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How Is CBD Extracted From Hemp?

CBD is the buzzy new wellness ingredient. Everyone wants to get their hands on it, but where is it actually coming from?

CBD stands for Cannabidiol, a compound belonging to the family of Cannabinoids that are naturally occurring in the Cannabis plant. The Cannabis sativa plant family can be roughly divided into marijuana and hemp. While both contain CBD, hemp conveniently contains very low (less than 0.2%) levels of THC compared to marijuana and can be grown legally by farmers in many countries of the world. That is why CBD is extracted from dried, milled hemp raw material. 

Depending on the purification steps following the first extraction, different kinds of extracts from full- to broad-spectrum all the way to CBD isolate can be produced. However, every single process starts and is characterized by choosing a method for this first extraction, so let’s take a look at the most common options.

CBD extraction

CBD Alcohol Extraction

The alcohol used for extraction is most commonly ethanol or isopropyl-alcohol, both of which are solvents commonly used in food-grade manufacturing. The plant material is saturated with it, then the solution containing the extract components is filtered off the mix and the alcohol is removed from it by distillation. 

The resulting so-called crude extract then undergoes further distillations to remove, for example, chlorophyll (the green color of plants) or unwanted cannabinoids like THC while enriching the desired cannabinoids like CBD.  

Alcohol extraction is the most commonly used method of CBD extraction worldwide. The solvent can be recycled and used for the following extraction, which makes this method cost-efficient and preserves resources. It also doesn’t require any too specialized equipment. 

CBD CO2 Extraction

If you’ve read a bit about CBD extraction, you probably came across CO2, the solvent that is hailed for being the cleanest around. Usually, CO2 is a gas, but when the pressure and temperature are adjusted correctly, it can be a so-called “supercritical fluid” that is used as a solvent in extractions. 

In principle, the extraction process is the same as with alcohol, with the difference that a more sophisticated setup is needed to deal with the high pressure resulting from the use of liquid CO2. On the upside, more points of adjustment can allow for the exclusion of more unwanted components from the start, and the solvent (CO2) can simply be evaporated at the end of the process without leaving any traces in the product. 

CO2 extraction gained popularity in recent years, however, the high running costs and specialized equipment that is needed might be why it isn’t able to take the pole position from alcohol extraction. 

CBD Oil Extraction

Cannabinoid extraction using vegetable oils is probably the method that has been around for the longest time historically, which is why it deserves to be mentioned here.  The oil is “infused” with hemp raw material, which slowly releases its oil-soluble components, very much like when brewing a cup of tea. 

The big drawback is that the oil can’t be easily removed, which means the cannabinoid concentration in the resulting product remains relatively low and it’s not possible to selectively remove unwanted components like THC. Vegetable oils are also relatively expensive and ineffective solvents when compared to CO2 or alcohol. 

CBD Butane Extraction

Just like ethanol and CO2, butane can be used as an effective solvent for cannabinoids if passed over the milled, dried plant material. Its initial appeal is the high volatility, which makes it possible to remove all traces of this solvent either by applying a bit of heat or a slight vacuum. However, it is also highly explosive and flammable, which makes it difficult to work with this solvent under safe working conditions. Furthermore, it is not a preferred solvent to be used in food products. 

The resulting extract still includes high levels of terpenes and natural levels of THC and is usually not refined any further.

CBD Rosin Extraction

This method produces products very similar to butane extraction, but entirely without the use of solvents. Instead, high pressure and heat are used to gain a resinous extract directly from the plant material. The higher the pressure that can be applied, the less heat has to be used, which leaves valuable terpenes intact. 

This method has become more and more popular with smaller-scale producers looking for full-spectrum extracts, still including the natural levels of THC, terpenes and other plant compounds.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is more than just “the one” method of extracting CBD from hemp. The method of choice depends on different factors, like the intended use of the extraction product and economical and environmental considerations, as well as equipment available. The bottom line is that while all of the above-mentioned methods can deliver a clean extract, it´s always best to check the COAs provided by the manufacturer to ensure that the final product is safe to use.

About Anna Falk

Anna Falk is Head of Product at Harmony. Anna obtained her PhD degree in Organic Chemistry with highest honours and has a combined 9 years of experience in R&D, project, and product management across the fields of natural product synthesis, catalysis, and cosmetics. She has produced award-winning, internationally published research at the Universities of Berkeley, Edinburgh, and Cologne.

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44 thoughts on “How Is CBD Extracted From Hemp?

  1. David Watson says:

    What are the three main chemicals found in Cannabis resin? THC, CBD, and what? You never said.

    1. Sarah Haze says:

      Hi David! The cannabinoid I alluded to in the article was cannabinol (CBN). THC, CBD, and CBN are the chemicals most commonly found in the highest concentrations, but there are actually dozens of cannabinoids found in trace amounts in any given cannabis strain. So far more than 80 have been identified, and studies are still discovering more. If you want to know more about the major cannabinoids, check out our article here: https://www.meetharmony.com/2016/10/25/9-cannabinoids-must-know/

  2. Ellice says:

    Thank you so much for all the knowledge! I’ve looked at so many websites & blogs and until now, haven’t found such detailed information that actually helps! You guys definitely need an IG page!!

