How Is CBD Extracted?

Does the extraction method of CBD make a difference to the final product?

CBD is extracted from hemp or cannabis plants.

Most CBD is extracted from industrial hemp. To clarify, hemp is the cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid. Cannabis refers to strains that contain higher amounts of THC.

It is possible to extract CBD from either type of cannabis plant.

What is CBD extract?

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is known around the world. Researchers are investigating its benefits for people dealing with mental illness, cancer patients who experience chemotherapy-related nausea, and people interested in maintaining their well-being. While the science behind CBD research is young, the early indications are promising.

In addition to understanding different extraction methods, you should also understand the differences between full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate CBD.

There’s also a great deal of misunderstanding around the terms: hemp seed oil, hemp oil, and CBD oil, which have fundamental differences.

Hemp seed oil, as the term implies, is extracted solely from the seeds. While useful for diet and skincare purposes, there is no CBD in hemp seed oil. In fact, some CBD manufacturers use hemp seed oil to dilute the potency of their CBD oils.

Hemp oil is extracted from hemp flowers, stems, and leaves—all of which contain CBD. The CBD oil extracted from hemp flowers contains the most cannabinoids and terpenes. Typically,  CBD isolate contains no THC.

CBD oil extracted from hemp differs from the CBD oil extracted from cannabis (marijuana), but both are CBD oils. Cannabis-extracted CBD is a full-spectrum oil. Full-spectrum oil will include only trace amounts of THC (<0.3%), as well as the other cannabinoids and terpenes.

The plants’ cannabinoids and terpenes’ overall entourage effect helps to maximize the efficacy of the CBD oil.

How is CBD oil extracted?

There are several ways to extract CBD and to target the desired cannabinoid and terpene levels. Each method affects the yield, quality, and purity of hemp-derived CBD.

Solvent extraction

Several solvents can be used to extract CBD: ethanol, butane, propane, isopropyl, or alcohol. Solvent extraction dissolves the plant’s waxes, which contain the cannabinoids, terpenes, and chlorophyll.

Hemp or cannabis flowers, stems, leaves are placed in a container, then soaked or washed in the chosen solvent. After the liquid solvent evaporates, the result is an oil of concentrated cannabinoids and terpenes.

Solvent-produced extract is inexpensive and fast. However, it can also be dangerous. Aside from the issue of the solvents’ volatility and flammability, solvents can also leave a residue, which can be toxic. Some investigations have reported finding trace amounts of naphtha hydrocarbons in solvent-extracted CBD products, which has health implications for you.

Olive oil extraction

The oldest CBD extraction process uses olive oil. It’s an inexpensive and easy process that CBD fans think produces the best results. However, it is also highly perishable. It requires a cool, dark environment—not the most efficient method for large-scale CBD production.

Before extraction begins, the raw plant material must be decarboxylated, which involves heating the plant material to a specific temperature for a particular time period. Decarboxylation removes some of the plant chlorophyll and activates the plant’s chemical compounds. The next step is to combine the olive oil and the decarboxylated plant material and heat again. During this phase, cannabinoids and terpenes are released from the plant material, resulting in CBD-enriched olive oil.

Because the olive oil doesn’t evaporate, the CBD oil will not be as concentrated as with other extraction methods. Lower potency in the finished product means increasing the dose enough to compensate for the dilution.

CO2 extraction

The CO2 method is the safest and most technologically advanced method of extracting CBD. A complex process, CO2 extraction is also more expensive than other methods in terms of equipment. However, CO2 extraction yields a highly potent and safe oil that is also chlorophyll-free. The final product also has a lower risk of contamination.

CO2 extraction uses a closed-loop extractor device containing 3 chambers. The first chamber holds pressurized dry ice or solid carbon dioxide; the second holds the dried plant material. The last chamber separates the extracted oil.

Through the magic of chemistry, the CO2 becomes supercritical (a combination of gas and liquid states) as it is pumped to the second chamber. The supercritical CO2 behaves similarly to solvents in that it washes through the plant material and extracts the cannabinoids and terpenes. In the third chamber, the CO2 rises, leaving pure extracted oil at the bottom. The result is a potent and non-toxic CBD oil.

Supercritical CO2 extraction doesn’t damage the plant materials or the plant compounds. The resulting oil can be filtered again before use in products from edibles to topicals.

Saving Grace CBD oils are all produced by using the Co2 extraction method.

Which is the best CBD extraction method?

For the producer and the consumer, CO2 extraction is the best process for extracting CBD. It’s safe, and there is little waste. The extracted CBD also has the highest purity, containing no harsh chemical residues. Hands down, CO2 extraction results in a better, safer CBD oil.


  • By law, CBD oil has less than 0.3% THC. It can be made from hemp or cannabis. Hemp seed oil contains no CBD.
  • Solvent extraction is an efficient and inexpensive process. However, there’s potential for the oil to contain trace amounts of harmful residues.
  • Olive oil extraction is safe and inexpensive and popular with many CBD users. But it will have lower yields, and the end product is highly perishable.
  • Although technologically complicated and more expensive, CO2 extraction offers safe, high-quality CBD for consumers.
  • After it’s extracted, CBD oil is further refined to create a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD, or a CBD isolate.

Responsible manufacturers list their extraction methods in their literature or on their websites. Reputable companies will also provide the results of a third-party lab analysis. That analysis will also give information about the amount of CBD in total and per dose, plus any other cannabinoids and terpenes. If there is no information available about extraction or content, look for another company.

As more people become aware of CBD’s health benefits, its popularity grows. Whether edibles, oils, or creams, each form of CBD has specific benefits for a broad range of purposes. When choosing the right CBD product, consumers should always look for the purest products they can find on the market.


author avatar
Andrew Mattison

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *