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What is CO2 Extraction for CBD Oil? [Understanding the Basics…]

August 22, 2018

What is CO2 Extraction for CBD Oil? [Understanding the Basics…]
CBD oil, one half of the famous combo of THC and CBD that exists within cannabis, is becoming widely used as a natural therapy throughout the western world.

Due to its interactions with the endocannabinoid system, CBD has gradually become accepted as an way to treat a multitude of ailments, including arthritis, anxiety and even Parkinson’s Disease.

You can now purchase CBD oil at a variety of retailers, not even requiring a medical prescription. However, the actual mechanics of what CBD oil is remains a mystery for many people. Most know it simply as the oily substance you buy in a small jar, accompanied by a dropper and instructions of how to take it. But… what exactly is CBD oil, and how is it made?

If you’re going to put something in your body, it makes sense to understand how it’s made, so let’s take a look at the most common method used in CBD oil production – CO2 extraction.

Firstly though, what is CBD oil?

First Things First: What is CBD Oil?

CBD oil is made by suspending cannabidiol, a common substance within marijuana, in an oil. This substance usually exists in a ratio of about 10 parts THC to 1 part CBD within the plant.

CBD works to both compliment THC as well as to counteract some of its side effects within the body. In fact, some studies have shown that CBD is the main way to stave off the development of psychosis when imbibing a lot of marijuana.

When CBD enters your body, it interacts with the endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for a number of important bodily functions including the regulation of cellular regrowth, as well as a variety of brain functions like serotonin release. CBD triggers the CB1 and CB2 receptors within the endocannabinoid system, encouraging them to help your body heal and repair itself.

Considering the usefulness of CBD, it makes sense that people would want a way to imbibe this substance without having to go through the hassle of smoking full marijuana – sometimes people just want the healing, helpful properties of CBD without the psychoactive effects that accompany THC.

To aid this, manufacturers can distill the CBD out of the cannabis plant, allowing you to consume pure CBD without any of the other compounds. Once distilled out of the raw plant material, CBD is then suspended in inert oil – commonly hemp or coconut oil – so as to keep the CBD fresh and allow for easy application and administration.

The most common method of getting the CBD out of the cannabis plant and into the oil is a process known as CO2 Extraction. What is this process?

CO2 Extraction for CBD Oil – What is it?

Whenever the word “extraction” is used, it tends to sound like it has some sort of advanced, highly scientific application, perhaps even in a dangerous way.

Well, with CBD, the CO2 extraction process is actually pretty simple. However, it is generally divided into two separate methods – supercritical and subcritical.

Supercritical CO2 Extraction for CBD Oil

CO2, the compound of carbon and oxygen atoms that we exhale with every breath we take, has a few interesting properties at different temperatures and pressures.

If you take CO2, which is of course normally a gas, and heat it to above 31.10 degrees Celsius while at the same time exerting pressure equal to 10071 psi, CO2 becomes a supercritical fluid. This means that the CO2 has both the properties of a gas and a liquid.

With this, it is both able to effuse through solids like a gas, as well as dissolve materials and substances like a liquid. The reason this happens is because the CO2 has been heated and pressurized beyond its critical point, the point at which the lines between being a liquid or being a gas are rather… blurred.

Science can get a bit weird, can’t it?

Because the CO2 is neither a liquid nor a gas, but has the properties of both, it is able to be used quite usefully as a solvent. This means that the CO2 can be used to retrieve certain substances from others, depending on the temperatures you heat it to. This allows manufacturers to remove pure CBD from the cannabis plants while avoiding having to retrieve any other substances such as THC or chlorophyll.

The actual process and equipment used in CO2 extraction for CBD is actually very interesting, as it is an entirely closed system, as well being totally recyclable.

Supercritical CO2 Extraction for CBD: Process & Equipment

A key part of the supercritical CO2 extraction process is that the CBD is kept in a closed loop system, meaning it is entirely independent of other systems. The cannabis is kept in an extractor chamber, which is flooded with CO2 supercritical fluid, dissolving the cannabinoid and carrying it into a separate chamber.

From there, the CBD is diffused from the CO2, allowing the CO2 to reenter the system and be used again in the very same extraction process.

The remaining raw cannabis plant material is typically thrown away, or it can again be diffused in a separate system in order to extract THC or any number of desirable compounds.

