It may surprise you to learn that not all CBD products are created equally. In fact, there are several different CBD extraction methods that the industry uses. But what makes one method better than the others, and why does this make a difference to you? The process used to extract CBD from cannabis affects everything from the finished oil’s taste and health profile to the cost of the product.

By looking into the process used by a CBD manufacturer, you’ll be able to tell whether their products are high-quality and how beneficial they might be to your health. Every method comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks, and some are definitely better than others. The following list should help you determine which CBD extraction methods to look for on a label and which ones to avoid.

Class 2&3 Solvents

One of the earliest developed methods of CBD extraction involves the use of organic solvents like butane and hexane. The solvents extract surface oils, terpenes and flavonoids from the raw plant material. Attaining the desired product of CBD extract requires additional purification steps. Despite the development of more advanced methods of CBD extraction, manufacturers still use them today.

Pros:

  •       This method is inexpensive and doesn’t require complex equipment.
  •       Some of these solvents are nonpolar, meaning they won’t co-extract undesirable compounds like chlorophyll.

Cons:

  • Organic solvents are highly volatile and require close temperature monitoring to prevent explosions.
  • They may also pose a risk to human health with extended exposure. Even with good manufacturing practices (GMP), trace amounts can make their way into the finished product causing harm with extended exposure.
  • This method requires additional decarboxylation and purification steps. Both steps can degrade the final product and burn off desired compounds.

Ethanol

Ethanol extraction is the fastest growing method used in the hemp industry today. Through this process, mass amounts of raw material can be processed at once.

The plant material is washed in ethanol, the surface oils, terpenes and flavonoids are extracted, and the CBD extract is purified in several additional steps to leave only the desired compounds in the finished product. Ethanol is much less harmful to human health than other solvents and it evaporates easily, leaving almost no trace in the finished product.

Pros:

  • Compared to other solvents, ethanol is efficient at extracting desirable plant compounds. 
  • It’s also safer than other solvents from a health standpoint.

Cons:

  • Ethanol is polar, and tends to dissolve other polar molecules like chlorophyll. Chlorophyll needs to be removed from the final extract, or it will leave behind a dark pigment and bitter, grassy flavor. The process of removing chlorophyll, known as winterization, tends to remove some desirable compounds and degrade the overall quality of the oil.
  • Decarboxylation is required before or after extraction to produce activated CBD. This additional step can partially degrade the oil and remove beneficial compounds.
  • The danger and flammability of ethanol are still an issue.

oil close-up to depict ethanol used for CBD extraction

Supercritical and Subcritical CO2

This CBD extraction method uses carbon dioxide rather than an organic solvent to collect the desired compounds. Using high pressure and heat, the CO2 is turned supercritical – meaning it has the qualities of a liquid and a gas at the same time. The supercritical CO2 is used to extract the desired components of the raw plant material with the help of complex equipment. The CO2 is condensed back to liquid form and reused continually, producing almost no waste.

Pros:

  • Any residual CO2 will evaporate from the final product and yield a pure oil.
  • CO2 extraction is more environmentally friendly than solvent extraction as it produces far less waste.

Cons:

  • This process requires expensive equipment and gives a lower yield than other methods, both of which drive up the price point for the consumer.
  • An additional decarboxylation step is required to achieve activated CBD, which can partially burn off the desired compounds in the oil.
  • An extensive purification process is required to remove unwanted chlorophyll, plant fats and waxes that have been co-extracted, which can degrade the final processed oil and burn off beneficial terpenes and cannabinoids.

Thermal Extraction

Thermal extraction is the unique, clean and efficient method used by Altura Wellness to extract CBD. The process is begun by grinding the raw hemp plant material to increase the available surface area, allowing beneficial compounds both on the surface and within the plant to be accessed. The ground material is then briefly exposed to hot air, which causes the plant cells to combust and release vaporized oils, terpenes and flavonoids. The vapor is condensed from the air, collected and briefly washed with organic grade ethanol. This process removes undesirable polar compounds like chlorophyll, while leaving the beneficial cannabinoids within the oil. The ethanol is completely removed from the oil and collected to be used again. The finished oil is free from harmful solvents, tastes pure, and contains a full profile of beneficial plant compounds.

Benefits:

  • Rather than simply washing the surface of the plant material, this process allows the entire plant to be accessed, yielding a much greater profile of terpenes and cannabinoids.
  • Minimal handling, processing, and exposure to solvents leaves the oil fully in-tact with hardly any degradation.
  • Decarboxylation occurs in the process of extraction and winterization is not required, so there are no additional steps that potentially degrade the oil.
  • With an efficiency rate of 98% of cannabinoids collected, this process is much less wasteful than the others.
  • Higher efficiency and less processing allow us to provide a very high-quality oil at a low price point.
  • The facility we use is organic certified and the machines are ISO certified for safety.

Altura Wellness values your well-being and your right to understand what goes in your body. That’s why we always use the thermal extraction method to derive our CBD products. You can trust that our supplements are saturated with beneficial compounds and never contain harmful chemicals. Shop our selection of high-quality, affordable CBD products and discover for yourself the difference our method makes.

Altura Wellness high quality CBD oil after CBD extraction process