CBD Oil and the CO2 Extraction Process

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When you use CBD — or really, any supplement, when you think about it — you want to know that the product you’re putting into your body is pure and healthy. What you don’t want are a bunch of residual chemicals that can be harmful to your health. And beyond that, in the case of the cannabis plant, where you’re trusting that the extraction process being used is actually getting everything out of the plant that you expect — all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and so forth — you want to make sure that process is doing its job and delivering you the most potent product it can. 

This is why, at CBDfx, we always use CO2 extraction, so that you can be sure that your hemp-derived CBD is free from all the potentially toxic solvents you’ll find in cheaper CBD brands. But just what is CO2 extraction, and how exactly does using this form of extraction ensure a purer form of CBD oil? Let’s take a look.

Know Your Cannabis: A Quick Primer on Hemp and CBD Oil

Before we get into CBD extraction, we should begin with a little lesson on what exactly it is that we’re extracting. Every CBD product is formulated using CBD oil, whether it’s a CBD oil tincture, like our CBD + CBG Wellness Tincture, or a CBD edible, like Mixed Berry CBD Gummies. CBD oil is derived from the type of cannabis plant called hemp. Hemp is a cannabis plant with less than 0.3% THC. THC is the cannabinoid (more on that term in a second) that people use to get high, such as when they use the high-THC form of cannabis known as marijuana. But we’re dealing with hemp here, so no one is getting high from this oil.

Cannabinoids and CBD

Cannabis has several intriguing chemical compounds in it. The most notable of these cannabis-derived compounds are called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are produced by the hemp plant to protect its surface from the elements and from insect predators. Cannabinoids also attract pollinators, which helps to perpetuate the species of the plant. CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the 100-plus cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Other cannabinoids include CBC, CBG, CBN, and THC.

CBD Oil: What Else Gets Extracted With CBD?

Hemp also produces terpenes, which are compounds that are largely responsible for the smell and taste of a plant. Cannabis has over 150 terpenes that we’ve identified. Like cannabinoids, terpenes are beneficial to the plant because they repel pests and attract pollinators. And like CBD and other cannabinoids, terpenes have beneficial effects on animals (including humans), who have an endocannabinoid system, a cell-signaling system that helps the various systems and organs in the body to maintain homeostasis, or balance. 

Does lavender always relax you? The terpene linalool (found in lavender) likely plays a role, due to its binding with receptors to produce these effects. Have you heard of people using ginger root for discomfort? The terpene caryophyllene likely plays a vital role in this response. So, like cannabinoids, terpenes are a valuable component of hemp oil.

Cannabis also has 20 different flavonoids, which can have antioxidant and other beneficial properties. Plus, hemp can yield healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In all, the hemp plant yields an extremely rich combination of compounds. It’s no wonder that CBD oil has become such a popular wellness product! 

CBD Extraction Methods

Just because hemp has all of these goodies tucked inside it, it doesn’t mean your oil is necessarily going to reflect that. Older extraction methods for CBD, such as steam distillation, proved to be inefficient, leaving much of the cannabinoids and other compounds behind in the hemp plant. When solvent extraction became the method of choice, this brought along new problems, as residue from the solvent used to extract the CBD oil was left behind in the oil itself. When that solvent was something like butane, that meant harmful chemicals had the potential of showing up in the oil that was passed on to consumers. What was needed was an extraction method that was clean, like steam distillation, but more efficient in extracting all of the valuable contents from the cannabis buds, leaves and stalks.

Carbon Dioxide and CBD: Using CO2 for Cannabis Oil Extraction

So, what is CO2 extraction and why is this extraction process better than others for removing CBD from the hemp plant? 

Where do we even start? CO2 extraction is superior in almost every measurable way: your health as a consumer, the environment, ease of manufacturing, sustainability, and cost. Let’s take a look at how extraction of oil from the cannabis plant with CO2 works.

How Does Supercritical CBD Oil Extraction Work?

As we mentioned earlier, solvent extraction for CBD oil from the hemp plant can leave behind harmful residues. CO2 extraction is a much cleaner extraction process. CO2 (carbon dioxide) is an incredibly abundant compound. In fact, every breath you exhale is CO2, as you probably know. 