However, the key issue with supercritical CO2 extraction is that it is exorbitantly expensive. The equipment required for the extraction can cost tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes even into the hundreds of thousands if buying on a commercial scale.

This renders the process, while desirable from a consumer standpoint, prohibitively expensive for the casual user.

Supercritical CO2 extraction has been demonstrated to be incredibly effective at retrieving the CBD oil; a study published by Laura Rovetto and Niccolo Aieta in the Journal of Supercritical Fluids found that the extraction efficiency was in excess of 92%.

However, supercritical extraction carries with it a series of disadvantages in that it will carry with it all the waxy, fatty compounds from the plant along with CBD. To combat this, another step has to be added in order to get truly pure CBD oil.

The Importance of Winterization

By superheating the CO2, it is possible to diffuse the CBD oil and carry it away from the plant, but it also has the ability to take with it some of the lipids and other fats that exist on the cannabis plant.

These lipids can prove dangerous to a consumer of the CBD oil, as well as imparting an uncomfortable taste and texture.

To combat this, manufacturers employ a process called winterization, which involves soaking the finished crude CBD oil in an alcohol solution, then freezing it for 24 hours.

In a similar method to how brandy is made through freezing distillation, the CBD will separate out from the other fatty substances that were carried in with the supercritical CO2. This then allows you to separate the CBD and make it into a pure, CBD-only oil.

If all that is too much trouble for the manufacturer, there is another method available for CO2 extraction that is rather cheaper and easier, but has more problems associated with it.

Subcritical CO2 Extraction

Now that we know about supercritical CO2 extraction, we can look at subcritical CO2 extraction.

Essentially, subcritical CO2 extraction is a similar process to supercritical but, as the name implies, subcritical does not heat the CO2 to the levels that allow it to enter into a supercritical state.

Instead, what happens is the CO2 diffuses a large number of compounds alongside the target CBD, due to the fact that it doesn’t have the same properties as both a gas and a liquid that supercritical CO2 has.

This results in a finished product that has the consistency of thick syrup, thick because of the intensity of different compounds present within the finished oil. This can mean that the THC within cannabis is carried with the CBD over to the finished oil, resulting in a non-pure CBD oil.

This is actually perfect if you intend to create marijuana oil containing both THC and CBD, but for the purposes of legality, it is imperative that CBD oil contain less than 0.3% THC to be able to be sold nationwide.

As such, further methods need to be employed to make sure the CBD oil is legal and THC-free. The big benefit of this method is that it is cheaper to produce, as well as not requiring the winterization process that supercritical extraction needs.

Final Thoughts on CBD Oil CO2 Extraction

CO2 extraction for CBD oil is an incredibly useful process, one that allows manufacturers to produce pure CBD oil from a plant that contains many other compounds they might not necessarily want to include in their final product. With the help of some very expensive equipment and heated and pressurized CO2, a manufacturer can make something completely separate from the cannabis plant, all while still being a natural ingredient to help people’s health.

The age old question of which is superior, subcritical or supercritical, has no real answer, as different manufacturers argue constantly.

However, some manufacturers combine these two processes into something called full spectrum CO2 extraction, which uses a multi-chambered extraction process with both supercritical and subcritical CO2. By using supercritical to separate the oil, then subcritical to further separate the crude oil, manufactures are able to completely control the method and temperature with which the CBD is extracted, allowing for more control of the finished product. Of course, this is also obscenely expensive to setup.

All in all, there’s a reason why you buy CBD oil from a retailer instead of making it yourself; some things are just too hard to do alone.


About the Author
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Jonathan Miller
Jonathan Miller, age 53 is an Ex Railyard Engineer who suffers from chronic back pain and anxiety. Jonathan’s goal was to create an unbiased site that would provide anyone who seeks help in CBD oil as a treatment, with accurate and helpful information.
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Getting Started with CBD Oil

If you suffer from anxiety (like me), depression or pain and are looking to get started with CBD oil, you need information on how to buy CBD oil, or you’re simply looking to learn more about CBD products, you’ve arrived at the right place.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, aka CBD, is a compound found in the cannabis plant that has significant medical benefits. CBD can be extracted from two different species of the Cannabis Sativa L plant, which include Cannabis and Hemp. Unlike its rival THC, CBD does not make people feel “stoned” and can actually counteract the psychoactivity of THC.

