CBD Extraction Process: How does it work?

CBD starts as a plant, but how does it become the oil that is used in so many beneficial products, from topicals to supplements? CBD oils are extracted similarly to0 many other essential oils. There are several ways to extract the oils from the plant leaves.

CO2 Extraction How CBD Extraction works

One way to extract CBD oil from the plant leaf is to use CO2 extraction. This process uses highly pressurized CO2 under extremely cold temperatures. The pressurized, also called supercritical, CO2 is put into a chamber with the hemp leaves. The supercritical CO2 breaks down the hemp leaves, separating out the oil.  Then in another chamber the CO2 is evaporated leaving behind the pure oil.  CO2 extraction allows settings to control specific concentrations of CBD so that the oil can be extracted according to its intended use.

The Project CBD suggests that CO2 extraction is one of the safest and most efficient ways (extracting more CBD from smaller amounts of hemp) to make CBD oil, however it requires expensive equipment and some know-how. It also requires a significant amount of time for each batch.

Steam Distillation

Steam Distillation has been one of the most common ways to separate oils from plant materials for a long time, and is often used in extracting essential oils. Steam distillation is easier to set up and use, but the Project CBD points out that it takes significantly more hemp to achieve the same concentrations as CO2 extractions, and if the temperature of the steam is not closely monitored, it can damage the properties of the CBD oil, rendering it less useful in its applications. 


Using hydrocarbons is another method for extracting CBD oil. Using these solvents can be advantageous because their low boiling point allows the CBD oil to be extracted at a temperature that leaves terpenes in tact. Terpenes are found in high levels in cannabis and may enhance the effects of CBD. Medical News Today cited a study that epilepsy patients who took CBD-rich extracts, rather than purified CBD, experienced a greater decrease in symptoms with fewer side effects. This study suggests that terpenes may play a role in CBD working more effectively with the body.

Quality CBD

How CBD Extraction works

If you are purchasing a CBD product, no matter how it is extracted, you should look for a certificate of analysis, also called a COA. This analysis will tell you how concentrated the CBD oil is, and the levels of THC found in the product. This COA will indicate that you are purchasing a high quality CBD product. There are pros and cons to all

types of of extraction methods, ultimately you want to use a high-quality CBD oil product for the most beneficial results.