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CBD Extracts - What are they and how are they derived?

Posted by Kevin Anderson on 12/23/2019 to CBD Information
CBD Extracts - What are they and how are they derived?

Natural remedies for varied medical ailments are gaining momentum in the modern world. Many plant extracts have shown promising characteristics in medical applications. A recently discovered naturally occurring substance being cannabidiol (CBD).

With scientific studies proving the effectiveness and positive impact of cannabidiol, it has become the talk of the town. However, since it is extracted from marijuana, the most popular psychoactive drug plant, the health benefits offered by CBD are often ignored. 

Here, we are attempting at taking a deeper insight into what this extremely promising and future source of medications is and how it is derived.


What is CBD?

Marijuana or cannabis plants produce different types of compounds. Cannabidiol is one such natural molecule produced by cannabis plants. Unlike other molecules, CBD molecules do not have a psychoactive component. Instead, the molecule helps consumers feel relaxed and calm. More about what CBD is here.

Cannabinoids have an oily structure and their separation produces a thick oil. Therefore, most often, CBD extracts are described as CBD oils. 

Some of the popular forms of CBD extracts available in the market are:

  • CBD Tinctures - These are the CBD extracts in the form of liquid that includes 60-70% of alcohol. It is commonly used to relieve pain and ease anxiety. 

  • CBD Capsules - It is one of the most popular forms of CBD extract. The supplement is enclosed in a soluble container made of gelatin and is used to address anxiety. 

  • CBD Vape Oil - Vaping CBD is a low-temperature and smokeless method of inhaling cannabidiol through vapourization to relieve pain, depression, and anxiety. 

  • CBD Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) - It is a cannabis extract that consists of a high amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and is commonly used as a cancer treatment. 


CBD extracts are popular, but most of us are less informed about the cannabidiol extraction process and factors to be considered before choosing a CBD product. Whether to be used topically or ingested, CBD is extracted using different processes.

How is CBD Extracted?

CBD oil is derived using different approaches. The most common extraction methods used include carbon dioxide, steam distillation, hydrocarbon or natural solvents. 

  1. CO2 Extraction -

CO2 extraction is the most popular type of method. CO2 or carbon dioxide is typically a gas form. However, it can be raised to supercritical state with the help of high pressure and elevated temperature. 

Once the supercritical state is achieved, the density of CO2 will be similar to that of a liquid, whereas the surface tension and viscosity will be that of a gas. This form of physical substance or fluid is a non-polar solvent and allows for easy extraction of necessary elements from cannabis with the highest accuracy.

On reducing the pressure, the supercritical state CO2 is reduced to gaseous form and the waxy material from the cannabis (with high CBD content) is separated from CO2. The obtained substance will have a golden color. This is followed by an additional purification process, known as winterization. 

The vegetable waxes are undesirable and are hence removed from the resulting substance via the winterization process. Besides eliminating the waxes, winterization also allows the manufacturers to remove chlorophyll. Extraction CBD oil through the CO2 method requires adept knowledge. This approach is not associated with burning and hence is significantly safer.

  1. Steam Distillation - 

Steam distillation is another popular method used to extract CBD oil. In this technique, the steam causes CBD oil to separate from the cannabis or hemp plant. The set up includes a glass container with an inlet and an outlet. 

While the inlet is connected to another glass container that consists of water set to boil, the outlet is connected to a condenser tube. As the steam rises in the container, oil vapors are released. 

The oil vapors are then collected in a condenser tube which is condensed to hydrosol. The hydrosol is a mixture of essential oil and water. Further, the oil is separated from the hydrosol. Steam distillation is less preferred than the CO2 extraction method due to its inefficiency. Also, the steam affects the physical and chemical properties of the essential oil and damages it. 

  1. Olive Oil -

This form of CBD oil extraction process is the oldest method. The process starts with decarboxylating or heating the raw plant materials to the preferred temperature for a specific time. This is done to activate the chemicals in cannabis plants. 

This is followed by combining the olive oil and plant materials and heating them all over again. This is when the CBD is extracted. Since the olive oil doesn’t evaporate, the resulting extract is less concentrated as obtained from other methods. The olive oil method of extraction is safe, cost-effective and easy to perform. 

  1. Hydrocarbon Extraction or Solvent Extraction -

As the name suggests, this method involves the utilization of hydrocarbon solvents such as hexane (C6H14), butane (C4H10), propane (C3H8), or naphtha. On proper implementation of this method, a pure product, which is separated from undesired substances such as chlorophyll is obtained. For extraction, the liquid/solvent is added to the plant material. 

The extraction solvent will remove the flavor and cannabinoids from the plant material. In addition to cannabinoids, the liquid will take some green colorings too. The extraction of cannabinoids is followed by heating the liquid to evaporate it obtain the CBD oil. The benefit of this approach is a highly purified product is obtained. 

The extract retains its therapeutic properties and unique smell. However, the process is dangerous as the hydrocarbons are highly flammable substances.

As said earlier, CBDs promise a wide range of applications in the field of the medical field.

  • Relieve pain - It can reduce inflammation and chronic pain by affecting endocannabinoid receptor activity.

  • Reduce depression and anxiety - CBDs can treat both depression and anxiety effectively. 

  • Reduce acne - It has anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce sebum secretion & treat acne.

  • Benefits heart health - CBD extracts can lower high blood pressure and improves heart health. 

  • Combat cancer - It can suppress the growth of cancer cells and also can promote their destruction. 

CBD extracts are a natural product with several scientifically proven health benefits. It is not a narcotic drug and can serve as remedies for multiple health conditions. 

However, when buying CBD products, determine the type of extraction method used by the company. This is important because it can serve as an indicator of the price and quality of the products.