CBD Extraction Methods: A Comprehensive Guide | NuLeaf Naturals

CBD Extraction Methods: A Comprehensive Guide

cbd extraction methods comprehensive guide

The use of CBD is now widely accepted, and the powerful compound is skyrocketing in popularity. Over the last four years, CBD use has increased 50% according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

One of the factors supporting its growth is the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp products. Now, you can find CBD in different products, such as tinctures, edibles, vapes, and topical lotions.

An important part of processing CBD products is extraction. The proper extraction method will retain CBD’s potency, separating it from the plant and creating a more concentrated product without contaminants.

In this blog post, we’ll look at the various CBD extraction processes and how they significantly affect the final quality of your CBD products.

Understanding CBD

Cannabidiol or CBD, is the second most abundant active compound in the cannabis plant. It can be derived directly from hemp plants or manufactured in a laboratory. A specific characteristic of CBD that separates it from other active compounds in marijuana is its non-psychoactive nature. Unlike its cousin THC, CBD does not cause a “high” by itself.

It should be noted that the field of CBD is still evolving, and further research is needed for conclusive findings.

Overview of CBD Extraction Methods

CBD is one part that’s available in a myriad of hemp compounds, that’s why it needs further processing to isolate the final product. There are several methods of extracting CBD, each with its benefits and downsides.

In general, there are four different methods of extraction: CO2, Ethanol, Hydrocarbon, and Olive Oil extractions. Manufacturers will choose one based on efficiency, costs, results, and other factors. In this section, we’ll give you some insights into each method to show you which will result in the best CBD quality.

Detailed Exploration of Extraction Methods

CO2 Extraction

Extractions generally use natural solvents to separate desired compounds like terpenes or CBD from others and carbon dioxide, CO2, is the solvent in this particular method. To make CO2 a powerful solvent, you need to expose it to extreme temperature and pressure.

There are two different CO2 solvent extraction methods: subcritical and supercritical. Subcritical is when a lower temperature is used and CO2 is in liquid form, while supercritical requires a higher temperature and CO2 is in gas form.

CO2 extraction systems results in pure and eco-friendly concentrates, leading to high-quality products. It’s a slower process and needs certain conditions, which is why it’s more expensive and requires skilled technicians.

At NuLeaf Naturals, this is our method of choice, because we believe purity is one of the most important aspects of high-quality CBD and it should be the industry standard.

Ethanol Extraction

Another method that’s used in the industry is ethanol extraction. There are two different ethanol extraction methods: cold and warm.

The warm ethanol extraction is generally used for smaller batches, as it can quickly wash the plant material to pull the compounds. The cold extraction method works by freezing undesirable materials to pull the desirable compound into ethanol.

Ethanol extraction is a simpler, more affordable, and faster method compared to CO2. On the other hand, it can dissolve other water-soluble compounds such as chlorophyll. In the end, the extract is not as pure as the ones from CO2 extraction.

Hydrocarbon Extraction

In hydrocarbon extraction, you’ll use certain hydrocarbons as your solvent. Butane is the most popular solvent in the industry as it has a low boiling point. The solvent is combined with the plant material to strip CBD and isolate it.

Hydrocarbon extraction is an efficient, low-cost, technique that gives out high CBD concentration. But it’s also flammable and could lead to residual solvents. There are also regulatory challenges and limitations that you need to check before conducting this method.

Olive Oil Extraction

Olive oil is another well-known solvent in CBD extraction for DIY practitioners. To use this method, you’ll need to grind the hemp to a fine powder and heat it inside olive oil. The heat will pull the bioactive compounds into the olive oil, ready to be used.

It’s a very simple method that you can easily do at home. However, it leads to lower CBD yield, as it is harder to separate other bioactive compounds and the CBD will have a shorter shelf life compared to other techniques.

Alternative CBD Extraction Methods

Aside from the four methods mentioned above, there are other alternative techniques that you can use: dry ice extraction and steam distillation.

In dry ice extraction, you’ll need to grind the hemp into dust before mixing it with dry ice in a container. The cannabinoids will freeze and become brittle, so it’s easily separated from the plant matter by sifting. It’s easier and can be done at home, but results in lower-quality products.

In steam distillation, the plant matter will be put into a distillation tank and then mixed with water and heat. The reaction will create a purely distilled full-spectrum CBD oil. It’s simple, but the technique may damage the plant. It’s also less efficient and requires a high volume of hemp to obtain a decent amount of CBD oil.

Choosing the Right Extraction Method

Choosing the right extraction method depends on your specific objective. DIY and at-home manufacturers may want a cost-effective way, but industrial-scale producers might require higher yields with better quality. Here are some factors to consider:

Product quality – How pure do you want your product to be? If you need high-quality products, you should go with CO2 extraction for the purest products.

Production scale – How much product are you planning to produce? If it’s for personal use, you can opt for simpler techniques. On the other hand, you’ll need more efficient techniques like CO2 or ethanol extractions for industrial-scale productions.

Budget – How much are you willing to spend as your initial capital? Extractions in industrial scale proportion will require a higher budget compared to techniques that you can do at home.


Extraction is an important step in determining your CBD product quality. Choosing the right extraction method means taking into account efficiency, product yield, product purity, and costs into consideration. Study each method carefully before selecting your technique to achieve the most suitable results.

If it’s just an at-home experiment, you can opt for simpler techniques. But if you’re looking for high-quality products with high purity, you can check out NuLeaf’s CO2-extracted CBD products instead!

CBD Extraction Methods: FAQs

What extraction method is best for CBD?

The best extraction method for CBD is CO2 extraction. This method is a selective extraction technique that results in the highest purity of CBD. Although it’s expensive and slower, it creates the best end product in terms of quality.

What solvents are used for CBD extraction?

Common solvents that are used for CBD extraction are CO2, ethanol, hydrocarbon, and olive oil. Each has its characteristics, which determine its efficiency, cost, and purity.

How do I know which solvent to use for extraction?

Choose the right solvent based on your needs. Determine your priority, whether it’s cost, yield, purity, or efficiency. Cross-reference your requirements with the pros and cons we’ve listed on this list and make your decision.