Have you ever wondered how brands make your CBD products? A lot goes on between growing the hemp and selling that little bottle of CBD oil. Indeed, consumers often wonder just how these products are processed and produced. And their curiosity is well-justified; in a loosely-regulated market, customers need to know what they are putting into their bodies. Among the various modalities of the CBD world, you will often come across the term ‘CO2 extraction.’ This refers to just one step of many that go into the processing of making CBD products. In a nutshell, CO2 extraction removes the cannabinoids (like CBD) that exist in the hemp plant.
These extractions are then added and infused into various products. Some experts herald the CO2 method as the gold standard, which is why we use it to make every one of our CBD products here at PureKana. But what are the actual benefits of CO2 extraction? Why is it considered by many to be the best extraction method for CBD oil? Let’s find out more about this method and see why it is so popular.
What Is CO2 Extraction?
CO2 extraction is a method of removing beneficial plant compounds from physical plant matter. In the CBD industry, CO2 extraction removes CBD, other cannabinoids, and terpenes from the flowers, leaves, and stems of dried hemp. The technique works by using intensely pressurized carbon dioxide (CO2). The CO2 is frozen and compressed into a “supercritical” state, meaning it can behave as both a liquid and a gas. The specific temperature used here is -69˚F, and the pressure at this temperature is 75 pounds per square inch (psi). This puts the CO2 into a liquid state. From there, technicians induce a supercritical state – a chemical process that is rather complex in nature.
As you can imagine, putting the CO2 (which is usually a gas) into a supercritical state requires very high-tech – and very expensive – equipment. In a supercritical state, the CO2 can fill a chamber like a gas while maintaining density like a liquid.
At this point, the CO2 behaves a little bit like a solvent. The machinery passes supercritical CO2 into a chamber containing dried plant matter (in our case hemp). The “solvent” properties of the CO2 work to extract most compounds from the hemp, causing no damage to the all-important cannabinoids and terpenes. In this way, CBD-rich extractions are obtained and further purified. The initial extract is pooled in a collection chamber, and manufacturers often recycle the supercritical CO2 after use. While the plant matter is disposed of (or upcycled, as the fibers from hemp have many applications), the CO2 can be used repeatedly. The extract, meanwhile, goes on to make some of the world’s finest CBD oils.
Are There Other Extraction Methods?
CO2 extraction certainly is not the only method around. Solvent-based chemical extraction is also fairly common, in which high-proof solvents like ethanol and butane are used to extract compounds from the plant matter. When carried out by brands in certified labs, solvent extraction can be safe and very effective. The method does, however, present a risk of fires and explosions, so safety is paramount. Furthermore, after the plant compounds have been extracted using a chemical solvent, the solution must be evaporated away wholly and safely. If done improperly, there is a risk of solvents ending up in the final product – a cause for concerns on behalf of the consumer.
This is not to say that solvent extraction can’t be done safely and effectively, but it does pose some risks that CO2 extraction does not. Other simpler methods for extracting CBD include the use of olive oil or even dry ice. These are methods that aspiring creators of CBD products can use at home to try to make their own CBD infusions. However, the yield tends to be very low, and the extract can be of more reduced quality – which is why most of the big brands don’t use these methods.
Is CO2 Extraction Considered Better Than Other Methods?
Opinions naturally differ as to what the best extraction method is for making CBD oil. Some, of course, say that CO2 extraction is the best – and there are lots of reasons why. First of all, CO2 is a natural compound; it exists in the air we breathe, and in many of the food and drinks we consume, and it does not need to be produced synthetically. In fact, our bodies produce CO2 all by themselves, meaning the compound poses no risk when consumed in normal (small) quantities. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers CO2 safe for use in food processing for this reason. Unlike solvents, there is little risk of CBD contaminating the final product.
What are some other benefits of CO2?
As well as making things safer for the consumer, some say that CO2 is also safer to handle in the lab. Solvents like butane are highly flammable – hence the reason butane is used as a fuel in lighters. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, is a non-combustible gas. It does not bring flammable solvents into contact with consumable products. This is good news for people working closely with CBD extraction. Additionally, environmentalists will be pleased to know that CO2 is non-toxic. In fact, the CO2 extraction process does not contribute to major carbon emission increases.
The CO2 is continually used and recycled and does not need to be released. Plus, it doesn’t damage the hemp flower – it only removes cannabinoids and other compounds. This plant matter can go into other uses when the process is complete. Based on all of these reasons, many experts consider CO2 extraction to be superior compared to other methods. It is safer for the consumer, safer for the staff working with it, and generally results in a product that is of higher quality. CO2 will also not damage any of the cannabinoids or terpenes, allowing them to reach their full potential in the human body.
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of CO2 Extraction for CBD Oil
Among the various methods of CBD extraction out there, CO2 extraction is likely the best for making CBD oil. And surprisingly, once the equipment is in place, this method is actually quite streamlined. After all, CO2 can be recycled, unlike other non-renewable resources. The main catch with CO2 extraction is that it is expensive. The equipment is costly, and the labor costs for qualified individuals who know how to operate such machines are expensive. In the end, this is why the use of CO2 extraction ultimately drives up the price of quality, extremely well-made CBD oil.
However, you have to remember that you are paying for quality and general safety. CBD oils made with CO2 extraction should contain no chemical solvents. Solvents in the wrong form can harm your health, and they should not come into contact with flammable substances. As a result, many consider it worthwhile to spend extra on products that are safer and far superior in quality. Despite the high costs, this is why we choose to use CO2 extraction to make our industry-leading CBD products. The process has several benefits and advantages over other extraction methods. Indeed, this is why many consider it to be the gold standard in hemp extraction.