How Is CBD Extracted From Hemp?


How Is CBD Extracted From Hemp?

If you want orange juice, you squeeze an orange. But what if you want CBD oil? Extracting CBD from hemp isn’t quite as straightforward as juicing an orange, but knowing where the CBD extract comes from might be an essential consideration when choosing a product.

There are many methods for going from dried, milled hemp raw material to extracts [1]. Experts classify these methods according to the solvents used in the process. Let’s take a look at the most common options.

Alcohol Extraction

Extracting CBD from hemp using alcohol is very efficient, and is the most commonly preferred and highly tested method for drug formulations [2].

Skilled operators thoroughly soak the plant material in alcohol, with or without applying heat. Over time, the cannabinoids and other plant components dissolve into the liquid. The solution is then filtered, and the alcohol removed using distillation.

This process leads to a crude extract that can be further purified. Removing plant components like chlorophyll (the green colour of plants), oils and waxes, or even unwanted cannabinoids like THC leads to a cleaner and more concentrated product.

Alcohol extraction is the most commonly used method of CBD extraction worldwide. The solvent can be recycled and used for further extractions, making this method cost-efficient and sustainable. It’s also very accessible because it doesn’t require any overly specialised equipment.

CO2 Extraction

This method is also called “supercritical fluid extraction”. Usually, CO2 is a gas, but it becomes a liquid when air pressure and temperature are adjusted correctly. Operators can then use it as a solvent for extractions using a specialised setup.

In essence, the extraction process works the same way as does alcohol extraction, with the advantage being that the CO2 simply evaporates from the extract. As a result, many people consider this process particularly innovative and green. Understandably, it has gained popularity over the last few years.

However, the procedure is technically more demanding and not as cost-effective, especially for smaller producers. It is also not well suited for the extraction of CBDA, which presents a severe limitation [1].

Oil Extraction

Hemp extraction using vegetable oils also called “maceration”, is probably the oldest extraction method around. Just as tea releases its components and flavours into water, hemp will release its cannabinoids into oil over time.

Since it’s extremely difficult to remove the oil from the mixture, the cannabinoids will never be as concentrated as they are after alcohol or CO2 extraction. It is also impossible to selectively remove unwanted components, such as THC.

Butane Extraction

Like alcohol and CO2, butane can be an effective solvent for cannabinoids if passed over the milled, dried plant material. Butane is very volatile, making it possible to remove all traces of the solvent by applying a bit of heat or a slight vacuum. However, it is also highly explosive and flammable, making it a challenge to work with this solvent safely. It also shouldn’t be used for food ingredients, limiting the future applications of the generated extracts.

Rosin Extraction

This method works entirely without the use of solvents. Instead, high pressure and heat extract a resin directly from the plant material. The higher the pressure, the less heat is necessary, which leaves more sensitive hemp plant components intact.

The large-scale application of rosin extraction is challenging. However, it has become more and more popular with smaller-scale producers looking for full-spectrum extracts that still include the natural levels of THC and other plant compounds.


As you can see, there is more than just “the” method of extracting CBD from hemp. The method of choice depends on different factors, including economic and environmental considerations and the equipment available. The bottom line is that all of these methods can deliver a clean extract if carried out correctly. Responsible manufacturers carefully vet their raw materials to ensure having the highest quality before using them. You should always check the COAs provided by the manufacturer to ensure that the final product is safe to use.

Portrait of Anna Falk

written by

anna falk - head of product

As the Head of Product at Harmony, Dr Anna Falk leads the development of our products and provides expert tips for your wellness. With over 10 years of experience in the research and development of natural products, her work is based on rigorous scientific studies.

Anna is an award-winning, internationally published researcher with a PhD in Organic Chemistry. She applies her expertise to develop Harmony's certified products that support your overall well-being. From research to development, she ensures that our products are of the highest quality and meet the highest standards.