Methods of CBD Extraction, Storage and Tincture Blending

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22 October, 2019

Research showing CBD has a huge potential to make an impact in the medical market is driving the industry forward quickly. It’s not unoften we talk to people who have made significant investments to enter the market quickly but aren’t thinking steps ahead. It’s hard to image a cultivator with plants in the ground and no plans as to what they’ll do with the biomass, but it happens. Beyond the biomass, there needs to a plan for extraction or trimming and then storage, because hemp and CBD do have shelf lives.

In order to “extract” all the benefits of CBD and easily transport volume, it’s most often first extracted. This means removing the CBD from the plant flowers in order to put into products such as tinctures and topical creams. So let’s jump right in!

In this post –


The extraction process concentrates the hemp into the cannabinoids which work with the body’s endocannabinoid system. Meaning that CBD works with the natural system rather than being an unnatural foreign substance. 

Just like the farmers that perfected their own methods of cultivation, the CBD processing industry has various methods of extraction. Many questions come from learning that there are different ways to extract cannabinoids. What are the safest and most effective ways to extract and isolate CBD? In all the processes we’ll discuss it is important to know that there are five major areas to address:

  • Solvent – What will be used to separate the cannabinoids from the biomass
  • Design – The equipment needs to be designed to handle the solvent being used
  • Purpose – The equipment needs to be constructed for its intended use
  • Facility – They must be appropriate for the extracted solvent
  • Consumption – The solvent should be safe for consumption by humans

ETHANOL AS A SOLVENT FOR CBD EXTRACTION

This may be the oldest form of extraction. CBD can be stripped from the plant by soaking it in ethanol or a high profile alcohol. Not only is this an efficient way of extracting CBD from the hemp plant, but it’s also classified as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) by the FDA. This method is great for creating a full spectrum of hemp extracts and tinctures as it aims to extract all cannabinoids, not just the CBD.

HOW DOES ETHANOL EXTRACTION WORK?

Soaking certain materials in alcohol can lead to a change in their biochemistry. When alcohol is applied and left for a certain amount of time, it draws out the cannabinoids like CBD and other compounds of the plant that are also beneficial. It is important to use a high-proof as it allows minimal damage of the cannabinoids, and suspending them in a liquid that prevents them from damage like oxidation. 

The processing for ethanol extraction does require more work and involves the use of several different methods of refinement and filtration. Although if it is done properly, then there is no need for winterization, the process to remove undesirable elements which were also extracted from the plant. For those just starting in the industry, this process is easily scalable and obtainable at a small scale.

CO2 AS A METHOD FOR EXTRACTING CBD FROM HEMP

Technology continues to advance and the cannabis and hemp industries, in many ways, are driving it. The most advanced and widely used method of extraction is CO2 Extraction. This is a process that uses pressurized carbon dioxide to pull the desired photochemical from a plant. This comes in two forms: subcritical and supercritical. Both yield results based on temperature and pressure.

HOW DOES CO2 EXTRACTION WORK?

Subcritical: This method has a lower solvency power which leads to pulling mostly lighter oils and leave behind most resins, paraffin, and waxes. This process is not as common as supercritical CO2 extractions as extraction takes longer and yields are generally lower. Relative to the ‘sub’ name this extraction is cold, this makes it very effective in extracting temperature-sensitive volatile oils and terpenes.

Supercritical: When talking about the most commonly used extraction this one tends to be the one that comes to mind. Through this method it allows you to receive a completely different end-product with more cannabinoids to add further health-promoting properties. With a stronger solvency power, it also makes the extraction time faster, through high temperatures and pressures.

Supercritical CO2 extraction has allowed the extract makers to isolate, capture and scientifically research cannabinoids. With every benefit, however, there is a drawback through this method. Although it lets you quickly pull out a lot of specific compounds when extracting you could potentially extract chlorophyll as well.

CO2 extraction is very selectable and tunable for different molecular weights and leaves no residual solvent. With minimal facility safety requirements and costs, automation is easy and available.