    1. Clara says:

      Hello Ellice! Thank you for reading us and for the great words 😀 I have a good news for you, we do have an IG page! Follow us on Instagram by clicking here. Have a great day <3

  3. Don says:

    Hey thanks for the article ! So how does Harmony extract the CBD ? Do you use the co2 method or an other one ?

    1. Clara says:

      Hello Don! Thank you for your interest! We use supercritical CO2 extraction and molecular separation processes on-site at a European Licensed Laboratory to
      extract Harmony pure CBD Crystals 🙂 If you have any further question, don’t hesitate to ask! Have a great day

  4. Marc Kielley says:

    Hello,
    Is the CBD oil produced from Hemp stalks and stems only or are the seeds also a source of CBD oil ?
    Looking forward to your reply.

    1. Clara says:

      Hello Marc! Thank you for your interest! CBD is a cannabinoid that is produced by the hemp plants. It can be extracted from hemp stalks and stems but CBD is not in hemp seeds. If you have any further question, please don’t hesitate to ask! Have a great day

  5. Vince says:

    Thanks for this great overview! Regardless of the extraction type, I always look for labs showing residual solvent levels before I purchase any CBD products.

    1. Alana says:

      Hey Vince! Thanks for reading! Glad to see you know what to look for, keep up the good work!

  6. Jason Ellis says:

    How do you get all the way to CBD Crystalline,, do you use a solvent called pentane? Do you use any kind of low pressure vacuum ovens? Or do you use walk in freezer so with feel freezers
    Or how do you go form distillate into 99.7 CBD Isolates? Thank youy j

    1. Magda says:

      Hi Jason, at Harmony we work with some of the best farms & labs around Europe. We use a supercritical CO2 extraction method that takes the CBD through 3 phases of analysis and crystallization to remove all traces of wax or contaminants. Hope that answers your questions 🙂

  7. Jane Hurl says:

    I’d like to make my own CBD. Am I understanding correctly? You bring the CBD to the boiling point (100ºC) and keep it there for 1 to 2 hours? Also, you mention decarboxylating “at a certain temperature for a certain length of time”. Can you please give the specifics? Thanks.

    1. Magda says:

      Hi Jane, thanks for your message and it’s great to see you’re interested in CBD. To give you the best information, may I ask if you’re trying to make your own CBD e-liquid or are you talking about actually extracted CBD from hemp yourself? Thanks! 🙂

  8. Colleen says:

    Hi Magda, a recipe for hemp-derived CBD concentrate from flower using a vacuum oven is not easily found online. What would one have to do to actually acquire one? I would certainly appreciate any information you might be able to share. Thank you, Colleen

    1. Magda says:

      Hi Colleen. Vacuum ovens are sometimes used in the cannabis industry for extraction processes such as for Butane Hash Oil. Usually, this method is used to separate any leftover residue. As using a vacuum oven is quite a costly and complex process, they are usually intended for professional use. If you are intending to use one for personal use, I would recommend researching whether it is cost effective or if you need special training to use one. Hope that helps 🙂

  9. Jeff says:

    Hi Magda,

    What do you do with the plant material after the CBD has been extracted? Is there still proteins/vitamins/fatty acids in the material to be used for another use?

    Thanks!

    1. Magda says:

      Hey Jeff, thanks for reaching out! There are lots of great uses for hemp, including building and clothing materials. Harmony CBD is extracted from European hemp, the specific use for leftover hemp is at the discretion of the individual farm 🙂

  10. Ethan says:

    I recently purchased some of your Critial Mala 300mg vape oil and I was wondering about the thc content. It says there is no thc but I’m still skeptical. I cannot risk failing a drug test because of my profession and was wondering there were any trace amounts of THC in your products. Or of obtaining a lab report was possible. I’m eager to try this product as it’s sitting in front of me but I can’t risk my career for it.

    1. Alana says:

      Hey Ethan, I have great news for you, CBD won’t show up in a drug test as these tests are looking for THC (not CBD) and our products don’t contain any traces of THC 🙂

  11. Miriam Ralph says:

    I buy milled hemp and use it as a food supplement. Do you think it might contain any CBD? I use milled hemp to help with chronic pain as I can’t take strong painkillers. I would love the opportunity to grow hemp but am aware that it may only be grown under licence etc. If I were to grow hemp, is it always necessary to extract the oil to get the benefit as a pain reliever or would it be possible to dry out the leaves, etc., mill them and use them as a herbal tea (for instance). I would appreciate any advice you might have on the above queries. Many thanks.

