What are the Main CBD Extraction Processes?

Mar 15, 2021

There are numerous factors that play a huge role in the overall quality of a CBD product, ranging from how long it has been sitting on the shelf to where the hemp plant was sourced from.  Another factor that’s commonly overlooked is the extraction method that was used to create a hemp extract.

What Does Extraction Mean?

When talking about extraction, we are discussing the process of lifting the desirable compounds of the hemp plant away from the raw plant material.  If you’re using any type of CBD product that isn’t flower or a concentrate, then you are using a hemp extract.  Hemp extract is used to produce tinctures, edibles, capsules, topicals, vape oils, and other types of products that do not contain any raw plant material.

Hemp extract is beneficial because it blends easily with other ingredients, while allowing companies to create different concentrations and strengths of pure hemp compounds.  The means used to produce the extract can differ from company to company, as there are various ways to extract the compounds out of the plant material in its raw state.

Why is the Extraction Method So Important?

Extracting compounds from raw plant material is a practice that dates back thousands of years.  Because extracts are so versatile and give us an easy way to dose ourselves with desirable compounds, we have been coming up with new and creative ways to create extracts since ancient times. 

But, as technology has gotten more advanced over the years, we have come up with more efficient means for doing so, which yield higher-quality products overall.  Basically, some extraction methods are more suitable than others in terms of the quality level that they yield. 

Now, we will get into the specifics.


A hemp extract should be extremely stable, meaning that the compounds maintain their structural integrity so that they don’t easily degrade and break down due to different kinds of exposures, which causes them to lose their potency.  Some extraction methods are harsher than others, which can result in destabilized hemp compounds.


Some extraction methods rely on additives to lift the compounds from the plant material, and some do not.  Additives such as certain solvents can disrupt the purity level of the hemp extract, causing it to have less-than-optimal purity levels when it makes its way into a formula.


Bioavailability is a more complex factor that refers to how easily and efficiently the compounds absorb into the body.  Factors like stability and purity play a role in bioavailability, as do the levels of compounds successfully extracted.

Why is the CO2 Extraction Method Considered by Many in Our Industry to Be the Golden Standard?

By and large, the CO2 extraction method is considered the best method for creating a hemp extract, at least according to manufacturers.  CO2 extraction involves a three-chamber process that relies on pressurized carbon dioxide to lift the desirable compounds away gently but thoroughly from the plant material.

The process begins by placing the hemp plant material in one chamber, and the CO2 in another.  Then, the CO2 is pushed into the chamber containing the hemp material.  The third chamber collects the resulting oil, which is the hemp extract.

This method is considered the best because it yields the most stable product due to its gentle nature and maintains ideal purity levels, as it does not rely on chemical solvents that enter the end product.

The Other Common Types of Extraction

Now, there are other manufacturers out there that have their products extracted using these methods.


Solvent-based extraction involves running a specific type of solvent over the plant material to force its compounds away from the plant.  Solvents commonly used include butane, isopropyl and ethanol.  This was the most commonly used method before CO2 extraction took over in recent years.

Solvent-based methods are now widely regarded as inferior for a few reasons: 

  1. Highly dangerous due to the flammable nature of this method. 
  2. They do not yield high-quality products compared to those that rely on CO2. 
  • For one thing, the solvents have a way of destabilizing the compounds, causing them to degrade at a faster rate. 
  • Secondly, solvent-based methods introduce impurities into the final product. 


The other method that’s commonly used is an oil-based method, which is in fact the oldest method around.  This method involves a simple process that can be done at home.  Simply place the raw hemp material into a pan of some kind and gently cook it in the oil of your choice at a low heat.  This allows the compounds to separate from the plant in a slow and controlled manner, so that you end up with a compound-rich oil.

The reason why oil-based extraction is not recommended for companies is because of how unstable the end result is.  Hemp oils made this way degrade quickly, which greatly reduces their shelf life. 

Furthermore, it’s harder to prevent impurities from entering the finished product.  However, you can do an oil extraction at home with raw hemp flower, as it is safe and easy.

Determining How a Hemp Extract was Made

Now that you know about the different extraction methods commonly used by hemp companies, you’ll want to apply this information to your CBD purchases moving forward. So, how can you know how a hemp extract was produced by a particular company?

Ideally, a CBD company will make this information widely available on their website.  If you cannot find it in their FAQ section or their product descriptions, you are free to contact them yourselves.  You can also try looking at lab reports.  If there is a high impurity level in a company’s products, this may be from subpar extraction techniques.

Overall, How CBD Was Extracted Really Does Make a Difference.

Ultimately, the best extraction method used by CBD companies today is the CO2 extraction method, which maintains the most chemically stable and pure product possible, thus enhancing overall bioavailability.  If you want the best CBD product for your money, we recommend that you buy from a company that uses this procedure.

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