CBD Extraction Methods Explained

CBD Extraction Methods Explained

CBD extraction removes cannabidiol from hemp, which involves using solvents and other chemicals to separate it from the rest of the plant matter. The primary goal in extracting CBD is to concentrate it to add it to other CBD products like topicals, vapes, gummies, etc. 

There are several ways to extract cannabidiol, each with its benefits and drawbacks. Your choice of method depends on your budget, level of experience and scalability, and what you want to do with your extracted product.

Below we will cover some of the most common extraction methods and how they work.

Here Are Five Methods for Extracting CBD

In light of the legalization of hemp-derived CBD oil, product development and extraction methods have become a significant focus. Let’s take a look at the five extraction methods that are used in the cannabis industry today: 

  • CO2 CBD Extraction

  • Ethanol CBD Extraction

  • Oil CBD Extraction

  • Steam CBD Distillation

  • Hydrocarbon Extraction

CO2 CBD Extraction

CO2 extraction is the most expensive method but is also the most effective and versatile. Moreover, it’s a more effective method than other processes because it uses fewer chemicals, making it more environmentally friendly. 

This is the preferred method for CBD extraction because of its safety, efficiency, and high oil yields. This is a process that uses carbon dioxide at low temperatures and high pressure to isolate, preserve, and maintain the purity of CBD oil.

The first step in this process is to place the plant material into a chamber to expose it to supercritical CO2. The CO2 enters the chamber as a liquid but turns into a gas at high pressures and temperatures. This reaction causes compounds such as terpenes, flavonoids, chlorophyll, and other beneficial elements to dissolve into the CO2 gas. Once dissolved in CO2 gas, these elements are carried out of the chamber along with any impurities. After, it undergoes condensation back into a full-spectrum liquid form and is filtered through activated carbon filters.

CBD CO2 extraction leaves no residuals behind, making it cleaner with no solvent taste or smell than other extraction methods. Additionally, since no contaminants are left behind with CO2 extraction, you can achieve higher purity levels than other methods allow.

Ethanol CBD Extraction

CBD extraction with ethanol is one of the most popular choices and can produce a high-purity product. Most small manufacturers choose this method because they don’t need to spend much on pricey CBD CO2 extraction equipment.  

Ethanol is a highly versatile solvent ideal for extracting essential oils from various plant and biomass resources, including hemp and cannabis. According to the FDA, ethanol is a generally recognized safe substance (GRAS), meaning ethanol is generally safe to use in food and medicine productions

Another component that makes it an excellent solvent for extracting cannabinoids is its low boiling point, which allows for efficient compound separation.

Below is the ethanol CBD extraction process: 

To begin, soak the plant material in an ethanol solution. Afterwards, slowly remove the solid plant material by filtering. Fats and lipids are removed from the hemp extract by chilling the ethanol to ultra-cold temperatures. Without cooling, extracts would be significantly less effective and considerably less pure. In the final stage of CBD oil extraction, almost all of the ethanol is purged or evaporated.

The use of alcohol CBD extraction may produce a purer and safer CBD extract than the use of hydrocarbon solvents. But since ethanol may extract chlorophyll, causing the final product to have a bitter taste and a greenish tint.

Oil CBD Extraction

Oil extraction is one of the earliest techniques used to harvest CBD oil, and it is fairly straightforward. Even today, many home producers and growers use this method. Among the carrier oils, you can use are 

  • olive oil

  • coconut oil

  • MCT oil

  • hemp seed oil

  • avocado oil 

  • sunflower oil

It is necessary to decarboxylate the plant material before infusing it with oil, which means heating the plant material to a specific temperature. Drying it in the oven is a good way to decarboxylate your CBD. Afterwards, heat the dried CBD and carrier oil in a saucepan or slow cooker over low heat. Keep the CBD infusion simmering for up to 2 hours on low heat. 

You can keep the oil for later use by straining it and storing it in a dark glass jar. As part of larger productions, you can further refine the extraction through winterization and distillation.

Steam CBD Distillation

Steam distillation is a much simpler process than CO2 CBD extraction. To begin the distillation process, you must first add the plant matter to a tank. The next step involves boiling the plant material at a high temperature. During this process, water and heat combine to generate steam, which carries oils to the top of the tank, where they cool and condense to form an oil and water mixture.

You then collect the liquid and put it through a vacuum filtration system to remove any remaining plant matter or contaminants. This method is one of the most effective ways to extract CBD from hemp because it doesn’t use harsh chemicals or solvents, but it requires high temperatures, which can destroy some of the cannabinoids in the process.

The process is similar to that of essential oils extracted from plants by steaming them in a container. The steam opens up the pores outside of the plant material and allows easier access to the cannabinoids.

Hydrocarbon Extraction

Hydrocarbon extraction is a method of extracting cannabinoids from the cannabis plant using hydrocarbons, such as butane, propane and hexane. To extract hydrocarbons from hemp, you must soak the plant in the solvent. As a solvent, these materials strip desired cannabinoids from plant material when combined. During the extraction process, the liquid passes through the biomass, concentrating the cannabinoids, terpenes, and water-soluble compounds such as chlorophyll.

Through several other methods, like de-waxing or winterization, you can refine your cannabinoids into various forms, including oil or isolate. The last step is to purge, where you remove the remaining toxic solvents. Taking the concentrate and removing it in a vacuum oven is a common way to purge it.

What Are the Best CBD Extraction Methods?

It is crucial to perform each step of the extraction process carefully and precisely. If there is no proper way to extract cannabidiol, there is no point in growing high-quality hemp plants with high levels of CBD.

Among the different types of extraction processes, both CBD ethanol extraction and CBD extraction with co2 result in an oil that contains CBD-rich material. However, CO2 extraction results in a higher quality product because this method has fewer impurities than solvent-based extraction processes (e.g., residual solvents).


When it comes to extracting CBD, manufacturers use many different methods. Each method has its unique benefits and drawbacks, but the most important thing for you as a consumer is knowing what those are so that you can choose the best product for yourself.

Learn more about CBD by reading other articles on our blog section.

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