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How is CBD Oil Made?

Table of Contents

Creating CBD Oil is a multi-phase process that requires specialized equipment, exacting procedures, and a careful eye for detail.

Broadly speaking, the process can be broken down into two main phases: the extraction process and the infusion process.

During the extraction phase, raw cannabis plant matter is chemically treated. This is done in order to extract and isolate desirable cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds from undesirable plant matter such as chlorophyll. This phase produces a raw cannabis extract (that is, full or broad spectrum hemp extract) or, depending on the procedures used, a CBD isolate.

During the infusion process, the cannabis extract or CBD isolate is combined with a number of other ingredients to produce the finished tincture. Most commonly, manufacturers use either fractionated coconut oil (MCT oil) or hemp seed oil for this process. However, many manufacturers innovate on this basic formula with use of other complementary ingredients.

The CBD Extraction Process

There are a few different processes that manufacturers use to extract CBD from hemp. Although it’s somewhat technical, these processes produce slightly different end products, which can have different effects when used. It’s best to understand these methods so that you can make the best choice for your treatment needs.

Full Spectrum and Broad Spectrum CBD Extracts

Full and broad spectrum extractions produce very similar end-products. There is only one important difference between full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD oil: their THC content.

  1. Plants are Grown and Harvested
    Farms plant industrial hemp, which grows best outdoors in mild climates. Once harvested, the plants’ aerial parts are separated and taken to an extraction facility.
  2. Compounds are Extracted from Hemp
    Extraction facilities use a variety of methods to extract the CBD and other compounds from the hemp plants, producing an oil extract. The most common extraction method is Supercritical CO2 Extraction, which involves passing CO2 through a series of chambers filled with hemp biomass. Ethanol-based extraction is another common method.
  3. Winterization and Decarboxylation
    Winterization cools the oil extract using extremely cold temperatures. This separates the unwanted waxes and fats from the oil, improving the oil’s purity and potency. Decarboxylation then activates the CBD-A molecule, transforming it into CBD through use of high temperatures.
  4. Full Spectrum CBD Oil is Produced
    After the winterization and decarboxylation procedures are complete, the result is a “full spectrum” CBD oil, which contains both CBD and the full range of hemp cannabinoids and terpenes.
  5. Liquid Chromatography May Be Used to Produce Broad Spectrum Oil
    If the manufacturer wishes to produce broad spectrum oil, then a special process known as liquid chromatography may be used to further refine the CBD oil. This process isolates and removes all traces of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid, while leaving other cannabinoids and terpenes intact. The result is a broad spectrum oil, identical to full spectrum but without THC.

CBD Isolate

CBD Isolates are the purest form of CBD. Unlike full or broad spectrum extracts, these contain nothing but CBD. That is, CBD isolates contain no other cannabinoids, terpenes, or other active compounds from hemp.

  1. Plants are Grown and Harvested
    Farms plant industrial hemp, which grows best outdoors in mild climates. Once harvested, the plants’ aerial parts are separated and taken to an extraction facility.
  2. Compounds are Extracted from Hemp
    Extraction facilities use a variety of methods to extract the CBD and other compounds from the hemp plants, producing an oil extract. The most common extraction method is Supercritical CO2 Extraction, which involves passing CO2 through a series of chambers filled with hemp biomass. Ethanol-based extraction is another common method.
  3. Winterization and Decarboxylation
    Winterization cools the oil extract using extremely cold temperatures. This separates the unwanted waxes and fats from the oil, improving the oil’s purity and potency. Decarboxylation then activates the CBD-A molecule, transforming it into CBD through use of high temperatures.
  4. Distillation and Isolation
    Distillation is a process used to separate the hemp oil into component parts: cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, and unwanted material such as chlorophyll. The final step then involves separating CBD from the other cannabinoids, resulting in a pure CBD isolate.

The Infusion Process

This final phase of the process is far simpler than the CBD extraction phase. Here, manufacturers combine the full or broad spectrum extract or CBD isolate with a number of complementary ingredients. The result is a finished CBD oil tincture, which is then ready to be bottled, sent out for laboratory testing, and sold.

Most often, manufacturers combine the hemp extract or CBD isolate with fractionated coconut oil or another form of Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil. MCT oil is a type of saturated fatty acid; because CBD is fat-soluble, it readily mixes with MCT oil or other similar oil bases. Suspending CBD in such a solution allows for increased absorption time and bioavailability once the oil is ingested.

Although MCT oil is the most popular, there are a number of other common oils used to suspend the CBD and improve its bioavailability. Some manufacturers, for instance, use hemp seed oil, olive oil, or sunflower oil.

Regardless of what substance a manufacturer uses, this step creates a fully-realized CBD oil tincture. Many manufacturers will then further supplement the oil with a number of other ingredients or extracts. These may be to add flavor or to supplement the oil with additional nutritional benefits.

For a more or less comprehensive list of the oils, extracts, and other ingredients used to produce CBD oil tinctures, check out the CBD Choice Learn Center article on that very topic.

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