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CBD 101:

How CBD is Extracted



How CBD is extracted

As CBD gains worldwide popularity for its medicinal and therapeutic benefits, one can't help but wonder, how is CBD extracted? Understanding the extraction process is crucial for anyone interested in utilizing CBD. In this comprehensive guide, we'll dive into the fascinating science behind how CBD is extracted, the various methods used, and the quality controls in place to ensure a high-caliber product.

What is CBD? A Closer Look

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound that naturally occurs in the cannabis plant. To clarify, the cannabis plant comprises two main species: Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. Hemp and marijuana are derived from the Cannabis sativa species, but they have distinct differences, most notably in their THC content. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive compound responsible for the ‘high' people associate with marijuana. In contrast, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn't cause a ‘high.'

Why does this matter when talking about how CBD is extracted? Well, the source of the CBD plays a significant role in its legality and its potential therapeutic applications. Most commercial CBD products are derived from industrial hemp, which contains less than 0.3% THC, making it legal in many jurisdictions.

CBD is one of over a hundred cannabinoids in the cannabis plant but is currently the most researched and popular for its wide array of potential benefits. These range from alleviating chronic pain, reducing anxiety and stress, to enhancing sleep quality. Understanding its origins and how it's processed can help you as a consumer to make more educated decisions about the CBD products you choose.

Given its non-intoxicating properties and potential health benefits, CBD has been the focus of numerous scientific studies. These studies aim to unlock the full potential of CBD in treating various medical conditions, emphasizing the importance of the extraction methods that are used to obtain pure and effective CBD.what is CBD?

So, as you explore how CBD is extracted, keep in mind that the type of CBD—be it full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate—also plays a pivotal role in its effects. Each type contains different cannabinoids and terpenes, which work synergistically in what's known as the “entourage effect,” multiplying the potential health benefits.

By delving into the science and methods behind how CBD is extracted, you're not only equipping yourself with valuable knowledge but also contributing to a broader understanding of the product that has captured the interest of both the scientific community and the general public.

The Raw Material: High-Quality Cannabis Plants

The starting point for any CBD extraction process is, of course, the cannabis plant itself. But not just any plant will do; the quality of the raw material is critical for yielding high-quality CBD. Typically, industrial hemp is the preferred source for CBD extraction for a couple of essential reasons.

Why Industrial Hemp?

Firstly, industrial hemp is rich in CBD but low in THC (below 0.3%), the psychoactive compound that creates the “high” associated with cannabis use. This makes hemp-derived CBD legal in many jurisdictions, while marijuana-derived CBD often faces stricter regulations. Secondly, hemp plants are often grown under more controlled conditions, devoid of pesticides and harmful chemicals, ensuring a cleaner, more reliable source of CBD.

Hemp - The New Agricultural Frontier

Importance of Growing Conditions

The cannabis plants must be grown in optimal conditions to ensure they yield high levels of CBD and other beneficial cannabinoids. This involves factors like soil quality, climate, and farming techniques. Organic, nutrient-rich soil is preferred, as it contributes to the plant's health and subsequently the concentration of beneficial compounds in the plant.

Genetic Factors

Moreover, the plant's genetic makeup also plays a significant role in the CBD content. Over the years, selective breeding has led to strains that are rich in CBD but low in THC, ideal for extraction purposes. When looking into how CBD is extracted, it's crucial to consider the strain of the plant used, as different strains have varying ratios of cannabinoids and terpenes.

Harvest Time

The timing of the harvest is also essential. Cannabinoid content varies throughout the plant's lifecycle, peaking at certain times. Harvesting too early or too late could result in a lower CBD content, impacting the effectiveness of the end product.

Post-Harvest Handling

Once harvested, the plants undergo a drying and curing process to preserve the cannabinoids and prepare them for extraction. This stage is critical, as improper handling can lead to mold growth or degradation of the cannabinoids.

In summary, a high-quality CBD extraction starts with high-quality cannabis plants. The strain, growing conditions, and post-harvest processes all play a critical role in determining the quality and potency of the extracted CBD. Understanding this foundational aspect can shed light on why some CBD products are more effective than others, making this information crucial for anyone interested in how CBD is extracted.

Extraction of Cannabinoids in Differing Extraction Techniques - Kevin Spelman, PhD, MCPP

Solvent Extraction: A Common Method

One of the most widely used methods for CBD extraction is solvent extraction, owing to its simplicity and cost-effectiveness. However, the method is not without its caveats and requires careful execution for optimal results. Let's delve into the complexities of this common extraction technique.

The Basic Principle

At its core, solvent extraction involves using a liquid solvent—most commonly ethanol, butane, or hexane—to separate CBD from the plant matter. The solvent dissolves the plant's waxy material, capturing the cannabinoids and terpenes in the process. The liquid solvent is then evaporated, leaving behind a concentrated cannabinoid solution.

Choice of Solvent

The type of solvent used significantly impacts the quality and safety of the final product. Ethanol is generally considered safe and produces high-quality extract but might pull out some unwanted compounds like chlorophyll. Butane and hexane are more selective solvents but are highly flammable and must be carefully handled to avoid contamination and ensure safety.

Temperature and Pressure Control

Both temperature and pressure have to be meticulously controlled during the process. High temperatures can degrade the cannabinoids, while optimal pressure ensures effective extraction. Advanced setups may include a closed-loop system that allows for better control of these variables.