One of the main advantages of CBD is its non-psychoactive affect making it a great option for people looking for relief from inflammation, anxiety, insomnia, seizures, spasms, and other conditions.
As I mentioned above the primary distinction between Hemp and CBD oil is the part of the plant they are derived from and what parts of the plant are used to create the oil. Hemp oil is typically made from pressing cannabis seeds to extract the fatty oil from within, while some that have mastered the CBD extraction process also use the flowers as they contain high percentages of CBD. CBD oil, on the other hand, is usually made from the flowers of cannabis plant through various extraction methods.

How Does CBD Affect Your Body?

The way marijuana affects your body varies from person to person as it will often depend on genetics, tolerance to the cannabinoids, medical health, DNA, and more. It also depends on the way you consume the CBD, for example, the effects of vaping CBD are far different to smoking it in the form of high-CBD cannabis strains. 

CBD and the way it affects us is still of somewhat a mystery to researchers they still try to figure out how it effects the EndoCannabinoid system. During the previous century, it was discovered that our bodies have receptors within the brain and central nervous system. Specific cannabinoids such as CBD bind to those receptors and activate the EndoCannabinoid System (ECS). This then provides a wide range of psychological and physical benefits helping the body.

Without going into specifics, cannabinoids signal to the body to create endocannabinoids and build more receptors. This helps the body to limit things associated with pain and inflammation, repairs cells and provides a wide range of other health benefits. Unlike other cannabinoids, CBD is thought to be the ultimate anti-inflammatory cannabinoid.

Want to learn more about how CBD works read: How Long Does it Take CBD to Work

Medical Benefits of CBD

There is a misconception as to whether CBD can help treat patients, similar to pharmaceutical medicine, but thanks to the internet and a few different medical studies patients and researchers have been exposing their findings on how CBD oil is helping to cure a wide range of medical conditions.

The most popular story was the one of Charlotte Figi. At the time Charlotte was only 6 years old. As a little girl, she was experiencing over 300 epileptic seizures per week until she was successfully treated by a CBD-rich strain oil, later named Charlotte’s Web.

The high-quality CBD oil, changed her life, helping her to overcome a 6-year battle. Since her story hit the news, CBD and other cannabinoids of the cannabis plant are constantly being researched to understand how they can help to treat different medical conditions. As a matter of fact, CBD has been thought to help treat over 170 medical conditions, among them severe conditions such as Anorexia, Cancer, Arthritis, Depression, Anxiety, Chronic Pain, Insomnia, Glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and PTSD.

Recent studies have even shown that CBD, may cure life-threatening diseases by altering genes. Other studies have proven that it might even be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis and chronic pain.

The way that CBD works is that it interacts with receptors located in different parts of the central nervous system. These receptors are called CB1 and CB2. Both reflect the areas of the brain they interact with such as the limbic system. When taking CBD, this cannabinoid locks in on these receptors and affects the body in different ways. For example, it can help to block the pain caused by specific medical conditions.

While numerous studies have shown promising results, it is important to understand that CBD research is still at premature stages. A 2011 study that researched CBD for fibromyalgia showed extremely promising results. 56 of 112 participants who took CBD in the form of oil saw a great reduction in their symptoms and pain, while those using traditional methods didn’t see hardly any improvement.

Can you Buy CBD if you live in an illegal state?

The process is not cut-&-dry, and but thanks to the Farm Bill of 2014, forms of CBD can now be delivered to your doorstep. Those that live in recreational states can purchase CBD cannabis oil which is high in potency and extremely effective for helping to treat severe medical conditions, while those that live in other states that are not medical or recreational can benefit from CBD hemp oil. CBD Hemp oil is perfect for helping to treat a wide range of conditions including anxiety, depression and acute pain. 

Who is NaturalWellNessCBDOil?

My name is Jonathan, and I’ve created this loving resource that is packed with information about CBD oil. I am growing a community on Facebook and are constantly engaging with different people to help them make more informed decisions. I review products on a daily basis and provide unbiased reviews about some of the top CBD oil manufacturers. All the information on the site is FREE; I only ask that you help to share the information you find on the site with other people that are suffering. 

To your health and happiness.