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how to extract cbd oil from cannabis

How to extract CBD oil in your home kitchen

Non-psychoactive and increasingly popular as a relaxation drug, CBD can also be a DIY extract

By Sandra Hinchliffe
March 10, 2019 2:00PM (UTC)

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“CBD Every Day” by Hinchliffe Sandra and Stacey Kerr (Skyhorse Publishing/yavdat)

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Excerpted with permission from CBD Every Day: How to Make Cannabis-Infused Massage Oils, Bath Bombs, Salves, Herbal Remedies, and Edibles by Sandra Hinchliffe. Copyright 2019 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

Cannabidiol (CBD), an extract that many use as an anti-anxiety or relaxation tool, comes from the Cannabis sativa plant and cannot be divorced from this original source. Cannabis sativa has many different variations, and not all of these contain significant amounts of CBD. Prior to the gradual ending of cannabis prohibition in many locales, CBD was practically eliminated from the commercial black market to maximize profitability of the psychoactive cannabinoid content of the plants through selective breeding, according to many of the black-market growers I have spoken with throughout the years. The reason CBD is now widely accessible is most assuredly due to the change in social perceptions of this once-outlawed plant and the legalization of this plant in many locales. Without cannabis legalization, CBD would be difficult to acquire—and there would be no testing to ensure that consumers receive the product they are paying for.

In the process of developing recipes, I spent much of my time talking to CBD farmers and exploring their lush farms. I am forever grateful to my friends at Feather Canyon Farms in Del Norte County, California, for introducing me to some of the most impressive plants I’ve ever seen in my life. Beforehand, my experience with these plants had been limited to small indoor grows and the product offerings of our legal cannabis dispensaries.

One of the things I learned from the CBD farmers is that CBD can be an unstable and fleeting trait in cannabis plants. CBD production doesn’t just depend on the genetics of a plant, but the methods of growing, and what is also recognized in grape and wine production as the terroir. New strains of CBD-rich cannabis are being developed for the legal market all the time. I haven’t been able to try them all, but I’ve had the privilege of trying some of the most well-known strains, such as Harlequin, Harle-Tsu, ACDC, Cannatonic, Charlotte’s Web, Sour Tsunami, and a rare crop of Golden Goat, which expressed more than 8% CBD. This list is by no means complete in terms of CBD-rich cannabis strains available.

Hemp, the low-to-no THC variety of Cannabis sativa grown for the oilseed and fiber it produces, can also produce CBD in varying amounts. Both wild hemp and cultivated hemp can produce CBD in their resins. No matter what variety of Cannabis sativa produces CBD, the molecule is always the same.

Farmers, Plants, and Test Results over Brands: How To Select CBD Products

I believe that quality, whole-plant infusions and extractions matter. Epidiolex, the FDA-approved drug, is a whole-plant extract of CBD, purified, standardized, and manufactured for consistency. It’s rare as far as pharmaceuticals go; GW Pharma grows and processes their own cannabis to make therapeutic pharmaceuticals. Whether you are in need of a pharmaceutical treatment or are using CBD as a home remedy or for pleasure, you should be using whole-plant infusions and extractions. The cannabis farmers I spoke with have expressed a similar belief.

I am often asked about which brands of CBD are the best and which products to choose. But the truth is that when it comes to CBD, brands do not matter. Farms and plants matter. Selecting quality CBD-rich cannabis plant products begins with the farm they are grown on. Before you purchase any CBD product, know the farm and farmer. This is an easy task in most of our state-legal cannabis dispensaries, as this information will be readily available and even used as a marketing tool. This information is harder to find if you are purchasing CBD products from the over-the-counter herbal supplement market.

CBD products sold over the counter in the mainstream herbal supplement market do not have the oversight and regulated testing that most of our state-legal dispensary systems have. If you choose to purchase CBD products in the herbal supplement market, you must rely on the information they provide to you in terms of acquisition of plant material and test results. You must also be aware that there is controversy (both legal and scientific) surrounding the purchase of CBD products over the counter through the mainstream herbal supplement marketplace.

Test results matter. The herbal supplement marketplace is largely unregulated and a bit like the Wild West. An exposé in the New York Times in 2013 detailed some very disturbing problems with the herbal supplement marketplace and the fact that consumers often do not receive the products they are paying for. As well, CBD supplement merchants in the over-the-counter herbal supplement market have been cited by the FDA for many violations around the labeling and distribution of their products.

