How is CBD Oil Made? The 3 Most Common CBD Extraction Methods

Posted: January 28, 2020 Author: zach

CBD mania has taken the country by storm since Congress passed the Farm Bill of 2018.  It’s been reported that 14% of Americans take CBD regularly and that number is estimated to increase to 10% by 2022.  New companies are emerging every day selling their own line of CBD products with no regulation and little interference from the FDA.  

As a consumer, it’s important to be educated on anything your ingesting, and CBD is no exception.  Knowing the various types of CBD extraction methods can help you find the best CBD products.  By understand the difference between supercritical CO2 extraction for alcohol or liquid solvent extractions can help you protect yourself from any harmful substances or products.  

How is CBD Oil Made?  The Process Broken Down

The CBD oil that is used for a majority CBD products for sale online is simply a liquid or oil-based solvent of the cannabis plant.  Hemp plants are dried and crushed to a fine powder and then mixed with one of these liquids.  When this mixture is heated, the cannabinoids and terpenes of the plant become separated from the plant itself and mix with the liquid or oil used in the extraction.  

The result is a liquid extract that contains various levels of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids depending on the extraction method.  From there, it can be further refined through processes such as Winterization and Short-path Distillation to achieve a desirable end product.  The CBD producer can use these methods to produce a wide variety of CBD products from isolate powders to waxes, tinctures, and oil.  

So what are the 3 Most Common CBD Extraction Methods?

Oil Extraction –

CBD can easily be extracted from a plant into an oil.  This extraction method is more commonly used among the DIY community because it’s a cheap and easy way to create your own homemade CBD.  Olive oil and coconut oil are the most commonly used oils for CBD extraction. Because of their high bioavailability, they aid in the body’s absorption of CBD when ingested. 

In order for the oil extraction method to work, the hemp must be decarboxylated to activate the CBD from it’s non-active form CBDA.  To do this, grind the plant material up into a fine powder, preheat the oven to 250, and bake the powder on a baking sheet on top of a peace of parchment paper for around 60 minutes.  

Once the decarboxylation process is complete, combine the powder with either olive oil or coconut oil, and heat at 212 for 1-2 hours.  This will release all of the cannabinoids into the oil as long as you maintain the correct temperature.  If the oil temperature exceeds 300, you will damage most of the cannabinoids in the hemp. 

Generally the yield is very low and production time is long for this extraction method.  For that reason, it’s typically not used by companies that sell CBD products.  

Alcohol/Solvent Extraction –

Alcohol serves as a great solvent for hemp.  They do a good job extracting a wide spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes from the flower.  Common solvents used in CBD extractions are high grain ethanol and butane.  

While this extraction method does a great job keeping in tact the naturally cannabinoids and terpenes of the hemp plant, it also extracts harmful substances such as chlorophyll which can alter the flavor and produce some unwanted side effects.  

It is recommended to use a high quality ethanol alcohol if you choose to use this method to produce a full spectrum CBD oil.  By using higher grade ethanol, you will ensure you are stripping out the all of the unwanted bacteria and harsh chemicals that may be present in the plant, while still extracting the full range of cannabinoids from the plant. 

Butane extraction have been used in the past for cannabis extracts, and are effective at preserving a wide array of cannabinoids and terpenes after processing.  However, butane tends to alter the natural cannabinoid/terpene balance in the end product, producing a product that does not match the cannabinoid profile of the plant it was obtained from.  This limits it’s medicinal effectiveness.  

CO2 Extraction – 

This is by far the most widely used method of extraction for commercial CBD products.  It provides a number of benefits over the other options. This method obtains the highest yield compared to the others, it produces the cleanest CBD oil, and it provides the most control and flexibility in the final product.  

In order to use this method, you would need to shell out big bucks for some state of the art CO2 extraction machines. It’s a big investment up front, but for anyone looking to produce a product in bulk, this is the most cost effective method by far due to much higher yields and faster production times. 

There are two main types of CO2 extractions:  Supercritical and Subcritical.  

Supercritical CO2 Extraction

In the supercritical extraction method, CO2 is heated up under pressure in a vacuum, allowing it to pass from a solid state directly to a gas before getting introduced to the flower.  That acts as a solvent to separate the terpenes and cannabinoids from the trichomes and plant material.  

Using this CO2 method, producers can create an isolated powder containing 99.9% CBD or a wider spectrum CBD oil containing trace levels of THC and a host of other naturally occurring cannabinoids along with CBD.  Heat levels and pressure can be manipulated to produce CBD in different states such as liquid, powder, or even a smokable wax.


Using a subcritical CO2 extraction method, the cannabinoids are extracted at a much lower temperature while the CO2 is in a liquid state.  The liquid CO2 acts as an effective solvent much like ethanol, and it will strip out a wider spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes than a supercritical extraction.  The yield is much lower than supercritical extraction, so for this reason supercritical is generally more profitable.  

What Extraction Method is Best For You?

Well that all depends! If you want to best quality assurance, CO2 is the way to go, as it runs the least amount of risk for poor production quality. If you are also concerned with passing a drug test, CO2 provides the best peace of mind, as this is the only method effective at eliminating all traces of Delta-9 THC (the psychoactive part of cannabis).

If your looking to make your own home-made CBD, oil extraction or alcohol extractions may be the way to go, as the CO2 extraction machines can be quite pricey. If you’re not sure, your best bet is to try a few out to see what’s the best for you!

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