Not all CBD extracts are created equal. CBD extraction methods differ in safety, efficiency, eco-friendliness, and in the number of other beneficial compounds that can be extracted from the plant. CBD’s purity and efficacy can depend greatly on how it’s derived. This can cause consumers to have vastly different experiences on what they wrongly assume is a commodity product. Not only can CBD be extracted in a number of ways, but post-extraction processing can also impact final product composition and quality.


Carbon Dioxide Extraction

CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) is one of the more popular ways to extract CBD oil and is utilized in many food extraction applications. This system uses high pressure CO2 to absorb plant oils, terpenes, and other compounds. The CO2-cannabinoid combination is then depressurized where the CO2 returns to a gas, leaving the extracted oil. When done correctly, CO2 extraction can provide high-purity cannabinoid extracts. However, due to equipment expense and skill curve, this isn’t always the case. In order to be CO2 extracted, the plant material must also be dried. Water left in the plant can cause tremendous process and product quality issues. This drying process is costly, time consuming and can cause large losses in terpenes, a useful compound responsible for flavor, aroma, and potential health benefits.


Ethanol Extraction

Ethanol extraction is another common extraction method used across the food and nutraceutical industries. Using high-grade grain alcohol (ethanol), CBD and other cannabinoids are extracted from the plant. This can be done warm or cold and is faster than CO2 extraction. This process creates CBD in an alcohol solution which must then be separated, by evaporation of the alcohol. In this evaporation, terpenes and other beneficial compounds can be lost, and the extraction procedure removes the potentially beneficial cannabis waxes. It is also critical to remove all the residual solvent to not have unwanted alcohol in the final product. Like CO2, the plant material must also be dried.


Hydrocarbon Extraction

Chemicals such as butane, hexane, or other hydrocarbons are also effective solvents for CBD extraction. A liquid solvent is poured through the plant material to extract terpenes and cannabinoids with high speed and efficiency. This solvent can then be evaporated in a vacuum oven. Hydrocarbon extraction is easier and cheaper than many extraction methods, but it has drawbacks. Many hydrocarbons can be difficult to find in the highest purity, leading to potential contaminants in the product. It can also be difficult to remove 100% of the hydrocarbons from the final product, leading to residual solvent in the oil.


Oil-Based Infusion Extraction

Many home growers and producers still employ oil infusion to extract CBD oil. It’s a simple “like dissolves like” process that can be accomplished either through pressure or temperature with oils such as olive oil or coconut oil. In the process using temperature, there can be unwanted chemistry in the oil. Also, being a pure oil system, any desirable water-soluble components are not extracted and left behind.


Water-Based (The Evolution of CBD)

One of the earliest extraction methods of cannabis was a crude water-based method where ice was used in agitation to knock the oil-containing trichomes off of the plant, often referred to as “bubble” hash. These tiny oil sacs knocked off the biomass were then recovered using filter bags. The pure trichomes could then be used “as-is” or pressed, with heat, to recover the oil inside. This is considered an artisanal method, as it produces a terpene-rich product, but can only be done at small scale.

The newest and most innovative method uses water with cavitation equipment to extract plant oils. This method has a tremendous advantage in that the plant can be purified fresh without drying, leading to maximum recovery of compounds like terpenes. Because there is also no excessive heating or drying, the acidic form of cannabinoids, such as CBDA, can also be recovered in high concentrations. However, the water-based methods lack a natural pasteurization “kill” step where bacteria or molds present on the plants in the field are naturally remediated. Therefore, a step must be added to assure product safety from a microbial perspective.


Post-Extraction Processing

The preceding techniques produce CBD oil with other plant constituents, often referred to as “crude.” Many manufacturers use one or more of the following secondary processes to refine the oil. Although these processes maximize the desired cannabinoids, they also remove or alter beneficial compounds and, therefore, must be conducted with skill and precision control.


Winterizing oil removes fats and waxes to produce pure CBD. After extracting the oil, it is blended with 200-proof alcohol. The alcohol thins the crude oil, allowing the targeted portions to dissolve while the unwanted parts congeal and freeze. The mixture is then frozen. Fats and other materials are filtered out. Oil and alcohol are mixed in paper-filtered jars. CBD oil goes through the alcohol solution while the filter captures the frozen portions. After filtering out the fats and waxes, it can be heated to the boiling point of alcohol, which is lower than the boiling point of CBD oil. As a result, the alcohol evaporates, leaving CBD oil.

Decarboxylation: What Is CBDA Versus CBD?

CBDA is the acidic precursor of CBD that is found natively in the plant. CBDA can “decarboxylate” or convert to CBD when it is cured, dried, or heated and the molecule loses a carbon dioxide group. Fresh cannabis is typically high in CBDA which is then often lost to CBD conversion during drying, extraction, and post-processing. Burning converts CBDA to CBD, so you can’t consume CBDA or other acidic cannabinoids via smoking. CBD and CBDA are non-psychoactive and don’t produce marijuana’s “high,” but both have potential wellness uses. Cannabinoids are theorized to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. Different cannabinoids have the potential to interact with different receptors, each highly specific to small molecular differences, and thus CBDA would stimulate a different response than CBD.


Short-path distillation refines CBD oil and uses CBD oil’s varying boiling points for purification. Short route distillation heats CBD oil slowly until flavonoids, terpenoids, and impurities boil off. In addition, vacuums are sometimes employed to separate low-boiling vapors. The vapors move via a distillation tube, condense, and drip into a separate container. The process continues until only pure CBD oil remains. This allows an oil to be “fractionated” or deconstructed into individual components, however without precision temperature control there is the potential of decomposition of some of the desirable compounds or decarboxylation of acidic cannabinoids.

Sustainable Processes

Cannabis is a natural agricultural product. In the growth process, it captures CO2 and has also been shown to be beneficial to soil health. As a renewable resource, and in addition to its tremendous potential health benefits, the plant has numerous uses in many other industries. Although CBD extraction is typically only conducted on a small portion of the plant, the remaining biomass can have tremendous value as fiber, construction materials, animal feed/bedding, compost or in biofuel production.

embodygreen takes sustainability seriously, and has taken many steps to make a product that is better for you and better for the planet. Chemical pesticides are eliminated by growing plants using organic practices. Then, the water-based CBD purification process eliminates hazardous waste by using water instead of chemical solvents. Used plant material is even plowed back into the fields to minimize waste and sustainably bring nutrients back into the earth. embodygreen also participates in 1% for the Planet to directly tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental issues.


embodygreen’s Water-Based Extraction Method

embodygreen uses patented technology to process fresh cannabis using a water-based method instead of solvents to retain the highest level of terpenes and cannabinoids in the acidic form with whole plant CBD+CBDA. 

Click to learn more about products made with whole plant CBD+CBDA