By cooling CO2 to freezing temperatures and compressing the gas, it becomes what we refer to as “supercritical.” That means we’ve basically turned a gas into a cold liquid that still has some gas-like characteristics. For CO2, that’s especially interesting, because carbon dioxide doesn’t normally exist in liquid form. As we said, CO2 is incredibly abundant in its natural gas form; and it’s not that hard to make it a solid, either (solid carbon dioxide is just dry ice!). In order to make CO2 act like a liquid, though, it needs to be under tremendous amounts of pressure, while being cooled to around -57 degrees Celsius.

Once this occurs, we can make the carbon dioxide “supercritical,” which allows the expert CBDfx lab staff to adjust the CO2’s solubility and fine-tune exactly what they’re trying to extract from the plant matter.

It’s a little complicated, but the general way CO2 extraction of hemp oil works is as follows:

  1. Create supercritical (liquid) CO2.
  2. Alter pressure and temperature, depending on what’s being extracted and the goals of the extraction.
  3. Pass the supercritical CO2 through an extractor containing the plant matter itself.
  4. A solution forms as a combination of the CO2 and cannabinoids, terpenes and other plant-based compounds.
  5. Pass the new solution through a separator to quickly and easily remove (and recycle!) the liquid CO2.
  6. Leave the new wax/oil extract out to allow any remaining CO2 to naturally evaporate.


The Benefits of Supercritical CO2 Extraction for Cannabidiol

Why use CO2 extraction for CBD oil, as opposed to chemical solvents or distillation? The benefits and superiority of the CO2 extraction method are pretty clear:

  • Isolation: Instead of getting a reduction from the plant that contains who knows what, CO2 extraction of cannabinoids allows for hyper-detailed targeting of exactly the compounds that the laboratory is trying to isolate. This leads to better products and more informed consumer choices.
  • Health: Carbon dioxide is an abundant gas in our atmosphere, and is totally safe to be used as an extractant. Methods of oil extraction using harsh chemical solvents, like butane, can leave residual chemicals that simply do not belong in your body.
  • Customisation: Thanks to the “tunable” nature of CO2 extraction, the CBDfx labs are able to obtain CBD in an array of physical forms, ranging from almost crystalline, to waxy, to oily, and everything in between.
  • Taste/Aesthetics: Hemp oils that have been extracted using alcohol and/or butane can have a very noticeable “chemical” taste to them, and are usually created absent the most aromatic terpenes. CO2 extraction preserves the natural flavour and smells of the source plant and doesn’t inject nasty chemicals into the equation.
  • Environment: As we mentioned, at the end of the process, the supercritical CO2 is recyclable. And even better, the residual CO2 in the CBD concentrate itself doesn’t need any fancy process to be removed — it simply evaporates on its own, exactly like a soft drink losing its carbonation after it sits out for a day!


Final Thoughts on CO2 Extraction for CBD Oil

As you’ve hopefully learned from this blog, the use of CO2 extraction to create CBD oil (or any other hemp oil, for that matter) is by far the most preferable way to create these wonderful products.

Therefore, it’s very important for you as a CBD user to be an informed consumer when it comes to the products you buy. The sad reality is that there are many companies out there trying to make a quick buck off of hastily made, shoddy oils that are rife with butane residue or ethanol. These companies would rather keep making their oils the old way, with apparently little regard for their customers’ health.

At CBDfx, it’s been our mission from day one to offer the cleanest, purest product possible to our valued customers, with the utmost transparency. We’ve carefully considered quality and sustainability at every step of the process, leading to products that:

  • Are all-natural (and mostly vegan, too!)
  • Are made with CBD oil derived by CO2 extraction
  • Come with third-party lab reports to confirm their purity
  • Originate from hemp farms that we personally select for their sustainable farming practises

Whether you use CBD once in a while or multiple times a day, it’s in your best interest to make sure that you understand what you’re putting into your body. By committing to only using CBD products that have been CO2 extracted, you’re making a choice to live a healthier life. And that’s something that fits right in with our mission here at CBDfx.

Ready to explore our pure, all-natural, CO2-extracted oils? Check out our entire CBD oil collection!