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How Is CBD Extracted From Hemp?

CBD extracted from hemp

Cannabidiol (CBD), one of main compound of the cannabis plant, has gained a lot of attention in recent years as more studies show a variety of potential applications for it. You can find CBD in almost every type of cannabis plant including:

  • cannabis plants containing THC, the psychoactive chemical that makes you feel ‘high’
  • varieties of the cannabis plant specifically bred to be high-CBD/ low-THC
  • industrial hemp plants that contain no THC and have no psychoactive effect

There are a number of ways of extracting CBD from any of these varieties of cannabis. If the plant you start with contains only CBD (like industrial hemp or a high-CBD cannabis strain); there are multiple extraction methods which are very simple and require little equipment.

The most common methods use some type of solvent. This can be a liquid solvent, CO2, or an oil solvent. If the plant material you start with contains THC as well as CBD (such as smokable cannabis), the process to separate CBD from other cannabinoids is more complex and generally requires professional equipment. To avoid getting too technical, let’s look mainly at extraction methods for CBD-only plants.

Liquid Solvents

In this method, plant material like flowers and trim are put into a container. Liquid solvent (usually butane, isopropyl alcohol, hexane, or ethanol) is run through the plant matter to strip it of cannabinoids and flavours and transfer them into the liquid. Then, the liquid is evaporated away from this mixture to leave only concentrated chemicals and flavours in the form of an oil.

CBD extraction
The benefits of this method are many— it is the most simple and inexpensive way to extract CBD, but not without some downsides. One concern is that solvents can leave traces of impurities in the finished CBD oil (meticulous processing methods and the right solvent can minimise this).

Also, some liquid solvents remove chlorophyll from the plant along with cannabinoids and flavours, giving the finished oil a greener colour and more bitter taste.

However, because these negative effects can usually be countered by adjusting specifics in the process, this remains the most common method for CBD extraction.

C02 Extraction

Carbon Dioxide (C02) is a unique molecule that can function as any state of matter— solid, liquid, or gas— depending on the pressure and temperature it is kept under. Because variables like pressure and temperature have to be kept very specific in a C02 extraction, this extraction method is usually done with a piece of equipment called a ‘closed-loop extractor’. This machine has three chambers: the first chamber holds solid, pressurised C02 (commonly known as ‘dry ice’), the second chamber contains dry plant material and the third chamber separates the finished product.

When performing the extraction, the solid C02 from the first chamber is pumped into the second with the plant material. This second chamber is kept at a specific pressure and temperature which causes the C02 to behave more like a liquid (although it’s actually somewhere between a liquid and gas in this state, referred to as supercritical C02) so that it runs through the plant material and extracts chemicals and flavours, much like in the liquid solvent process. Then, the C02-cannabinoid mixture is pumped into a third chamber where it is kept at an even lower pressure and higher temperature so that the C02 gas rises to the top of the chamber while the oils containing chemicals and flavours from the plant material fall to the bottom to be collected for consumption.
CBD Extraction C02

There are many benefits of this method. It doesn’t require a long evaporation process like a liquid solvent extraction and there is minimal risk of contaminants in the finished product. Because this method carefully controls temperature and pressure, it can also be used to separate CBD from cannabis also containing THC.

CBD extracts from the plant at a lower temperature and pressure than THC, so careful adjustment of the pressure and temperature in the second chamber can isolate the specific cannabinoid you want to extract. Closed-loop extractor systems are very pricey, however, which is why this type of extraction is generally only used by large CBD producers.

Oil Extraction

Using oils, especially olive oil, to extract cannabinoids from hemp and cannabis is a practice that dates back to biblical times or even earlier.

Many home-producers who make their own CBD products still employ this simple extraction method. First, raw plant material must be decarboxylated, or heated to a specific temperature for a certain length of time to activate the chemicals in the plant. Plant material is then added to olive oil and heated to 100°C for 1-2 hours to extract the cannabinoids. With this method, the olive oil cannot be evaporated away after the process, so users must consume much higher quantities of this type of extracted oil than the highly-concentrated oil produced by other methods. Infused olive oil is also highly perishable, and so must be stored in cold, dark place.

It is a simple, safe, and inexpensive option for individual enthusiasts.

CBD oilWhile these are currently the most common methods in which CBD is extracted from cannabis or hemp; technology in this exciting new field is constantly updating, so new methods will surely be seen in the coming years as the industry expands.

Each extraction method is best suited to specific circumstances: whether you are a company or an individual, for what type of product you are extracting CBD, desired flavour, strength and consistency all play a part in which method should be chosen. Companies producing CBD often put extracted CBD through subsequent processes to make a variety of other products, such as Harmony’s CBD e-liquids, CBD crystals, cosmetics and much more.

