. Manufacturers use carbon dioxide because at a specific temperature, it becomes a liquid and works like a solvent – without the dangers associated with solvents. Once the CO2 has been converted into liquid, it is kept at extremely low temperatures (supercritical). The cannabinoids are then separated from the liquid CO2 which has also removed pesticides, bacteria and insects. After these have been removed from the CO2, it can be used again and again, making it the most economical as well as the most thorough extraction method. The result is a top-quality, clean oil with no toxic by-products. Unfortunately, CO2 extraction is costly, as the price of an extractor can be more than £103,000 ($135,000).
This high cost helps to explain why top-quality CBD oil costs more than you may expect. Another reason for the high cost is that UK CBD laws make it difficult for extraction to be done in the UK; therefore, many of the oils are extracted abroad and then imported into the UK.
What is the best CBD extraction process for manufacturers?
All three extraction methods listed above have their limitations, which must be understood by you as the manufacturer, especially if you need the best possible quality of cannabinoids for your products.
CO2 extraction is considered the safest method. The process also creates little waste – with the added advantage of being able to recycle the C02.
Importantly, the cannabinoids extracted using this method are the purest and contain no chemicals or contaminants. If you source your supplies from a reputable company that uses this extraction method, it will ensure that the products you manufacture using them will be of the highest possible quality.
What to look for when sourcing CBD extracts
The CBD market is thriving and will continue to grow as claims to the successful use of cannabinoids for easing conditions such as chronic pain, depression and diabetes gather momentum and are supported by more medical trials. With an increasing number of producers joining the market, it can be difficult for customers to determine which is the best supplier for them.
There are a number of key questions to ask suppliers about their extracted products that will help with this decision.
- Does the company have a range of products and if so, is there one in particular that appears to suit your needs?
- Are the company’s products high quality, sophisticated and supported by excellent analysis?
- What is the strength (in milligrams) of the oil?
- What is the CBD purity rating (%) of the CBD or cannabidiolic acid that the company produces?
- Does the company undertake third-party testing for purity?
- Does the price represent good value? How does the price compare with CBD sold by other extraction companies?
As a CBD manufacturer, you are striving to ensure that the cannabidiol products you manufacture are of the highest quality.
You are looking for a company that is passionate about quality and monitors and tests at every step of the CBD extraction process. You can then be confident that you will only be given the purest product to use for manufacturing top-quality cannabidiol products.
If the top of your wishlist when sourcing oils is high levels of purity, potency and safety, then you will need to source a supplier that uses the supercritical CO2 extraction method. They may be a little more expensive than other oils, but they will be beneficial in the long run.
The most important distinguishing factor between the various products is the extraction method used, so it is essential that you spend time finding the best product for your needs.
How can Phytovista Laboratories help test for concentrate?
The UK CBD market is young and lacking regulation. Suppliers and manufacturers should self-regulate to ensure that their products are safe, accurately described and free from controlled substances.
If you require a certificate of analysis, PhytoVista Laboratories uses cutting-edge cannabinoid testing techniques to deliver:
- CBD purity
- THC content
- 15 cannabinoids profile
Our high-tech testing facility, staffed by a team of experts, can provide you with the results you need quickly and accurately.
Submit your product for testing by using the analytical request form.