WATER CAN ALSO BE USED FOR THE EXTRACTION OF CBD

Water, the universal solvent. Some manufacturers use water vapor or even ice to extract cannabinoids from hemp. This is an inexpensive method with a high yield if done correctly. However, this is not simple to practice and can be time-consuming. Most have perfected this so what is left of the plant is a very fine extract.

HOW DOES WATER EXTRACTION WORK?

This process can be simply described in 3 steps:

  1. Finely chopped plant trimmings are mixed with ice or dry ice and agitated to help separate extracts
  2. Water is added and the entire moisture is strained through a mesh bag often strained multiple times
  3. The extract settles as the bottom of the mixture and the excess water is drained from the top

Manufacturers continue to move away from using specific substances like alcohol to extract CBD as the industry continues to agree, the cleaner the process the better the product.

YOU’VE EXTRACTED WHAT YOU NEEDED, NOW HOW DO YOU STORE AND PRESERVE YOUR CBD CONCENTRATE?

As a hemp testing facility, first and foremost we’re scientists and we know first-hand the various methods to extract cannabinoids all take time and lots of care. All of this would be for nothing if the extracts are not taken care of after processing. Properly stored CBD oil has a shelf life of approximately one year. Something to consider before deciding how to store your oils is researching the carrier liquid your CBD oil is in. 

All commercially available CBD oil products have more than just CBD. They contain a carrier oil which can come from a variety of plant-based fats. This does not mean that your CBD oil is less “pure” as some may think, instead it makes the CBD more efficient. For example, olive oil is a more efficient carrier oil for orally ingested CBD because it’s high fatty acid content allows it to travel through the lymphatic system thus, distributing CBD more thoroughly.

So all you need to store your CBD oil is an upright position spot with a stable temperature away from extreme light, heat or moisture. Basically, a dry pantry where you would ironically store your bottle of olive oil. Use glass, not plastic and dark-tinted glass is preferred to reduce light penetration.

Another option that many go to when thinking of storing CBD oils is refrigeration. Many believe this will increase the shelf life of their product. There is only one drawback to this and that is that if the CBD oil gets too cold, it may thicken to the point that you would need to heat it a little before use. 

Storing your CBD products is the easy part of the process, which is great news compared to the tedious process that comes with extraction.

HOW ARE CBD TINCTURES MADE?

Tinctures are alcohol-based cannabis extracts and are generally made from high-CBD strains of hemp. These were the main form of cannabis medicine until cannabis prohibition was enacted in the 1920s. Tinctures are extracts created by blending CBD oil with another type of oil. 

CBD tinctures can even be made at home usually by steeping CBD-rich hemp flowers in high-proof grain alcohol, then cook over low heat for multiple hours. Once it’s ready it is then commonly mixed with a sweet-tasting carrier oil since on its own it can be very bitter. 

Typically administered under the tongue it generally takes effect even faster than edibles because there are blood vessels under the tongue where cannabidiol can enter the bloodstream immediately. The quality is the greatest factor in bioavailability, which is how well your body absorbs and then uses what you consume. The second factor is how you use it.

BENEFITS OF CBD TINCTURES

Because it is concentrated, it will have the same effects as CBD oil but you’ll only have to use small doses. Primarily used to help relieve anxiety or ease pain, doses can be adjusted just by the number of drops taken. These are specifically designed to allow for maximum absorption and use in the body. And even though this could be made from home, this doesn’t mean that the shelf life is any shorter. In fact, tinctures have a higher shelf life.

OUR EXPERTISE

ACS Laboratory is a clinical-grade third party CBD and Hemp testing laboratory that is ISO 17025 Certified and CLIA Accredited. Our scientists use their expertise to ensure all products and oils entering the market are clean and safe of any potential contaminants. We take pride in our work at ACS and offer a wide array of tests to ensure the best and safest CBD.  After all the chemical components are extracted and treated, the CBD oils are ready for use. For a hemp analysis laboratory such as ourselves, the brand new scientific advances and cutting edge technology are game-changing in the process of creating premier oils. Overall, this industry is changing at a rapid speed and we are witnessing the first of many changes in our own CBD testing facility.


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