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CBD 101:

How CBD Isolate is Made



how CBD isolate is made

As the popularity of CBD products continues to rise, it's important to understand the various forms of CBD available in the market. One such form is CBD isolate, a product that contains nearly 100% pure CBD. In this article, we'll delve into the intricacies of how CBD isolate is made, taking you through the steps involved in the extraction process, purification, and final formulation.

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.

Initial Extraction Process

The extraction of CBD oil from hemp plants is a crucial step in the production of CBD isolate, setting the foundation for the product's purity and efficacy. The quality of the initial extraction directly impacts the integrity of the final CBD isolate, which is why it's so important to utilize reliable extraction methods.

CO2 Extraction: The Industry's Gold Standard

The most revered technique for initial extraction is CO2 extraction. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is used under high pressure and low temperatures to isolate CBD from the plant material. This supercritical state of CO2 allows for highly effective extraction while preserving the quality of the CBD and minimizing contamination from solvents or other impurities.

Carbon Dioxide Based Extraction of Cannabis

The Process

  1. Preparation: The hemp plants are first ground into a coarse powder to maximize surface area for extraction.
  2. Supercritical CO2 Chamber: The ground hemp is placed in an extraction chamber, where supercritical CO2 is introduced. This fluid-like CO2 penetrates the plant matter, dissolving and capturing the CBD along with other beneficial compounds.
  3. Separation Chamber: The CO2, now enriched with CBD and other cannabinoids, is moved to a separation chamber. Here, the pressure and temperature conditions are adjusted to precipitate the CBD and other compounds, separating them from the CO2.
  4. CO2 Recycling: The CO2 is then collected and recycled, ready to be used again in subsequent extraction cycles.
  5. Initial Extract: The outcome is a high-quality, full-spectrum CBD oil that contains not only CBD but also other cannabinoids and terpenes. This oil will then undergo further refining processes to achieve CBD isolate.

By adhering to this method, producers ensure that the CBD is not only of high quality but also free from harmful solvents and contaminants, setting the stage for the creation of high-quality CBD isolate.

Winterization: The Next Essential Step

After the initial extraction process, the extracted oil typically contains a mix of cannabinoids, terpenes, and various other compounds. While this full-spectrum oil has its own set of benefits, it is not what we're aiming for when making CBD isolate. This is where winterization comes into play.

What is Winterization?

Winterization is a purification process used to remove unwanted elements such as fats, waxes, and lipids from the raw hemp extract. The process involves mixing the extracted oil with ethanol and then subjecting it to very low temperatures.

Winterization/Dewaxing of Cannabis Extracts

Detailed Winterization Process

  1. Ethanol Mixing: The crude CBD oil is mixed with high-proof ethanol, which serves as a solvent capable of dissolving unwanted components.
  2. Freezing: After thoroughly mixing, the solution is placed in a freezer, generally between -20 to -40 degrees Celsius (-4 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit), for an extended period, usually 24 to 48 hours. The extreme cold helps separate the undesirable components from the cannabinoids.
  3. Filtration: Once the solution has been adequately frozen, it's then filtered to remove the solidified fats, waxes, and lipids, leaving behind a cleaner, more concentrated CBD solution.
  4. Ethanol Removal: The next step is to remove the ethanol from the solution. This is usually done using a rotary evaporator or a falling film evaporator. The goal is to reclaim the ethanol for reuse while leaving behind a purer form of CBD oil.
  5. Final Purification: The resulting oil may undergo further refinement steps, including additional filtration and decarboxylation, to prepare it for the final stage of making CBD isolate.

Winterization is a crucial step in the production of CBD isolate as it ensures that the end product is pure and free of unnecessary substances. This process enhances the quality of CBD, making it more effective and safe for consumption or topical application.

Decarboxylation: The Activation Key

Decarboxylation is an often-overlooked but critical step in the process of creating CBD isolate. Essentially, it's a heat-induced transformation that turns the raw, non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBDA into its more bioavailable form, CBD. This step “activates” the cannabinoid, making it readily usable by the human body.

What is Decarboxylation?

Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group from the compound, releasing carbon dioxide as a byproduct. In layman's terms, it's a heat-induced transformation that “activates” cannabinoids, enabling them to interact more efficiently with cannabinoid receptors in the body.

The Decarboxylation Process

  1. Temperature Control: Decarboxylation requires precise temperature control. Temperatures generally range from 110 to 130 degrees Celsius (230 to 266 degrees Fahrenheit). Too much heat can degrade the CBD, while insufficient heat won't activate it sufficiently.
  2. Duration: The process is time-sensitive. The oil needs to be heated for a period, often between 30 minutes to an hour, to ensure complete decarboxylation.
  3. Equipment: Typically, a decarboxylation oven or a vacuum oven is used for commercial production. These specialized ovens offer better temperature control and even heat distribution.
  4. Monitoring: Continual monitoring is essential to ensure that the CBD is fully decarboxylated and that no degradation occurs. Laboratory tests may be conducted to verify the CBD content post-decarboxylation.
  5. Safety Measures: Given that volatile compounds can be emitted during the process, it's crucial to perform decarboxylation in a well-ventilated area, following all safety protocols.

