If you’ve been in the CBD community for a while, you’ve most likely come across terms like “oil extraction”, “extraction methods”, and the like. Of these, perhaps the most common is CO2 extraction — but just what is CO2 extraction??
Simply put, CO2 extraction is how manufacturers extract CBD from raw hemp before turning it into the CBD oil products you know and love! But as with most things CBD, there’s a lot more to know than that.
In this article, we go deep into the ins-and-outs of this critical process, finally answering once and for all, “What is CO2 extraction”. Let’s dive in!
CBD Oil Extraction, Generally
Let’s start with a few basic points.
CBD is one of many natural compounds present in the hemp plant. Because it’s a chemical compound, CBD cannot be easily separated from the rest of the hemp plant.
To separate CBD and other desirable hemp compounds from the unwanted plant material, a CBD oil extraction method must be used. The methods vary, but they typically involve the use of a solvent (such as CO2), which, after it has done its work, must then be separated from the CBD extract.
Alternatives to CO2 Oil Extraction
There are many CBD oil extraction methods, each of which uses a different solvent and set of extraction equipment. Other CBD oil extraction methods include butane, ethanol, propane, and hydrocarbon extraction.
However, each of these alternatives have real downsides.
Butane, ethanol, and propane are all highly flammable. Moreover, CBD extraction equipment often puts the solvent under extreme temperature and pressure as well as other stressful conditions. This can lead to fires, explosions, and other laboratory hazards that make extraction unsafe.
But even if the extraction is completed successfully, some extraction methods can create dangerously contaminated CBD products! You don’t want to eat or drink products containing butane, ethanol, or propane, so all traces of these solvents must be carefully removed. This is time-consuming and costly, and it’s difficult for manufacturers to tell when all traces have been taken out of the CBD oil they’ve produced.
What is CO2 extraction’s advantage over the other contenders? Simply put: CO2 extraction methods remove virtually all of these risks, both to the laboratory and to the CBD user.
What Makes CO2 Extraction Special?
Despite the many alternatives, the CO2 oil extraction process has become the industry standard for various health and safety reasons.
CO2 oil extraction, sometimes referred to as “supercritical CO2 extraction”, is the most popular way manufacturers extract CO2 from raw hemp plants.
But why has the CO2 extraction process become the industry standard? Simple: because it’s easy to control, non-volatile, and cannot contaminate the resulting CBD products.
Unlike other solvents, CO2 is non-flammable and comparably easy to control, even at extreme temperature and pressure. CO2 also naturally evaporates at room temperature, so all its traces will be removed from the CO2 oil extract without any extra labor.
These factors make the CO2 extraction processes the clear winner, both for manufacturers and CBD users. It’s the cleanest, safest, most effective CBD extraction method. Simply put, it’s no wonder that CO2 extraction is the industry standard.
How is CO2 Extraction Performed?
Not enough to have answered the question “what is CO2 extraction”? Wanna get in the thick of it and understand how the process works? Excellent, let’s get into it.
But first: don’t expect to perform CO2 extraction at home. It’s a tricky process that requires specialized extraction equipment, laboratory experience, and an eye for detail.
- Gaseous Carbon Dioxide is Forced into a Liquid State
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a gas at room temperature. As a first step, laboratory workers must force the gas to take a liquid state. They do this by exposing it to very high pressures and low temperatures.
- The Liquid CO2 is Forced into a Supercritical State
Again, CO2 extraction is often referred to as “Supercritical CO2 Extraction”. That “supercritical” refers to a very specific chemical state, which the liquid Carbon Dioxide is forced into by reheating it under increasing pressure.
This “supercritical” CO2 has some very unusual properties. It’s not quite liquid, not quite gas — but exhibits several qualities of both states! Freaky stuff.
- The Supercritical CO2 is Passed Over Raw Hemp
The supercritical CO2 is then passed into a chamber containing raw hemp plants. During this phase, the CO2 dissolves the trichomes of the plant and gently separates the desirable terpenes and cannabinoids from the unwanted plant material.
- The CO2 Returns to a Gaseous State, and the Extraction is Complete
Once Phase 3 is complete, the pressure and temperature in the extraction equipment are normalized. This allows the CO2 to return to its standard, gaseous state.
The now-processed hemp and extracted cannabinoids are removed from the extraction equipment and allowed to dry. This ensures that all CO2 harmlessly dissipates before the processed plants and separated cannabinoids are further processed into full spectrum CBD oil or even THC-free CBD oil.
What is CO2 Extraction, In Closing
So just what is CO2 Extraction? By far the safest, most popular way to extract our favorite cannabinoid, CBD, from raw hemp.
The CO2 extraction process uses a specially treated “supercritical” form of carbon dioxide to gently separate the desirable plant compounds from the unwanted plant material. Then, the CO2 returns to a natural gaseous state, harmlessly dissipating.
Of course, the CO2 extraction process is just one step of CBD manufacturing, and the product it produces still has several steps to go. For instance, the CBD extract must be mixed with other extracts and oils before it can become any of the top-quality CBD products you know and love.
While CO2 extraction isn’t the only CBD extraction method in town, it’s widely accepted as the industry standard. In fact, many reputable vendors, like CBD Choice, don’t sell anything made with a different extraction method! For your health and safety, there’s simply no better choice than CO2 extraction.