    1. Alana says:

      Hey Miriam, thanks for asking, please keep in mind our products are not medical and should not be used as such! It will really depend on the producer of your milled hemp. You should always ask for more details on the levels of active compounds to fully understand what is in the product!

  12. Don says:

    Hello Clara, after you extract the CBD with the CO2 do you separate out any impurities for a pure CBD material? Or do you separate out any impurities like waxes/Cphylls, etc. and then crystallize from a ethanol solution? Does it come out crystalline when you do this?

    1. Alana says:

      Hey Don, At Harmony we work with some of the best farms & labs around Europe. We use a supercritical CO2 extraction method that takes the CBD through 3 phases of analysis and crystallization to remove all traces of wax or contaminants. Hope that helps!

  13. Claudia says:

    Hi,
    I have another question regarding your extraction process. I read about winterization and that it is used to make sure waxes are removed. Are you using this process?
    Thanks
    Claudia

    1. Alana says:

      Hey Claudia! At Harmony we work with some of the best farms & labs around Europe. We use a supercritical CO2 extraction method that takes the CBD through 3 phases of analysis and crystallization to remove all traces of wax or contaminants ?‍?.

      1. Amanda says:

        Hi. The three fases of CO2 extraction don’t answer the question. There is a winterizazion after? I dont think so because the terpenes, but im interesting to know.

        1. Alana says:

          Hey Amanda, great question. Our products do not undergo winterization but the CBD is extracted through a multi-step extraction, analysis and crystallization method. Hope that helps!

  14. Daniboy says:

    If I need to stop smoking because of emphysema – is vaping CBD bad for me?

    1. Alana says:

      Hey Dan, thanks for reaching out! Our products are made with smokers in mind but remember they are not to be used as treatment for any disease or illness. Public Health England maintains that vaping is 95% better than smoking.

  15. Tony Mutukisna says:

    I am interested in extracting CBD from Hemp for personal use. I understand that the Co2 process is the best but it is expensive, equipment wise. I was considering a milling process, could you please enlighten me on the pros and cons, and where I can purchase any equipment to do this, or any other cost effective method.
    Thank you.

    1. Alana says:

      Hey Tony, great questions! You can extract CBD through the same methods as THC! Milling probably won’t be the best option as it would simply grind your hemp and make it more bioavailable (great for tea or flour) but it really depends on what you want to do with it! There are some great resources on youtube on home extraction techniques! Or try out our Pure CBD Crystals instead 🙂

  16. reyhaneh says:

    Hi! thanks for your useful information but i have a question…
    how can we separate CBD from oil? chromatography?

    1. Susie says:

      Hey thanks for your question. At Harmony we work with some of the best farms & labs around Europe. We use a supercritical CO2 extraction method that takes the CBD through 3 phases of analysis and crystallization to remove all traces of wax or contaminants. There are lots of different ways of extracting CBD from plants and oils. If your doing it at home there are a lot of DIY tutorials on the web.

  17. Madars says:

    Hi guys!
    Just wandering,how much oil could get from 1 kg of raw material such as hemp straws?

    1. Alana says:

      Hey there, great question! It really depends so we recommend you do some research on your own as it varies on the strain, material, etc.

  18. David says:

    Hi, thanks for your fine website. Is it possible to Extract CBD from Hemp Sprouts. We sprout hemp Seed for 14 days and I wondered if they contain CDB and if it can be extracted

    1. Susie says:

      Hey David thanks for your comment! Good question… Well it’s really hard to get CBD from sprout’s as they are young and still maturing they will probably have very low amount of CBD. The majority of the CBD comes from the hemp buds. Feel free to email us if you have any further questions! We are happy to help.

  19. scott_walker_93 says:

    Hi is it possible to be given a certificate of quality for the cbd vape juices?

    1. Joe Marris says:

      Hi Scott,

      Yes of course, you can find all of our certificates here:

      https://www.meetharmony.com/certificates-of-analysis/

      Thanks for your interest in Harmony <3

  20. scott_walker_93 says:

    Hi i received a lollypop in my parcel along with cbd vape liquid, im curious to know what the lollypop is exactly and does it contain cbd as theres no information regarding this?

    1. Joe Marris says:

      Hi Scott,

      Thanks for your interest in Harmony.

      The lollipop that you received has 0% CBD but is just hemp flavoured 🙂

  21. Parvan says:

    hi ,
    does cbd derived from hemp differ from that obtained from cannabis as a way of acting on the body

    1. Joe Marris says:

      Hi Paravan,



      Great question.

      It really depends on if the CBD you’re using is isolate or full spectrum.



      Isolate is when CBD has been completely separated from all other cannabinoids and is quite literally just CBD.

      Full-spectrum means that it will have many other cannabinoids in the formula.

      
The CBD we use is isolate, meaning it only contains cannabidiol (CBD)

You can read more about this through this article: https://www.meetharmony.com/2019/07/31/full-spectrum-cbd-isolate/



      I hope that helps!

      Joe

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