How CBD Oil Is Extracted from Hemp
Written by Maryanna Savage Phinn
According to a 2019-2020 national survey of pet owners in the United States, an estimated 67 percent of U.S. households have pets which equates to about 85 million families. The survey, conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), includes horses, donkeys, dogs, cats, birds, fresh and salt water fish, reptiles and small animals.
That’s certainly a lot of barking, neighing, chirping, quacking and meowing!
As more people own pets, there is a growing and genuine interest in providing domesticated pets with healthier food and meal plans, treats, therapeutics and supplements, which frequently includes products made from CBD oil extracted from hemp. The internet is flooded with information on CBD oil for pets and humans. But what is CBD oil and how does it get extracted from hemp? First, let’s get a clear definition of CBD oil is and why it is beneficial to us, and our pets.
CBD Oil Explained
CBD is the acronym for cannabidiol. CBD is one of more than 100 naturally occurring chemical compounds found in cannabis sativa plants and is derived directly from the hemp plant, particularly the plant’s flowers and buds. The hemp plant’s seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids. Some stems and leaves may also contain omega-3. Hemp has little or no THC (0.3% or less), the active ingredient in marijuana which causes someone to feel “high.” Think of hemp as a cousin plant to marijuana, but without the THC.
Formal research on the benefits of CBD oil derived from hemp plants is limited but rapidly gaining traction as the demand for these products has expanded enormously thanks to the passage of The Hemp Farming Act of 2018. This law made industrial hemp a legal agricultural commodity, thereby legalizing hemp and its products at the federal level. While there are still restrictive laws pertaining to CBD oil at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and at some state and local levels, the future is promising. The benefits of CBD oil are mostly anecdotal -- but plentiful. To name just a few examples, CBD oil may help keep your pet feel calm and relaxed; it may help support proper digestion and bowel health; and it may help reduce inflammation associated with training, competition and normal daily exercise and activity.
Methods of CBD Oil Extraction
CBD oil extraction methods vary and depend on the crop, the commercial equipment and the intended usages. Here’s a summary of the most common and effective methods used to extract CBD oil from industrial hemp.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extraction – This technique is frequently cited as the safest and most effective method for producing a pure end product. In fact, the food and beverage industries have used this method for decades such as for an additive for carbonated sodas or to remove caffeine from coffee. It works by using specialized compressors and heaters to pressurize carbon dioxide at high temperatures to pull or extract CBD and other beneficial compounds from the hemp plant. There are two categories to this extraction method: supercritical and subcritical. Supercritical CO2 has properties of both gas and liquid and is the most common and effective way to safely extract various pure and clean components from the plant. The process avoids the use of solvents, kills off mold, mildew and bacteria, produces high yields and leaves no residuals on the end product. It’s also extremely efficient with little to no waste and the CO2 is recyclable and thereby environmentally friendly.
The subcritical extraction process is similar to supercritical; however it uses lower temperatures and requires less pressure. This application takes longer and does not yield as much end product as the supercritical process. It is mainly used for more fragile components within the plant that produces certain products such as essential oils. But, both processes are considered necessary in the hemp industry as more products for health and wellness appear on the market.
Ethanol Extraction: Ethanol is a common alcohol solvent frequently used as an additive and preservative in the food and beverage industries. It is fermented from many starches, particularly corn in the United States. This extraction method can be conducted under warm or cold conditions. The process involves bringing ethanol to a boiling point, cooling it to drip through the plant then extracting and separating the cannabinoids and terpenes. Manufacturers use equipment that agitates the plant material and controls the temperature while injecting ethanol at certain levels. It then requires additional clean up of the final output. Although the process is safe and time efficient, the end products are limited and often require added steps. The warm or room temperature process extracts more waste products such as pigments and waxes than the cooler approach. Ethanol extraction is considered best for processing a few specific CBD product lines.
Hydrocarbon Extraction: Hydrocarbon is an organic chemical compound consisting of carbon and hydrogen. The most common hydrocarbons are butane, propane and hexane. Of course, butane and propane are sources of fuel. But they are also strong and powerful organic chemical solvents. The biggest advantage to this method is that it is fast and efficient. The food and beverage industry have used hydrocarbon extraction techniques for more than 50 years to produce flavorings and colorings. This method typically uses butane or propane as the solvent to extract cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant. Butane is usually the primary source, but sometimes butane and propane are blended for better outcomes. Obviously, there are issues with butane as a flammable and many localities in the United States do not permit hydrocarbon extraction. It is banned in Canada. This method also leaves toxic residues and is inappropriate for healthy products or anything grown using organic or sustainable methods.
Water or Steam Extraction: Water vapor or dry ice is another method for extracting CBD from hemp. With proper application, this method is inexpensive, produces high yields and doesn’t leave any toxicity. Water is non-flammable and non-pressurized so the regulations on using this method are advantageous. The steam separates CBD oil from the hemp causing the oil vapor with the CBD to separate. The vapors are then condensed into oil and water and eventually distilled to extract the water from the CBD oil. While this method is clean and environmentally friendly, the end product can be inconsistent from other methods and larger amounts of hemp are required.
Each of these extraction methods has pros and cons. CO2 extraction equipment requires a significant monetary investment. Ethanol and hydrocarbons are highly flammable, and the hydrocarbons leave toxic residues. Water distillation requires more hemp and its consistency varies. But the market is booming for hemp products, like CBD oil. It is inevitable that technological advances and continued innovations will not only enhance the methods, production equipment and quality of hemp’s end products, but also provide more revenue sources and economic growth to hemp growers and farmers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, investors and entrepreneurs throughout the United States.