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CO2 Extraction of Cannabidiol (CBD) – Process and Why it’s Important

CO2 Extraction of Cannabidiol (CBD) – Process and Why it’s Important

June 9, 2019

CBD products are becoming increasingly popular, leaving many consumers wondering where to start. While it’s true there are almost more options than you can count in the world of CBD today, there’s one important factor everyone should consider before buying and consuming a hemp product: How it’s made.

In terms of CBD products, how the hemp oil is extracted drastically impacts the final result. Although all methods are attempting to do the same thing – create a highly concentrated version of cannabinoid for human use, there are definitely right ways and wrong ways to extract the oil. And, of course, even when you’ve narrowed it down to the right ways to perform the extraction (keeping in mind the purity and potency, among other things), there are still several different “right” ways being put into practice. All of this makes it extremely difficult for consumers to know which method really is best – and where they should be spending their money.

What’s most important to remember is that, even when dealing with the exact same hemp strain, the extraction method utilized to create the oil can produce very distinct results. Even at a chemical level, you can tell which method has been used to create a specific CBD product – and that can make the difference between you getting the results you want and feeling like you’ve wasted your money.

Understanding How the CO2 Cannabis Extraction Method Works

One of the most trusted ways to extract CBD from cannabis or hemp, the CO2 extraction method is categorized into three different types: supercritical, subcritical and mid-critical. Most professional and reputable companies use the CO2 extraction method simply because it’s the safest way to create the purest product.

Far from inexpensive, the equipment needed to extract CBD with CO2 is highly technical machinery that often is separated into three distinct chambers. As expected, each chamber has its own specialized task:

  1. First Chamber: Pressurizes and cools the CO2 to a supercritical cold liquid state
  2. Second Chamber: Holds the organic plant material
  3. Third Chamber: That captures the final product, including the used CO2 so that it can be used again

Clean and efficient, CO2 extraction is only used by professionals, as the technical knowledge needed to operate the equipment (not to mention the expense of getting your hands on it) keeps amateurs and hobbyists away.

CO2 cannabis extraction works so well because of its ability to use pressurized carbon dioxide (that’s the CO2 part in case you missed chemistry class) to extract CBD from plants. Although other extraction methods can get the job done, CO2 works better because it becomes a solvent when frozen below -69 degrees Fahrenheit, turning it from gas form to its liquid state, and without presenting any of the risks that other solvents carry.

When using the supercritical CO2 extraction method, the liquid CO2 is pushed to the point of becoming a property that is halfway between a gas and a liquid. Known as a “supercritical” state, the CO2 now functions as both a gas and a liquid, making it ideal for chemical extraction because it doesn’t denature or damage the substance. For CBD products, which are either consumed by ingestion or absorption, making sure that the hemp oil is as safe and pure as possible, without losing any of the critical components that make it effective, is key. When done properly, CO2 extraction pulls out all of the essential trichomes and terpene oils, ensuring that the products you buy really deliver the benefits you’re looking for.

The Pros and Cons of the CO2 Extraction Method

Like anything, CO2 extraction isn’t perfect. While a popular and safe choice, there are some downsides to the process that should be considered, whether you’re a consumer or a CBD business owner. First, however, let’s focus on why CO2 really is one of the best extraction methods being used today, especially for CBD products.

Pros of CO2 Extraction

  • Incredibly safe, CO2 itself is used in a variety of popular foods and beverages as an additive. Carbonated soft drinks, for example, are made possible because of CO2.
  • The CO2 extraction method has also been used by many trusted food companies for years because it is so effective. In addition to creating essential oils, coffee companies use CO2 as a solvent to remove caffeine from coffee.
  • The process of CO2 extraction ensures purity, which is why it’s so important for CBD products. Specifically, the cannabinoids produced by this method retain their potency without being contaminated by chlorophyll and other toxic substances. For people wanting to buy the most pure CBD products as possible, CO2 extraction is the way to go. (It’s only a few steps away from being a complete isolate, which means all other compounds are completely eliminated.)

There are, of course, a few reasons why CO2 extraction isn’t the right method for everyone. Below are a few of the cons to consider…

Cons of CO2 Extraction

  • The equipment needed to perform CO2 extraction is costly, with even starter kits running close to $40,000 each. Because of the cost, CO2 extraction is impossible for many companies and individuals looking to extract their own hemp oil.
  • Even if you get your hands on the equipment necessary for CO2 extraction, it takes a lot of specific knowledge to make sure it’s operated properly and safely. Even an amateur chemist shouldn’t attempt to use CO2 equipment without professional training.
  • Because CO2 extraction equipment is expensive and because the knowledge needed to operate it creates a barrier to entry, CBD products created with the method tend to be more expensive than those created using a different technique. (Of course, as the saying goes, you typically get what you pay for.)

Deciding if CBD Products Created by CO2 Extraction are Right for You

Like anything you choose to consume, you have a choice in what you buy. While some consumers will decide that they’re fine using CBD products created using a different method, especially if it means they save money, a lot of people choose to exclusively use CO2 extracted CBD simply because it’s the safest most effective way to ensure they’re getting the benefits they want. At the end of the day, remember that how your CBD products are made will ultimately affect the end product, as well as your overall health.

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