CBD extraction from hemp

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41 thoughts on “How Is CBD Extracted From Hemp?

  1. David Watson says:

    What are the three main chemicals found in Cannabis resin? THC, CBD, and what? You never said.

    1. Sarah Haze says:

      Hi David! The cannabinoid I alluded to in the article was cannabinol (CBN). THC, CBD, and CBN are the chemicals most commonly found in the highest concentrations, but there are actually dozens of cannabinoids found in trace amounts in any given cannabis strain. So far more than 80 have been identified, and studies are still discovering more. If you want to know more about the major cannabinoids, check out our article here: https://meetharmony.com/2016/10/25/9-cannabinoids-must-know/

  2. Ellice says:

    Thank you so much for all the knowledge! I’ve looked at so many websites & blogs and until now, haven’t found such detailed information that actually helps! You guys definitely need an IG page!!

    1. Clara says:

      Hello Ellice! Thank you for reading us and for the great words 😀 I have a good news for you, we do have an IG page! Follow us on Instagram by clicking here. Have a great day <3

  3. Don says:

    Hey thanks for the article ! So how does Harmony extract the CBD ? Do you use the co2 method or an other one ?

    1. Clara says:

      Hello Don! Thank you for your interest! We use supercritical CO2 extraction and molecular separation processes on-site at a European Licensed Laboratory to
      extract Harmony pure CBD Crystals 🙂 If you have any further question, don’t hesitate to ask! Have a great day

  4. Marc Kielley says:

    Hello,
    Is the CBD oil produced from Hemp stalks and stems only or are the seeds also a source of CBD oil ?
    Looking forward to your reply.

    1. Clara says:

      Hello Marc! Thank you for your interest! CBD is a cannabinoid that is produced by the hemp plants. It can be extracted from hemp stalks and stems but CBD is not in hemp seeds. If you have any further question, please don’t hesitate to ask! Have a great day

  5. Vince says:

    Thanks for this great overview! Regardless of the extraction type, I always look for labs showing residual solvent levels before I purchase any CBD products.

    1. Alana says:

      Hey Vince! Thanks for reading! Glad to see you know what to look for, keep up the good work!

  6. Jason Ellis says:

    How do you get all the way to CBD Crystalline,, do you use a solvent called pentane? Do you use any kind of low pressure vacuum ovens? Or do you use walk in freezer so with feel freezers
    Or how do you go form distillate into 99.7 CBD Isolates? Thank youy j

    1. Magda says:

      Hi Jason, at Harmony we work with some of the best farms & labs around Europe. We use a supercritical CO2 extraction method that takes the CBD through 3 phases of analysis and crystallization to remove all traces of wax or contaminants. Hope that answers your questions 🙂

  7. Jane Hurl says:

    I’d like to make my own CBD. Am I understanding correctly? You bring the CBD to the boiling point (100ºC) and keep it there for 1 to 2 hours? Also, you mention decarboxylating “at a certain temperature for a certain length of time”. Can you please give the specifics? Thanks.

    1. Magda says:

      Hi Jane, thanks for your message and it’s great to see you’re interested in CBD. To give you the best information, may I ask if you’re trying to make your own CBD e-liquid or are you talking about actually extracted CBD from hemp yourself? Thanks! 🙂

  8. Colleen says:

    Hi Magda, a recipe for hemp-derived CBD concentrate from flower using a vacuum oven is not easily found online. What would one have to do to actually acquire one? I would certainly appreciate any information you might be able to share. Thank you, Colleen

    1. Magda says:

      Hi Colleen. Vacuum ovens are sometimes used in the cannabis industry for extraction processes such as for Butane Hash Oil. Usually, this method is used to separate any leftover residue. As using a vacuum oven is quite a costly and complex process, they are usually intended for professional use. If you are intending to use one for personal use, I would recommend researching whether it is cost effective or if you need special training to use one. Hope that helps 🙂

  9. Jeff says:

    Hi Magda,

    What do you do with the plant material after the CBD has been extracted? Is there still proteins/vitamins/fatty acids in the material to be used for another use?

    Thanks!

    1. Magda says:

      Hey Jeff, thanks for reaching out! There are lots of great uses for hemp, including building and clothing materials. Harmony CBD is extracted from European hemp, the specific use for leftover hemp is at the discretion of the individual farm 🙂

  10. Ethan says:

    I recently purchased some of your Critial Mala 300mg vape oil and I was wondering about the thc content. It says there is no thc but I’m still skeptical. I cannot risk failing a drug test because of my profession and was wondering there were any trace amounts of THC in your products. Or of obtaining a lab report was possible. I’m eager to try this product as it’s sitting in front of me but I can’t risk my career for it.