Purity Concerns

Solvent extraction can sometimes result in residual solvents in the final product, which could be harmful if ingested. Therefore, post-extraction purification or “winterization” is often necessary to remove any unwanted residues. Third-party lab testing is vital to ensure that the product meets safety standards.

Efficiency and Yield

While solvent extraction is relatively straightforward and cost-effective, it may not be the most efficient method in terms of yield. The efficiency can vary depending on the skill of the extractor and the quality of the hemp used. Some experts argue that other methods, such as CO2 extraction, can provide a higher yield and purer product.

Environmental Impact

It's worth noting that some solvents are not environmentally friendly and require careful disposal. Ethanol is generally regarded as the most eco-friendly option among common solvents used for CBD extraction.

In conclusion, solvent extraction is a popular method for its simplicity and cost-efficiency, but it requires careful execution and post-extraction purification to produce high-quality, safe CBD. Understanding the intricacies of solvent extraction is essential for anyone looking to comprehend how CBD is extracted.

CO2 Extraction: The Gold Standard

CO2 extraction is often heralded as the gold standard when it comes to CBD extraction methods, and for good reason. This technique utilizes carbon dioxide under high pressure and extremely low temperatures to isolate and preserve the medicinal quality of the cannabinoid. The investment in equipment and technical know-how might be higher compared to solvent methods, but the advantages often outweigh the costs. Here's why CO2 extraction is considered the pinnacle in the industry.

Cold CO2 Extraction™ Run from Start to Finish

Advantages of Purity and Safety

One of the most compelling benefits of CO2 extraction is the level of purity and safety it offers. Unlike solvent-based methods, there are no residual solvents to contaminate the end product. This ensures that the CBD extract is as pure as possible, aligning with pharmaceutical-grade standards.


CO2 extraction allows for a range of end products, from full-spectrum CBD oils that contain other beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes, to CBD isolates that are nearly 100% pure. The method can be fine-tuned to target specific compounds, making it incredibly versatile.

The Complex Equipment

The process requires specialized equipment that can control temperature and pressure within very tight tolerances. These conditions turn CO2 into a supercritical fluid, a state where it exhibits properties of both liquid and gas. In this state, it can permeate through the plant material, efficiently pulling out cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial compounds.

Environmental Impact

CO2 extraction is generally more environmentally friendly compared to solvent-based methods. Carbon dioxide is naturally occurring and does not contribute to carbon emissions when used in a closed-loop system. Also, the process is energy-efficient, making it more sustainable in the long run.

Economy of Scale

While the initial setup cost for CO2 extraction is high, it becomes cost-effective when produced at scale. High yields and superior quality often justify the investment, especially for businesses aiming for high-quality, consistent product lines.

Challenges and Considerations

Despite its advantages, CO2 extraction is not devoid of challenges. The method requires skilled operators and a substantial financial investment in specialized equipment. Moreover, the process is time-consuming and may not be suitable for small-scale producers.

Regulatory Compliance

Due to its high purity levels, CO2-extracted CBD often meets rigorous quality standards, making it easier to comply with regulations and certifications. This adds another layer of credibility and safety for consumers.

In summary, CO2 extraction stands out for its efficiency, purity, and versatility. Although it comes with higher operational costs and complexities, the superior quality of the final product often makes it the preferred choice for premium CBD products. Understanding the virtues and intricacies of CO2 extraction is crucial for anyone keen on how CBD is extracted to the highest standards.

Quality Control: Ensuring Purity

Once the CBD is extracted, it undergoes rigorous quality control tests. This includes third-party lab testing to ensure the absence of harmful chemicals or residues.


Knowing how CBD is extracted provides valuable insight into the product you're consuming. While various methods exist, it's important to choose products that use high-quality extraction methods for the best results. By understanding how CBD is extracted, you can make informed decisions to get the most out of its numerous health benefits.

Where to Buy CBD Online

Pure Spectrum CBD

pure spectrum

Established in 2015, Pure Spectrum CBD is an online CBD store that serves customers throughout America and offers free shipping for orders over $100.

Their product range comes in four categories: pure CBD and CBDA isolates, tinctures, hemp seed oil, and CBD for pets. All their CBD products are hemp based and contain less than 0.3% THC, which means that they are not intoxicating. The company is committed to organic cultivation practices and high processing standards including third-party testing.



Established in 2019, Kanibi is an online CBD store that's committed to “raising the bar” on CBD standards. Their product range is diverse, even including CBD chewing gum and sports creams. They also offer high potency CBD up to 1,500 mgs. All their CBD products are made from hemp that is grown in the US using organic practices.

They believe that CBD manufacturing process should be transparent, meaning they double-test every single one of their products never contain artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners,  or dyes. To top things off they offer free shipping on domestic orders exceeding $100.



Established in 2018, Zatural was started by a naturopathic doctor and offers CBD products in three categories: recovery & relief, mood support, and sleep. They go the extra mile to offer free shipping on domestic orders over $5. This company has been featured on several reputable media outlets including WebMD, Men’s Journal, US Weekly, and Ministry of Hemp. What we love most about this company is the extensive and creative product range.

Zatural's extensive list of products is sourced from trusted sources here in the U.S. and worldwide. Each product is organically grown and is free from harmful chemicals and additives. Zatural products are third-party tested to ensure each product is safe.

Patricia is a dance-loving, animal-crazy individual with a passion for spreading the word about the amazing benefits of CBD. When she's not busy grooving to her favorite tunes, you can find researching all the ways CBD can enhance our lives.