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What is the CO2 Extraction Method for CBD?

by | Aug 3, 2021 | Blog Posts | 0 comments

Before tinctures and topicals must come extraction. There are many ways to remove CBD from hemp plants, but not all methods are made equally. This process will determine the quality of the end product and it could mean the difference between a safe and toxic CBD experience. Currently, one of the best ways to pull CBD from hemp is the CO2 extraction method.

Why should you care?

Because your health comes first. Contaminants can be laced within CBD if not properly extracted. With CO2, there are no worries about toxins.

The CO2 extraction method finds its roots in the food industry. It’s a popular way to isolate plant compounds from spices, herbs, and flowers for cooking. Due to its quick, precise process, this well-established method caught CBD manufacturers’ attention in recent years. The CO2 method uses pressurized carbon dioxide to remove cannabinoids from industrial hemp. It then draws out CBD and a host of other phytocompounds.  

Different Types of CO2 Extraction Methods 

There are three different types of CO2 extraction: supercritical, subcritical, and mid-critical. Most CBD manufacturers use the supercritical method but there are a few companies out there that will opt to use the subcritical, and ‘mid-critical’ methods. Each refers to the state of the CO2 while it’s being used to extract the plant compounds. 

Supercritical extraction occurs when CO2 is forced into a high-pressure, low-temperature state. This encourages the carbon dioxide to take on characteristics of both a gas and a liquid. While the CO2 is in this state, it is referred to as supercritical. When extracting CBD, the gas CO2 works to penetrate the plant matter as the liquid extracts the compounds. 

Subcritical CO2 extraction is similar to supercritical extraction. The key difference is that it uses low pressures and temperatures to extract plant matter rather than high pressure and low temperatures. This method isn’t as widely used as the supercritical method; likely because it requires more expensive equipment and it yields less CBD oil. 

Mid-critical CO2 extraction strikes a happy medium between supercritical and subcritical. Manufacturers will first use the subcritical extraction method to distill CBD and use that same plant matter to extract more CBD using supercritical CO2. These two extracts are combined into one product. This process is called the CO2 Total Extraction Process. This method is used by some companies but it’s still not as widely popular as the supercritical method. 

How Does Supercritical CO2 Extraction Work?

As mentioned above, supercritical extraction is the most widely used method among the three types of CO2 extraction processes. Although there are some variations in how different companies utilize this method, the process follows the same basic steps loosely, give or take some rearranging of what part of the process comes first. 

CO2 Extraction machine graphic

Most CO2 extraction machines have three separate chambers. The first chamber is where CO2 is pressurized and cooled into a supercritical liquid. The second chamber houses the plant material. Finally, the third chamber collects the finished product as well as the gaseous CO2 for future use. Some manufacturers start the extraction process with gaseous CO2 while others start with liquid CO2.    

Essentially, the cooled and pressurized CO2 runs through a sealed chamber containing raw hemp. It then works to dissolve the membranes of small hair-like glands called trichomes. This allows the supercritical carbon dioxide to pull out all of the active plant compounds. It also extracts larger molecules such as chlorophyll, waxes, omega-3, and lipids. When the process is done, manufacturers are left with a dense, peanut butter-like substance. This product will then go through a winterizing process to isolate the CBD and other cannabinoids. Again, this process may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Benefits and Drawbacks of CO2 Extraction

CO2 extraction is a favorite among professional CBD manufacturers. There are tons of benefits to this method. As a steadfast, established process in the food industry, there was already a solid base of knowledge around how to best extract compounds from an array of plants. It’s proven to be an efficient, quick way to produce CBD oil. 

Here are a few more benefits of the CBD CO2 extraction method:

  • Safer for manufacturers. Isn’t explosive or toxic.  
  • Better for the planet. CO2 is reusable and doesn’t create waste.
  • Most efficient and quick way to manufacture CBD. 
  • Produces a pure, high-quality end product.    

While there are a lot of great benefits to the CO2 extraction method, this won’t be a viable fit for all CBD companies. It’s an expensive, complex process. The machinery must be operated by qualified personnel. For all of these reasons, CO2 extraction is usually only attainable for professional, large-scale operations. 

Choose CO2 Extracted CBD 

CBD users can benefit from CO2 extraction too. While some processes such as solvent extraction can leave behind impurities, CO2 extraction yields the purest possible end product. It also draws out a significant amount of cannabinoids and terpenes. That lends well to users looking to take advantage of the entourage effect. If you’re shopping for CBD, you should lean towards companies that use the CO2 extraction method for the best experience. 

If you’re looking for a credible, affordable company to shop CBD, look no further than Peace River. We use CO2 extraction to avoid residual solvents so you can rest assured that you’re using the purest possible products. Browse our collection today