    1. Alana says:

      Hey Ethan, I have a great news for you, CBD won’t show up in a drug test as these tests are looking for THC (not CBD) and our products don’t contain any traces of THC 🙂

  11. Miriam Ralph says:

    I buy milled hemp and use it as a food supplement. Do you think it might contain any CBD? I use milled hemp to help with chronic pain as I can’t take strong painkillers. I would love the opportunity to grow hemp but am aware that it may only be grown under licence etc. If I were to grow hemp, is it always necessary to extract the oil to get the benefit as a pain reliever or would it be possible to dry out the leaves, etc., mill them and use them as a herbal tea (for instance). I would appreciate any advice you might have on the above queries. Many thanks.

    1. Alana says:

      Hey Miriam, thanks for asking, please keep in mind our products are not medical and should not be used as such! It will really depend on the producer of your milled hemp. You should always ask for more details on the levels of active compounds to fully understand what is in the product!

  12. Don says:

    Hello Clara, after you extract the CBD with the CO2 do you separate out any impurities for a pure CBD material? Or do you separate out any impurities like waxes/Cphylls, etc. and then crystallize from a ethanol solution? Does it come out crystalline when you do this?

    1. Alana says:

      Hey Don, At Harmony we work with some of the best farms & labs around Europe. We use a supercritical CO2 extraction method that takes the CBD through 3 phases of analysis and crystallization to remove all traces of wax or contaminants. Hope that helps!

  13. Claudia says:

    Hi,
    I have another question regarding your extraction process. I read about winterization and that it is used to make sure waxes are removed. Are you using this process?
    Thanks
    Claudia

    1. Alana says:

      Hey Claudia! At Harmony we work with some of the best farms & labs around Europe. We use a supercritical CO2 extraction method that takes the CBD through 3 phases of analysis and crystallization to remove all traces of wax or contaminants 👩‍🔬.

      1. Amanda says:

        Hi. The three fases of CO2 extraction don’t answer the question. There is a winterizazion after? I dont think so because the terpenes, but im interesting to know.

        1. Alana says:

          Hey Amanda, great question. Our products do not undergo winterization but the CBD is extracted through a multi-step extraction, analysis and crystallization method. Hope that helps!

  14. Daniboy says:

    If I need to stop smoking because of emphysema – is vaping CBD bad for me?

    1. Alana says:

      Hey Dan, thanks for reaching out! Our products are made with smokers in mind but remember they are not to be used as treatment for any disease or illness. Public Health England maintains that vaping is 95% better than smoking.

  15. Tony Mutukisna says:

    I am interested in extracting CBD from Hemp for personal use. I understand that the Co2 process is the best but it is expensive, equipment wise. I was considering a milling process, could you please enlighten me on the pros and cons, and where I can purchase any equipment to do this, or any other cost effective method.
    Thank you.

    1. Alana says:

      Hey Tony, great questions! You can extract CBD through the same methods as THC! Milling probably won’t be the best option as it would simply grind your hemp and make it more bioavailable (great for tea or flour) but it really depends on what you want to do with it! There are some great resources on youtube on home extraction techniques! Or try out our Pure CBD Crystals instead 🙂

  16. reyhaneh says:

    Hi! thanks for your useful information but i have a question…
    how can we separate CBD from oil? chromatography?

    1. Susie says:

      Hey thanks for your question. At Harmony we work with some of the best farms & labs around Europe. We use a supercritical CO2 extraction method that takes the CBD through 3 phases of analysis and crystallization to remove all traces of wax or contaminants. There are lots of different ways of extracting CBD from plants and oils. If your doing it at home there are a lot of DIY tutorials on the web.

  17. Madars says:

    Hi guys!
    Just wandering,how much oil could get from 1 kg of raw material such as hemp straws?

    1. Alana says:

      Hey there, great question! It really depends so we recommend you do some research on your own as it varies on the strain, material, etc.

  18. David says:

    Hi, thanks for your fine website. Is it possible to Extract CBD from Hemp Sprouts. We sprout hemp Seed for 14 days and I wondered if they contain CDB and if it can be extracted

    1. Susie says:

      Hey David thanks for your comment! Good question… Well it’s really hard to get CBD from sprout’s as they are young and still maturing they will probably have very low amount of CBD. The majority of the CBD comes from the hemp buds. Feel free to email us if you have any further questions! We are happy to help.

  19. scott_walker_93 says:

    Hi is it possible to be given a certificate of quality for the cbd vape juices?

    1. Joe Marris says:

      Hi Scott,

      Yes of course, you can find all of our certificates here:

      https://meetharmony.com/certificates-of-analysis/

      Thanks for your interest in Harmony <3

  20. scott_walker_93 says:

    Hi i received a lollypop in my parcel along with cbd vape liquid, im curious to know what the lollypop is exactly and does it contain cbd as theres no information regarding this?

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