How is CBD made?
First of all, let’s understand that CBD isn’t “made.” CBD is short for cannabidiol, and is one of the 113 cannabinoids found in cannabis (all of which are naturally occurring chemical compounds). What is made is hemp oil and other products that aim to utilize the naturally occurring CBD. This, of course, begs another question…
What is hemp oil, and what is it made from?
Hemp oil, as you might have guessed from the name, comes from the hemp plant—but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Hemp oil is a valuable and natural health supplement, and to understand its benefits, it’s important to understand the process that is taken to produce it.
Let’s first make clear that hemp oil and hemp seed oil are not the same thing, though this is actually a common misconception. Hemp seed oil has been far more common in recent history, and you’re even able to buy it at the grocery store. It can be found in cooking products, different ointments, lotions, and other items that you would use around the house. Hemp seed oil comes from the seed of a cannabis plant (who would’ve thought?) and it actually contains no significant amount of CBD (or sometimes any at all). Hemp oil, on the other hand, comes from the leaves, stalks, and flowers of the hemp plant, and contains high levels of CBD.
Now, naturally, you’re probably thinking…
How is hemp oil extracted?
This is probably the question you wanted to get to all along, though you didn’t know yet how to ask it. If the plant from which the hemp oil is being extracted has high THC levels (such as in smokable marijuana), then extraction can be rather complex.
However, the hemp oil you’re likely to find and consume probably comes from industrial hemp plants, which are bred specifically for these purposes and are much higher in CBD levels and much lower in THC levels. There are many, many method for extracting hemp oil from the plant itself. The most common methods of extractions in this case, however, use some kind of solvent; below are some of the most popular techniques for extraction.
The simplest and most common method of extraction is with liquid solvents. In this process, plant materials (such as the leaves, stalks, etc.) are placed in a container. A liquid is then added and run through the container—this liquid is most commonly going to be butane or alcohol, but can also be ethanol or other similar substances. The liquid strips the plant of its cannabinoids and flavors. Next, the liquid is evaporated, leaving behind an oil with strong concentrations of CBD.
This method is relatively equipment-light and very inexpensive, which is why it’s the most common. However, extracting hemp oil this way can lead to some excess residue contaminating the product, which can turn the oil a bit greener and give it a bitter taste. Nonetheless, it remains the simplest and most popular option.
Carbon Dioxide is a very special chemical compound that can be quite versatile. When extracting hemp oil with CO2, a machine called a “closed-loop extractor” is used. This machine has three chambers. Solid CO2 (more commonly known as dry ice) is kept in the first chamber. Just like anyone who has ever played with dry ice will know, solid CO2 “evaporates” extremely quickly at regular temperatures. The second chamber is where the dry plant material is kept, and the CO2 gas and liquid mixtures are pumped here from the first chamber. Similar to the liquid solvent technique, the CO2 strips the cannabinoids off of the plant material and carries them into the third chamber. In the third chamber, the pressure is controlled in order to push the gas to the top of the chamber, leaving the extracted oil at the bottom ready for removal.
This technique doesn’t require a longer waiting time for the evaporation to take place, whereas with the liquid solvents it’s necessary to wait until the liquids have completely evaporated before collecting the final product. This method also means less contamination of the product, meaning that you’re much more likely to get a higher quality and finer product. The catch is that this is pretty pricey and is pretty much only accessible to professional manufacturers and producers.
Oil extraction is probably the oldest and most historical method of extracting hemp oil, dating back to biblical times. For this method, the raw plant material must be decarboxylated. This means that the plant material needs to be heated to a certain temperature for a certain amount of time, which allows the chemicals within the material to activate. The heated plant material is then added to olive oil that has also been heated to 100 degrees Celsius for about 1-2 hours.
As you can probably tell, this method is very simple and manageable. The catch with this one is that the product turns out to be pretty heavy on olive oil and less concentrated in CBD. That being said, it’s a timeless and popular method for private production—anybody can do this.
Now that we’ve talked about how hemp oil is produced, hopefully you can see how hemp oil is a natural and useful product with both health benefits and history.
There are many, many benefits to using and even just researching hemp and CBD. As we’ve seen here, both hemp and CBD are completely natural, which already gives them an upper hand over other more synthetic forms of treatment. Additionally, since CBD doesn’t have the same psychoactive effects as THC, hemp oil and other hemp products are able to provide the important treatment that they do without having to worry about the abuse stigma that tends to follow medical marijuana—hemp doesn’t get you high, so there is no abuse!
There are loads of applications and interesting things to know about hemp, making it a valuable piece of medical utility, as well as a part of history. You can read more about the history and benefits of hemp here.