CBD stands for Cannabidiol. It’s one of over a hundred compounds produced in the resinous flowers of the industrial hemp plant. The gooey resin is concentrated on the dense clusters of flowers (commonly called buds) of the plant. These are covered by tiny, structures known as trichomes that protect the plant from heat and UV radiation. They’re glandular, and create a treasure trove of medicinal compounds, including CBD, CBG, CBC and various aromatic terpenes.
The trichome oil also has antifungal, antibacterial, and insecticidal properties that repel pests and predators. The stickiness of the resin also helps by trapping insects.
And contrary to what some people believe, CBD isn’t the compound that makes you feel “high” – that’s called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD is non-addictive, so you don’t need to worry about developing a “habit” from its use.
CBD oil comes from these trichomes of the hemp flower. However, there are many different strains or varietals of the plant, and the amount of CBD in the flowers depends on which strain you harvest.
In 2018, the federal government passed the 2018 Farm Bill that allowed farmers in the US to grow industrial hemp, which is legally defined as Cannabis with less than 0.03 percent THC by dry weight. There are various CBD rich strains grown in the US with the sole intent to extract the oil to produce consumable products like tinctures, edibles, vapes and topicals.
The purpose of this extraction is to make the CBD and other beneficial components of the flower available in a highly concentrated form. Because the cannabinoids are naturally oily, separating the CBD from the plant material creates a thick, potent oil.
CBD is soluble in both oil and alcohol. Thus, the process of extraction usually uses a chemical that can dissolve an oil or alcohol-based compound. These chemicals include supercritical CO2, ethanol, hydrocarbons like butane, and common olive oil.
CO2 extraction is one of the safest methods, and it’s the one most commonly used commercially. Under high pressure and fluctuating temperature, CO2 becomes a liquid which can flush out the active ingredients of the plant matter.
This method is very effective because each compound in the oil can only be extracted by CO2 under very specific temperatures and pressures. This means you can fine-tune the process to extract pure CBD instead of a chemical stew.
Ethanol extraction has been used in many cultures for centuries. In 1854, the US Pharmacopeia recommended ethanol-based tinctures of “Indian hemp” to treat many ailments (including anxiety, depression, pain, and even muscle spasm).
Until 1937, when the Marijuana Tax Act was passed, these tinctures were commonly sold and used by the public, and in recent years, ethanol extraction has once again become popular.
Today, food-grade grain alcohol is used to create very potent, high-quality CBD-rich oil suitable for oral ingestion.
Hydrocarbon extraction (such as butane, hexane, or propane) has some major advantages as well as disadvantages compared to the other methods.
When done properly, this technique is very effective at separating cannabinoids and terpenes from unwanted plant components like chlorophyll.
However, the hydrocarbons are highly flammable. The potent concentrates of this extraction method, which are inhaled or “vaped,” can be very harmful to the user, especially if they have compromised immune systems.