Materials & Use

How is Hemp CBD Oil Made?

Gabi Antunes

Aug 12, 2019

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is a compound called a cannabinoid found in industrial hemp. This hemp-derived compound is cropping up in everything as interest in hemp CBD grows, from beverages and foods to creams and gels, but only in states that allow hemp CBD to be added to these products.

What is hemp CBD oil, and why is it so rapidly becoming a household name across the U.S.? How does something that starts out contained inside a leafy green plant ultimately become concentrated within an oil? It all starts with a process known as extraction.

What is Hemp CBD Oil?

Hemp CBD oil is, as the name suggests, an oil containing concentrated amounts of the hemp-derived compound CBD. Unlike its cousin, the famed cannabinoid Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), hemp CBD does not cause an intoxicating feeling when ingested. By law, for a plant to be considered industrial hemp, it must contain 0.3 percent or less THC, so there is no risk of hemp-derived CBD oil causing intoxication. However, those who prefer to avoid THC completely are advised to look for hemp CBD isolate or broad spectrum hemp CBD products, which remove THC.

While research into hemp-derived CBD is ongoing, hemp CBD oil has already made its way into many Americans’ lives. Common hemp CBD oil products include sublingual tinctures ingested orally, foods or beverages infused with hemp CBD oil, and hemp CBD topicals like creams, but only in states that allow hemp CBD in these particular forms.

How to Make Hemp CBD Oil

Hemp CBD oil is made through the process of extraction, which involves using a solvent to draw out the compounds contained within the hemp plant. This solvent can be a variety of materials, including butane, propane, or carbon dioxide (CO2). Through the chosen extraction process, all the compounds in the plant, including cannabinoids like hemp CBD and the aromatic and flavorful compounds known as terpenes, are separated from the plant material. The resulting compound is then mixed with other ingredients to create the product, but only in states that allow the addition of hemp CBD to products. For hemp CBD oil tinctures, for example, hemp CBD is mixed with a carrier oil such as MCT oil. Other products mix the hemp CBD directly into the substance, such as a lotion.

The method of Supercritical CO2 extraction is among one of the most commonly used in the industry because it produces a relatively pure concentrate free of residues left behind by other methods. Supercritical CO2 extraction also requires considerably less post-processing to refine the concentrate material. Supercritical CO2 extraction is sought after for its ability to isolate individual compounds, including hemp CBD, during the extraction process itself.

Alcohol Extraction

Alcohol extraction is yet another method through which industrial hemp-derived CBD oil is created. Alcohol extraction typically employs either isopropyl alcohol or ethanol in the extraction process. The first step in the process is commonly referred to as “the wash,” during which extractors cover the dried plant material in the alcoholic solvent. During the wash, the compounds are drawn out of the plant. The next step is to filter the alcohol away from the plant material, along with the extracted compounds. Once the alcohol has been filtered out it is evaporated, leaving behind the extracted materials in a concentrate.

One such alcohol-based extraction method is winterization, during which concentrated material is mixed with 200-proof alcohol and mixed thoroughly. The mixture is then left in a deep freezer for several hours, resulting in a cloudy appearance. At this point, the material is filtered, which removes the unwanted materials from the mixture. Once filtered, the extractors heat the material in order to evaporate the alcohol, leaving behind only the desirable compound. This process is known for removing fats, lipids, and other unwanted materials from the concentrate.

Whole Plant Extraction

Extraction processes begin with dried plant material and a chosen solvent, depending on the method selected by an extractor. The use of solvents results in an extraction of all the materials found within the plant, not just hemp CBD. This includes all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other items contained within the plant. Also known as full-spectrum extract, the resulting oil contains a concentrated profile of all the compounds found within the plant in its natural form.

Some research suggests full-spectrum concentrates promote what is known as “the entourage effect.” The entourage effect suggests that the compounds found together in the plant’s natural state will work together synergistically, modulating one another’s effects and offering enhanced value. Research into the validity of the entourage effect theory is ongoing, particularly regarding the interaction of hemp CBD and THC.

Isolates Extraction

To isolate a specific compound, extractors engage in a process known as “short path distillation.” Short path distillation is similar to winterization in that it requires heating the material to certain temperatures to separate out different compounds. Because each compound in the concentrate has a different boiling point, each compound can be vaporized and recaptured in its isolated form.

In this case, hemp CBD isolate is a concentrated material that only contains Cannabidiol without any of the other compounds found in the original plant. Isolate typically comes in a powder form and includes nothing but hemp CBD; there are no other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids or other compounds present in a true hemp CBD isolate. Isolates tend to be preferred by people who want to ensure there is no THC in the product they are ingesting, even if it is trace amounts. Isolates are also useful for a variety of applications. Isolates are generally tasteless and odorless. They can be ingested directly, mixed into a carrier oil such as MCT oil, or mixed into beverages, if the state allows for these uses.

Hemp CBD Hemp Oil is On the Rise

Hemp-derived CBD oil is increasingly popular, whatever the extraction method used. As hemp CBD oil becomes a household name, more and more products infused with the compound are hitting the market, but only in states that allow for hemp CBD infused products. People of different needs, interests, and persuasions can likely find a hemp CBD product suitable for them, but no matter the final product, it all starts with the extraction of hemp CBD to create a concentrated oil.