CBD is extracted from cannabis or hemp in numerous ways, and every way guarantees a different level of purity. Oil is one of the purest forms with which one can consume CBD. Yet again, there are many ways to extract the CBD component from hemp plant and turn it into oil, thus creating what we call CBD oil. One of the most-used methods for this is “supercritical fluid extraction”. The idea behind this method is that it exploits the abnormal activities that occur when a gas is compressed past its critical point. That allows it to act in both gas-like and liquid-like manners at the same time. It is then used in separating one component or substance (what we call the extractant) from its original body (the matrix). In our case, the extractant is CBD, whereas the matrix is the hemp plant.
CO2 is commonly-used in this process for one main reason, and this is the fact that its critical point is only around 90 °F. This temperature is not so hot as to affect or nullify the terpenes and cannabinoids in the plant, most of which are very delicate in nature. After CO2 is compressed that way, the fluid that emerges, because of its lack of almost any surface tension, is able to penetrate its way through the trichomes (the crystal-like parts scattered on the surface of a hemp plant which carry most of the plant’s resin) of the hemp plant. As it does so, it dissolves the oils that come its way which carry CBD in its purest form.
Supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2) changes in terms of its dissolving power when subjected to varying levels of pressure, allowing further separation of different components and thus higher levels of purity. After this whole process is over, and the wanted extractant is obtained, the pressure is decreased so as to allow the CO2 to evaporate and be recycled. What we end up with is oil that comprises CBD at a very high level of concentration and purity which facilitates digestion and the assimilation of the CBD inside the body.
A critical advantage of this method is that from all the cannabinoids present inside the plant, THC (the psychoactive element in cannabis) is the least soluble when treated with scCO2. When researchers in the Netherlands at the University of Leiden experimented with the supercritical fluid extraction of THC, they were not able to top a 50% concentration of the substance. Bear in mind that this was with a THC-rich strain of cannabis (higher levels were achieved elsewhere but that required ultimate levels of THC in the matrix plant itself). When done with strains that are low on THC and more CBD-rich, the levels of THC were close to non-existent.
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Danilo Zanetti says
An interesting read, thanks for the content. I recently read more into the methods used to extract CBD from cannabis. As well as CO2 extraction, some manufacturers use ethanol extraction, which involves using high-grain alcohol- however, this can damage the plant. An article I came across recently explains other methods of extracting CBD, including ethanol and carrier oil, as well as CO2.