Why is Decarboxylation Important?

Decarboxylation is vital for several reasons:

  • Bioavailability: It increases the bioavailability of CBD, allowing it to interact more efficiently with the body's endocannabinoid system.
  • Potency: Decarboxylation ensures that you're getting the most potent form of CBD, which is crucial for the effectiveness of CBD isolate.
  • Versatility: Decarboxylated CBD can be used in various products, from tinctures and capsules to topicals and edibles, making it more versatile.

By understanding the science behind decarboxylation, one can better appreciate the meticulous processes involved in creating a high-quality CBD isolate.

Distillation: The Purity Refinement

In the journey to create CBD isolate, distillation is the penultimate phase that transforms a crude extract into a substance of remarkable purity. This process separates CBD from other cannabinoids and impurities, concentrating it in a transparent, golden liquid.

Cannabis & CBD Vacuum Distillation (Process & Methods)

What is Distillation?

Distillation is a method of purifying liquids through heating and cooling, allowing the separation of compounds based on their different boiling points. In the context of CBD isolate production, distillation refines the CBD extract to concentrate the cannabinoid and eliminate other unwanted compounds.

The Distillation Process

  1. Preparation: Before distillation, the extract often undergoes winterization and decarboxylation to prepare it for the rigorous refinement process.
  2. Heating: The CBD extract is heated until it reaches a boiling point specific to CBD, usually under a vacuum to lower the boiling point and protect sensitive cannabinoids from thermal degradation.
  3. Condensation: The vaporized CBD is then condensed back into a liquid form. Since other cannabinoids and impurities have different boiling points, they are left behind in the boiling flask.
  4. Fractional Distillation: In some cases, multiple rounds of distillation—known as fractional distillation—may be performed for ultra-high purity levels.
  5. Quality Control: The distillate is typically tested for purity and concentration. Only batches that meet rigorous quality control standards proceed to the final isolation stage.

Why is Distillation Crucial?

  • Purity: Distillation can achieve upwards of 90% CBD concentration, setting the stage for the final purification step to create CBD isolate.
  • Selective Separation: By manipulating temperature, pressure, and time, producers can selectively separate CBD from other cannabinoids and terpenes, allowing for a versatile range of CBD-based products.
  • Safety: It also removes potential impurities and residual solvents, making the product safer for consumption.
  • Consistency: Distillation ensures that each batch of CBD isolate has a consistent concentration, vital for dosing accuracy in medical applications.

Understanding the science and care behind distillation provides a window into the complex and meticulous process that leads to the creation of CBD isolate. It underscores the lengths to which producers go to ensure a product of the highest purity and efficacy.

Final Isolation and Formulation: The Culmination of Purity

The last step in the journey from cannabis plant to CBD isolate is, appropriately, the isolation and formulation phase. It's here that CBD is honed to its purest form, ready for a myriad of applications from therapeutics to cosmetics.

What Does Final Isolation Mean?

After the distillation process, the resulting distillate is already high in CBD concentration but may still contain minor cannabinoids, terpenes, or other impurities. Final isolation aims to eliminate everything except pure CBD. The end product is usually a crystalline substance that is 99% or more pure CBD.

The Isolation Process

  1. Crystallization: The highly concentrated CBD distillate is mixed with a solvent and then cooled to allow crystallization. During this stage, CBD molecules naturally align themselves into a lattice structure, forming crystals.
  2. Filtration: These CBD crystals are then separated from the remaining liquid through filtration methods, commonly vacuum filtration or fast centrifugation.
  3. Washing: The crystals are washed with cold solvents to remove any residual impurities. This step might be repeated multiple times for enhanced purity.
  4. Drying: After washing, the CBD crystals are dried, often in vacuum ovens, to remove all traces of the solvent used during the crystallization process.


Once the CBD isolate is in its final crystalline form, it's ground into a fine powder for easier consumption and formulation. This isolate can now be used in a variety of ways:

  • Oil Tinctures: Mixing with carrier oils like MCT or olive oil
  • Capsules: Encapsulated for precise dosage
  • Topicals: Infused into creams or lotions
  • Edibles: Incorporated into food and beverage items

Quality Assurance

The final product undergoes rigorous testing to ensure it meets all purity and safety criteria. Only after these stringent checks is the CBD isolate packaged and ready for the consumer.

Why is Final Isolation Important?

  • Unmatched Purity: This step ensures that consumers are getting an ultra-pure product, free from impurities.
  • Versatility: The isolate's neutral taste and odor make it ideal for a range of products.
  • Consistency: The final isolate offers consistent dosages, essential for both recreational and medicinal applications.

The meticulous care exercised during final isolation and formulation solidifies the integrity and efficacy of CBD isolate. This process is the culmination of a series of scientific methods aimed at delivering a product of the highest quality.


Creating CBD isolate is a meticulous process that involves several steps of extraction, refinement, and purification. The end result is a highly pure form of CBD that can be used in a variety of applications. Understanding how CBD isolate is made offers valuable insights into its high purity and versatility.

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.