How is CBD oil made? 10 Steps to the Perfect Cannabidiol

How is CBD oil made? A 10 step guide to all things hemp and cannabis

Making CBD Oil

When it comes to making a delicious, effective, awesome (we could go on) CBD oil, there are some important questions you'll want to know and facts about the processes that can make all the difference to the quality of that little bottle you're buying.

Why should you be interested in quality? You've probably seen the recent reports of high street chains selling CBD with illegal amounts of THC and other CBD tinctures that contain no CBD at all! What's more, a 2020 study by the US FDA found that over 25% of all CBD products sold online are mislabelled. Spooky, isn't it. It hardly inspires confidence in the product, and we're firm believers that buying CBD doesn't have to be the Wild West of supplements. One of the big issues is that people often don't understand how their CBD is made. We're here to help with that.

In this article, the main questions you'll be able to answer are:
  • Is the hemp strain used high in CBD and low in THC?
  • How is hemp harvested?
  • How is CBD extracted?
  • What carrier oils can be used in CBD oils?
  • Why is independent testing necessary?

 

10 steps to making CBD Oil

1. Choosing hemp
2. Farming hemp
3. Harvesting and drying hemp
4. CBD Extraction
5. CBD purification & winterisation
6. Processing & heating CBD
7. Distilling for the entourage effect
8. Infusing with a carrier oil
9. Bottling CBD oil
10. Independent CBD testing

 

1. Choosing hemp

Illustration showing the compound THC

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound extracted from the hemp family of the Cannabis Sativa L. plant.

When choosing a hemp strain, varieties high in CBD and low in THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) are vital. Why is that? Namely that THC is a psychoactive compound and is legally controlled in the UK. It's this compound that creates the "high" of cannabis that brings with it the red eyes, the insatiable hunger and stoner-like euphoria that you've seen (and maybe laughed hysterically at) in Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies and Pineapple Express.

 

2. Farming hemp

Illustration of tractor farming hemp

Farmers are subject to a vast swathe of EU regulations to ensure the product is safe for consumption and grown according to sustainable principles when planting hemp.

These directives are hugely vital to ensure you're getting a safe and ethical product. One of the primary reasons is that the hemp plant is a bioaccumulator (science-speak for a plant that absorbs whatever chemicals are in the soil). As a result, the hemp plant can soak up concentrations of heavy metals and other nasty substances - it's even used in radioactive sites to clear the soil of contaminants. Still, as you can probably guess, this contaminates the plant, which is a no-go if you're consuming the product, hence the need for regulation.

 

3. Harvesting & drying hemp

Illustration showing drying hemp

Fast facts: hemp is an incredibly fast-growing crop. It takes only four months to reach full maturity, so it's usually planted in the spring and harvested in the autumn months. After harvesting, the hemp plants are hung upside down and air-dried for around four weeks. They're kept in a warm but dry environment to prevent mould or bacteria from growing on them as they dehydrate.

The CBD compound is found in the top parts of the plant (such as the flowers, leaves and stems, but it's mainly the first two that are suitable for making into CBD oil).

4. CBD Extraction

 The extraction process is how the hemp plant is turned into oil. Various types of solvents can be used to separate cannabinoids, and each impacts the quality of your CBD.

What methods are used to extract CBD?

Illustration showing CBD extraction from hemp

There are three main methods used for extracting CBD. These include:

CO2 Extraction

CO2 extraction uses carbon dioxide to produce a highly concentrated oil when the gas is put under high pressures in a low-temperature environment. This process transforms the gas into a liquid and passes it through the harvested cannabinoids and terpenes, resulting in the purest oil possible.

Ethanol Extraction

Ethanol is a type of alcohol used for extraction. As a polar solvent, it mixes with water to draw out water-soluble molecules and fatty cannabinoid compounds. The resulting dark liquid is a mixture of cannabis compounds and chlorophyll, which is filtered out. One issue with this filtration step is that it can exclude some of the cannabinoids, thus lowering the overall purity of the CBD oil.

Hydrocarbon Extraction

Hydrocarbon extraction uses solvents such as propane or butane to extract CBD oil. Although this is a cheaper and more straightforward process, the resulting oil is often inefficient and contains a higher concentration of the illegal compound THC and a lower strength of CBD.

Extraction methods: final verdict

CO2 extraction is one of the best methods for getting the best from CBD, and it's our choice. It allows us to make a potent CBD oil and keep the greater profile of the cannabis plant while ensuring a low THC content. However, this results in a higher price because of the need for expensive equipment and expert extractors.

 

5. CBD purification & winterisation

Illustration showing CBD and hemp winterisation

Purification, or winterisation, is an optional step that removes excess plant materials to improve CBD concentration in food-grade ethanol. As you might expect from the name, winterisation involves cooling the mixture to -20 degrees Celsius. As the plant fats and waxes are less soluble at this temperature, they can be filtered out while leaving the cannabinoids in the mixture. Once separated, the alcohol is then evaporated from the purified CBD liquid.

 

6. Processing & heating CBD

Illustration of lab equipment used for heating CBD

Decarboxylation is a big word for heating the ingredients. This is used to separate the carbon molecules from the cannabinoids, helping activate the compounds and increase bioavailability. Like any recipe, it's critical to heat the liquid at the right temperature. Too hot and the CBD oil is overcooked, and the compound is lost. Too cold, and bioavailability is reduced.

 

7. Distilling for the entourage effect

Illustration showing laboratory making CBD

Entourage CBD oils

To craft a CBD oil that offers high levels of bioavailability with all the necessary cannabinoids, we select from a range of CBD broad spectrum and CBD isolates that complement each other. This combination increases what is known as the 'The Entourage Effect.'

Want to know more about the Entourage effect? Read more here.

What are CBD broad spectrum, full spectrum and isolate? We've got you covered here. 

 

8. Infusing with a carrier oil

We mix the concentrated CBD entourage oil with a carrier oil. This acts as the delivery system for the CBD to your body, boosting bioavailability and ensuring you get the most benefits from the cannabinoids. We're a huge fan of MCT oil as our carrier oil. 

Why's that? Learn more about Carrier Oils here.

 

9. Bottling CBD oil

When bottling CBD oil, its crucial to protect the liquid against exposure to heat, light, and air. Each of these elements can cause the breakdown of natural cannabinoids like CBD.

We use an air-tight opaque glass bottle that blocks 100% of the sun's rays. This means that your product is protected from harmful UV light that can break down the CBD extract. And the box? That keeps it out of the light, while also keeps it looking cool. 

 

10. Independent CBD testing

Illustration showing microscope used for testing CBD

While the CBD oil industry is regulated, it's still in its early phases of reaching a level where every company is up to scratch. 

This is why third-party testing is so important to choosing a high-quality CBD oil. These labs test products to recognise any potential contaminants and find the actual percentages of CBD and THC concentrations within the product. Again, as with ours, you should find these reports on a company's website.


Congrats on your new-found knowledge!

Now you have the skinny on CBD production. From this, you should be able to see how there are so many precise elements to making a high-quality CBD oil that actually works. If you have any further questions, we'll be happy to answer them. Get in touch here


Further Reading

European Commission, Hemp Production in the EU https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/plants-and-plant-products/plant-products/hemp_en

Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online, Jama Network (2017), https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2661569

European Hemp Policy (2021) Health Europa, https://www.healtheuropa.eu/changing-european-hemp-policy/107188/

Hemp Cultivation in Europe, Hemp Industry Daily (2020), https://hempindustrydaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/hemp-in-europe-2020-FINAL.pdf

 

Find Your Vibe