How CBD is Extracted From Hemp: Two Common Methods
Monday, 17 October, 2022

How CBD is Extracted From Hemp: Two Common Methods

Ever wondered how CBD is extracted? He we explain the two most common approaches



Considered a relatively new phenomenon in the market, CBD has fast become a popular choice for many people in the UK and throughout the world.

But, as with every 'new' type of product that enters a market, CBD is linked with more than a few questions and queries – many of which revolve around the methods of extraction. CBD  is drawn from hemp via two common methods as outlined below.


CO2 extraction

The first method of extraction is also the most expensive and the most popular, using CO2 to present a clean and precise extraction without the potential contamination which poses a major risk among other extraction methods. As such, CO2 is the method used by those manufacturers who want to market and sell a premium product – and not just in the CBD market!

In fact, this extraction technique is the same as that used to remove the caffeine from coffee beans and to extract nicotine from loose-leaf tobacco – proving the popularity and high level precision of this method in affecting and adjusting the potency of specific substance levels in marketable products.

So, how does it work? Well, the CO2 method actually breaks down into two main extraction types – one called supercriticaland the other called subcritical. While both types of extraction method run pressurised carbon dioxide through the hemp plant to strip away the desired chemicals, the intensity of the pressure and the temperature level is what differentiates the two – with most manufacturers choosing the supercritical type simply because it is quicker and yields a higher volume of the desired end product.


Supercritical CO2 extraction

The term supercriticalis what we use to describe the CO2 once its core pressure and temperature have been heightened enough for it to sit somewhere between a gas and a liquid. In this extraction method, the CO2 starts as a liquid and is then exposed to the supercriticalprocess – upon which it boasts the properties of both a gas and liquid and is able to act as a solvent on the hemp plant without denaturing the compounds.

As a consumer, it is worth understanding that this is the stage at which premium products are separated from those which are made cheaply and without the right attention to detail – as a high quality end product depends on the optimum pressure and temperature level being achieved; something which is only possible when using the best equipment.

Once the supercritical CO2 has passed through the hemp plant, the leftover solution is passed through a separator which removes all CO2 and leaves you with the desired hemp compounds which are funnelled into the CBD manufacturing process.


Subcritical CO2 extraction

The main difference between supercritical and subcritical extraction is the speed at which the process is completed – and this is directly impacted by the lowering of both the temperature and the pressure using in subcritical extraction. However, its not all bad – the lower pressure and temperature means the process is less likely to cause damage to any of the compounds, which lead to lighter and more subtle results which are ideal for specific products and consumer markets.

So, thats the CO2 method – but whats the alternative?


Solvent extraction

Solvent extraction tends to be regarded as the cheapest method of extraction – however, with the lower cost comes the risk of a lower quality end product, something which most major manufacturers are not willing to risk and which, in turn, separates the high range products from those which are made quickly and cheaply.

This process involves running the chosen solvent (usually ethanol or butane) through the hemp plant matter, which strips the cannabinoids into the liquid. This liquid is then heated and evaporated, to leave a concentrated oily substance behind, packed full of the desired hemp compounds.

While seemingly effective, this process doesnt always limit its extraction to cannabinoids and flavonoids only – also extracting and leaving the end product enriched with chlorophyll. 

As well as impacting the taste of the product, this substance can render unwanted side effects a major risk to the consumer – not to mention the scale at which this process is completed by some manufacturers means that the end products do not boast high quality components but are instead full of denatured compounds which affect the consumer experience.


The right way to extract CBD

There is no right or wrong way to extract CBD.However, the former use of CO2 is largely considered as both the most effective and the safest method for the end consumer – with the latter solvent process being phased out by most major manufacturers and companies.

Here at PharmaHemp, we only work with manufacturers who are committed to a safe and effective extraction process, ensuring that every product with our name on it is finished to the highest quality. 

Check out our full range of products here on the PharmaHemp website and be sure to browse through our blog for more informative, research-backed articles related to CBD.

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