We live in a health conscious world.  No doubt about it.  The vitamin supplement market alone is worth over $50 billion with growth conjectures quintupling that figure.  A growing chunk of that is stemming  from industrial hemp derived CBD oil (pun intended).  However, the title “Hemp” can be frightening to many who wish to avoid a marijuana, or any kind of, high.  Luckily, CBD oil lacks psychoactive properties and for this reason is available for purchase nationally.  This begs the questions: exactly what is CBD oil and how is CBD oil made?


CBD Oil refers to the concentration of the cannabidiol (CBD) molecule, either with or without a solvent base.  Cannabidiol is a naturally occurring organic compound found in the stalks, leaves, and buds of cannabis sativa plants; both male and female varieties.  Since the tall, non-flowering male hemp plants mature with less than .3% THC content, cultivation and distribution of hemp and hemp products is federally legal.  THC, popular for its euphoric highs, is federally illegal still.  Since 2014, with the passing of the Hemp Farm Bill, states are now growing quality industrial hemp.  Through various extraction methods, hemp matter is concentrated and distilled creating CBD and/or CBDA rich oils and extracts.  These are then put into pills, gummies, or vaporizers.  Each extraction method is unique, many companies keep their proprietary techniques secret, yet all are worth investigating.

How is CBD Oil Made? One Plant, Various Techniques

The surprisingly verdant cold pressed hemp oil.

Cold Press

Cold pressing produces oil in its most natural form.  Per cold pressing standards, the extraction cannot involve heat (beyond the natural friction of the pressing).  Furthermore, no isolates are present to separate and concentrate any compounds.  The oils will have a rich herbal aroma, full terpenes (flavor and aroma compounds), and all the chlorophyll from the plants.  Very green and aromatic.  These, due to the large quantity of organic compounds, have the shortest shelf life.  Furthermore, the “green” taste is unpalatable for some.  They also lack the most accessible form of CBD.   In order for CBD to be active, it must go through decarboxylation from its naturally occurring CBDA form, the acidic precursor to CBD.  Usually heat application takes care of this conversion.  CBDA is healthful in its own right, but CBD is more prolific in both studies and applications.


The same process for all extraction methods, however with heat introduction somewhere down the line.  Some “toast” the plant matter first, to around 200 degrees (F) to induced carboxylation within the plant matter.  When this takes place, the CBDA molecule loses a carboxyl group and releases CO2, becoming the active CBD form.  As with heating any organic matter, the breakdown causes minor degradations of the other organic compounds and nutrients, so the lowest possible heat for the least amount of time is ideal for yielding the widest spectrum of phytonutrients, terpenes, and cannabinoids.

An extractor carefully works.

Hydrocarbon Extraction

Hydrocarbon extraction involves a solvent, usually hexane, propane or butane, to isolate the valuable compounds.  CBD in this case.  This requires extremely expensive lab equipment under professional supervision.  These solvents burn off at a low temperature, so upon ingestion, leaving only a highly concentrated an extremely potent CBD extract.   This type of CBD oil’s most popular consumption method is through vaporizing.  The most popular type of hydrocarbon extract, BHO (Butane Hash Oil) became popular through the cultural phenomenon surrounding dabbing.

CO2 Extraction

Supercritical CO2 extraction employs the same principles of Hydrocarbon extraction but uses carbon dioxide that has been super pressurized and chilled to a liquid temperature.  These extracts are considered to be the most pure because solvent is just CO2.  This process, as with hydrocarbon extraction also requires heat application or pre-decarboxylated herbs to receive the active CBD compounds, not just the CBDA.  As such, like its concentrate counterparts, CO2 extraction ingestion also comes mainly via vaporizing.

What to chose?

With so many CBD choices, it’s important to make sure you are getting the correct product you are looking for.  Read the ingredients and make sure you see it is an active hemp or CBD concentration.  It may take some trial and error to find the most pleasing supplement or concentration that works for your body.  And of course, always consult with you primary care provider before beginning and new health or wellness regime.


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