How CBD is made - A beginners guide.
Cannabis contains over 110 Cannabinoids - one of which is CBD, the second most prominent chemical found in all Cannabis plants. Most CBD products are derived from Hemp (A type of Cannabis that have a high concentration of Cannabidiol with less than 0.3% THC). This allows users to experience its benefits without the 'high' associated with Marijuana. For these reasons It is legally sold and consumed around the UK and many other countries. Day by day new forms of CBD are being produced - all of which posses different properties. In this article we will discuss some of these manufacturing processes.
The production of Hemp is where we begin. In order to start the cultivation process, farmers must obtain a permit that allows them to do so. This ensures the particular strain of Cannabis complies with EU laws and regulations. Once this is established, cuttings are usually taken to ensure each plant shares the same genetics. They are then planted and nurtured until they are ready to harvest.
To produce a high quality crop, farmers must calculate when to plant and harvest based on seasons. October is usually the month in which plants are cut down and processed. This usually correlates with the number of hours of daylight in each season - Summer and Spring have many more hours of light compared to Autumn and Winter so farmers like to harvest as the seasons are changing.
On the other hand, using indoor growing technology, it is possible to cultivate and harvest Hemp at will by modulating growing environments and light cycles. This is often a far more complicated & expensive approach for farmers, but many would argue the results are superior.
Once harvested, the plants are stripped of their excess material and left to dry. This removes any residual moisture present in the plant. The Cannabinoid profiles are also believed to develop during this time - This is commonly known as 'Curing' and can take up to 4 weeks. The Parts of the plant rich in CBD and Terpenes (often the flowers) are then separated and broken down. This is the valuable material used to produce the best quality products.
This is the process in which CBD is extracted from the rich dried plant matter above. For manufactures, it is important to optimise purity whilst preserving the valuable ingredients such as Terpenes, Flavanoids and Cannabinoids - It is usually done in a controlled laboratory by professionals to ensure the end product is of high quality.
Below we will describe the three of the most popular methods used:
This process requires pressurised carbon dioxide to remove CBD & other ingredients from the plant. Co2 acts like a solvent at certain temperatures and pressures without the hazards associated with conventional solvents such as butane. First the Co2 is turned into liquid by reducing temperature to below -20 degrees Celsius and increasing the atmospheric pressure to 5.1. The temperatures and pressures are then altered simultaneously to form a 'super-critical' product - A substance that has the characteristics of both gas and liquid. This 'super-critical' Co2 is then passed through a chamber containing the plant matter, stripping it of its content. The substances are then split - The full spectrum CBD Oil gathers in the collection chamber, whilst the Co2 is recycled.
Despite being one of the most common extraction methods, it requires extremely sophisticated & expensive equipment. It also holds the most value due to the quality of extract produced - The final product contains all the important ingredients (CBD, Terpenes, Flavanoids & fatty acids).
TRADITIONAL SOLVENT EXTRACTION:
Solvents and Alcohols such as Ethanol are the most common solvents used for this type of extraction. Much like Co2 extraction, the solvent runs through the Plant matter stripping it of its active components. The residual solvent is then 'purged' from the mixture using heat - This process causes the Excess solvents to evaporate, leaving behind a Full spectrum Concentrate.
This is one of the most dangerous ways of extracting CBD due to the high flammability of the solvents used. It is also possible for potentially harmful substances to remain present in the end product. However, If done correctly a high quality product can be achieved.
SIMPLE OIL INFUSION:
Cannabinoids such as CBD are soluble in Fats & Oils. This allows Oil to be used in a similar way to solvents without the need to remove or refine the end product. Consequently, this is classed as the easiest/safest way to extract CBD & other Cannabinoids from plant material.
The first step of this process is of paramount importance - Decarboxylation. The Plant material is slowly heated until it reaches between 120 and 140 degrees Celsius for up to an hour.Put simply, this converts CBDa to CBD and THCa to THC. This occurs due to the removal of an extra Carboxyl ring or group attached to their molecular chain. This process is particularly important as it activates the Cannabinoids that would otherwise go to waste. Once this is completed, the decarboxylated plant material is then added to the Oil (Usually MCT or Hemp seed Oil). The mixture is then re-heated to 100 degrees Celsius for up to two hours - This allows the Cannabinoids to bind with the Oil.
Whilst this is the safest and easiest way to making Cannabis Oils, it is the least efficient & effective.