The Benefits of Co2 Extraction of CBD
If you go onto a search engine and look up ‘CBD oil‘, there are thousands of companies selling ‘the best CBD oil’. Just because we say it is the best, it doesn’t mean that it is. While we may hesitate to wildly claim that what we provide is the ‘best’, we can certainly say that some production methods that are scientifically better than others; one of those processes is CO2 Extraction.
So, let us answer the question: what is CO2 Extraction and why does it produce a better CBD product?
What is CO2 Extraction
The process of Supercritical CO2 extraction uses pressurized gas (CO2) to extract specific compounds from a substance or its raw form; for instance drawing out a phytochemical from a plant.
CO2 is a “tunable solvent” which makes it extremely versatile for creating products by controlling temperature and pressure through a system of storage tanks, heaters compressors, extractors, and contenders. It allows manufacturers to extract light essential oils which are much more valuable than the heavier plant matter and lipid content.
In very simple terms- this is how this process works (for the science geeks among you):
- A vessel is filled with plant matter (often called ‘biomass’)
- The system is pressurized (75 pounds a square inch) and the temperature is reduced to -69°C. The CO2, that we all know and love as a gas, turns into a liquid. After the gas is liquified, the temperature is increased to -32°C and the pressure is eased so to make the gas ‘supercritical’.
- The compounds are pulled from the biomass into another solution (in the separator). The solvent (CO2) is boiled out of the solution and evaporated so that the condensed liquid is stored in an accumulator. A sample is then taken to keep track of the extract quality
- The system is then depressurized and realized back into separator 2.
- The extract is collected
Other Production Methods:
To give a little bit of reference to why CO2 is considered as superier, there are 2 other main production methods: Using a solvent & the Olive Oil Method:
The Solvent method
Solvent extraction methods involve the use of ethanol, propane, butane or another alcohol to extract the phytochemicals. The benefits of solvent extraction is that is fast, and easy to do and is very inexpensive. Which is great for a profit line, but not so great for the consumer. The solvents used are flammable which makes the process particularly dangerous. The method also only extracts cannabinoids and chlorophyll which gives some CBD products that really bitter taste. To add to this, the solvents dissolve the plant waxes which is a nutritious and beneficial ingredient in the hemp plant- therefore, the quality of the products are affected.
Not only are the products themselves of poorer quality, but the method can also be dangerous for a consumer. When the process is completed (you will learn more about the process in the next section below) the solvent leaves residue in the product which can be toxic. In a recent study- traces of petroleum residue and naphtha hydrocarbons were found in some CBD products produced by using the solvent extraction method. Now that is both scary and shocking!
The Olive Oil Method
The Olive Oil Method is one loved by those who create homemade CBD oils and is the most cost-effective and most simple. You can try this at home! You start by decarboxylating the Hemp Plants and flowers to turn the CBDa to CBD (or any raw cannabinoid into the active ingredient). This process was done traditionally with Olive Oil but you can add almost any oil you like. You would then add the plant matter to the oil and heat again over some time; this can be done over the hob or in a slow cooker for a couple of hours. The plant matter naturally infuses into the oil.
The issue with this method is that the oils created are not very concentrated and are often inconsistent; it is hard to measure the concentration of any cannabinoid. Plus the fact that the extraction is perishable and doesn’t last as long as alternative methods.
The Benefits of CO2 Extraction
If you have made it this far, well done. I myself writing this would have glazed over. But once you understand the benefits of a process like this, then it is easy to see why the CBD products that are produced this way are far superior.
Not any old cowboy can do this at home- Be safe in the knowledge that a professional who knows what they are doing is producing your CBD. All of this equipment, knowledge, and attention to detail requires a lot of skill and education. There are a few ways that you can make your own CBD oil at home – for instance, putting decarboxylated Hemp flowers into a slow cooker etc… but they are never quite right and the levels of cannabinoids are almost impossible to measure. It is fun experimenting but when it comes to serious CBD oils, it is always best to leave your well-being in the hands of a professional.
No Chemicals or Toxins- CO2 extraction does not use any kind of harmful chemicals that are flammable or petroleum-based solvents. It means that when the process is completed, the solvent (being CO2) turns back into gas and evaporates. It leaves no trace or residue which can taint the final product; meaning that what is left is cleaner and purer.
Safer & Cleaner Products- As you can imagine, a hemp plant that has been plucked out of the field may have spores of mold, residue or insects living in/ on the plant. No matter how hard you try, this is just part and parcel of growing something. The CO2 extraction process ensures that all of the unwanted bacteria, insects or other unwanted nasties are destroyed. So compared to
Greater control- You can either have as refined or as raw as you like. For instance, you can produce a raw plant matter rich paste (like our own hemp paste) or distill the product down to a distillate which only contains cannabinoids (which what our MCT blends use). By changing the temperature and pressure of the machines, you can have greater control as to how your product is produced.