Subcritical CO2 Extraction vs. Supercritical CO2 Extraction

Posted: June 19, 2020 Author: zach
supercritical co2 cbd extraction

The majority of CBD products for sale on the market today are produced using the CO2 extraction method. This method of extraction produces the cleanest end product because it is able to remove harmful chemicals and heavy metals that may have been stored in the plant due to pesticide treatment or other chemical applications.  It also produces the highest yield and provides the most control over the final product, which appeals to manufacturers for a number of reasons.  This is the only method you can use to remove all the naturally occurring THC in the hemp plant create CBD isolate, and they can even use this process to isolate certain cannabinoids to create full or broad spectrum CBD.

CO2 extraction is not unique to just CBD.  While other gases can be used in the same way CO2 is used for extraction, CO2 is so naturally abundant that it’s used to produce many other plant based extractions in many other industries.  It’s the best way to produce the cleanest extractions, and it’s the most environmentally sustainable too.  

As more and more research and development goes into cannabis extraction technology, we’re starting to come up with some innovative and smart approaches to how we extract.  Simultaneously, 2019 ushered in an unprecedented number of studies on CBD’s medicinal benefits as the plant is more available than ever for scientific research.  

As more and more becomes clear regarding CBD’s role in providing the overall health benefits of cannabis, we’re starting to lean towards a new consensus that CBD has far greater medicinal value when combined with the many other cannabinoids that are present in the CBD plant compared to when CBD is isolated on its own.

As more and more industry experts hop on this bandwagon of thought, the industry focus on extraction methods have shifted.  Now the idea is to preserve the full spectrum of cannabinoids, terpines, and flavonoids that are naturally present in the cannabis plant during the extraction process.  

Now when manufacturers extract CBD, they are looking for ways to preserve the balance of cannabinoids that naturally exist in the cannabis plant. It is now widely believed that this method will provide the greatest overall health benefit for the end user.

Subsubcritical CO2 Extraction

This method of CBD extractions uses higher temperature and higher pressure of CO2 to extract the cannabis.  When CO2 in a solid state hits temperatures above 17°C and pressure above 1,000 psi, it begins to sublimate, passing from a solid state directly to a gas state.  In doing so, it becomes a powerful solvent when it hits the plant material, removing most of the terpenes and cannabinoids.  

This is by far the most popular method of extraction because it produces the highest yield and it gives the producer much more flexibility in the end product.  Using this method, you can make a CBD isolate powder or a full spectrum CBD oil.  It’s also the most produces the cleanest possible end product, and it’s the fastest method of production.

After supercritical CO2 extraction, the resulting raw material is a waxy peanut-butter like substance that is a mixture of cannabinoids and terpenes.  From there, the producer can use either distillation or winterization to create the desired end product.  

Using Supercritical CO2 Extraction, a producer can make a Full Spectrum oil, Broad Spectrum oil, or an Isolate Powder.

Subcritical CO2 Extraction

Using subcritical CO2 extraction methods, the cannabinoids and terpenes are dissolved in CO2’s liquid form at lower temperatures than supercritical extraction. This is a much less harsh extraction method that allow more cannabinoids and terpenes to stay in tact, producing a cannabinoid rich end product.

The raw extract produced in subcritical CO2 extraction has the consistency of molasses and contains a wide range of cannabinoids and terpenes.  This method preserves the widest spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes, however yields are significantly lower and it takes much longer to produce.  For that reason, most companies opt for supercritical CO2 extraction methods only.  

So Which Extraction Method is Right For You?

Well that all depends on your situation!  If your concerned about the possibility of a drug test because of work or school, it is best that you go with a CBD isolate (at least 99.5% CBD powder) to play it safe.  CBD Isolates can only be made with supercritical CO2 extraction as it’s the only way to isolate CBD on its own.  

A Broad Spectrum product can be produced using either a supercritical or subcritical extraction method. Then additional processing methods can be used to remove any remaining THC.  However, if it’s a drug test you’re worried about, be sure to look for reputable CBD brands for Zero THC products.  Remember there are no regulations on labelling CBD products, so be sure to double and triple check the 3rd party lab results to ensure that there is no THC in the product your purchasing.     

If your not as concerned with passing a drug test but you want the full medicinal effects of CBD oil, you’ll probably want to look into a subcritical extraction method or one of the many full spectrum CBD products that were made via supercritical extraction process. These are thought to provide the best overall effects of CBD oil.  

If you opt for a product that underwent supercritical CO2 extraction, check the 3rd party lab results to evaluate the number of cannabinoids in the product. Just because it was produced with supercritical doesn’t necessarily mean it’s full or even broad spectrum. If you see a wide range (5 or more) of cannabinoids present on the lab results, then you’ll know that the product is actually full spectrum.

If your not sure, start by trying them out!  Start at a low dosage and increase over time until the desired results are attained.  Monitor your body’s reaction to both isolate, full spectrum and broad spectrum products to determine which helps you attain the desired effects. 

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