Certainly, I am not saying that all herbal supplement products are bad. What I am saying is that it is a wise decision as a consumer to seek out information and verify it if you are purchasing supplement products of any kind. And you should also be aware that not all locales will regard the purchase of CBD products as a legal activity.

The functionality of this book is to show you how to seek, find, and enjoy CBD-rich cannabis. Facts and aesthetics both matter if what you seek is a quality product and a satisfying experience.

In the recipes that follow, the focus is on whole-plant CBD-rich cannabis extractions and infusions, as these high-quality, artisanal, and farmer-centric whole plants and whole-plant resins will unfold themselves with fragrant and delicious complexity in your kitchen. My wish is for you to enjoy and benefit from everything CBD-rich cannabis offers without missing anything.

CBD to THC Ratio Selection and Dosing

Selection and dosage amount of CBD or CBD: THC is a very individual process and an ideal dosage that works as a one-size-fits-all amount does not exist. If you have concerns about what is best for you, this is something you should discuss with your personal physician. There are also MDs and DOs who specialize in cannabis therapeutics who can guide you based on your current health situation. If you are considering CBD for therapeutic medicinal purposes, it’s a good idea to consult with a physician who has knowledge and experience in this area before you begin.

I’ve developed a checklist that you can use and that I hope will guide you to the products that are worthy of your consideration:

— Is the name of the farm or farmer disclosed on the product label or available from the company or merchant selling the product?

— Does the product have test results from a third-party lab independent of any brand or manufacturer? Can you verify these results independent of a company, merchant, or legal dispensary?

— Do the test results include more than just CBD and other cannabinoid content?

— Are there test results for pesticides, mold, and other contamination? (Cannabis is a powerful soil remediator and easily absorbs toxic chemicals from the soil it is grown in.)

— If the product you would like to purchase is raw plant material, have you scoped it to check for mold or insects? Most dispensaries have magnification scopes for their customers to use—take advantage of this.

— Does the product look fresh, and does it smell fresh and clean? Is the product or plant material dated with harvest time or an expiration date?

CBD Farmer’s Oil Recipe with Whole Flowers

When one considers flavors, textures, freshness, effects, and fragrances as the starting point of evaluating a quality CBD oil product, this recipe will produce a gourmet oil extraction that will impress even the most experienced connoisseur.

Farmers know best. And this oil recipe was given to me by one of the most hardworking and knowledgeable CBD farmers I have met, Mr. Jesse Davis of Feather Canyon Farms in Del Norte County, California.

I experienced many pleasant surprises while sampling this oil at home, and the process of making it was even more surprising. Rich in both CBD and the natural terpenes of the Harle-Tsu CBD-rich cannabis plant, this oil is a gorgeous emerald color with a sublime minty and herbaceous flavor that I have never experienced with a CBD oil previously. This oil was completely non-intoxicating, but it was very pleasant and relaxing.

This oil, processed in MCT oil (fractionated coconut oil) at a low temperature for 24 hours, produced a CBD oil product that has lab tested at 10mg CBD and less than 1 mg

THC per 1ml dose. How low was that temperature? 175°F (80°C)—a temperature much lower than what is typically expected for a complete decarboxylation. What made the difference? The slow processing of this oil over a 24-hour period. Decarboxylation takes place with temperature, time, or in this case, both time and temperature.

I am satisfied that the flavor profile of this oil was only possible due to the careful, low-temperature processing technique that retained the majority of naturally occurring terpenes in the whole cannabis flowers from the CBD-rich Harle-Tsu cannabis strain grown in the mountain region of Del Norte County. Flower quality really does matter when it comes to producing an exquisite CBD oil such as this one.

This makes approximately 10 oz. (296ml) of CBD oil, but you can increase or decrease the amount of oil or flowers depending on the CBD concentration you desire.

10 oz. (296ml) MCT oil or more (otherwise known as liquid fractionated coconut oil)

1 oz. (28g) or more whole CBD-rich, low-or-no- THC cannabis flowers, cured, dried, and chopped

  1. This recipe requires a slow cooker with a low heat setting to process this oil correctly. Add the chopped cannabis to the slow cooker.
  2. Pour the oil over the cannabis, making sure that all the flower material is covered. If you need to add a little extra oil to cover the flowers, you should do so at this time. Cover the slow cooker and set to the low or low cook setting (depending on your model).
  3. Within at least 3 hours, your slow cooker should reach the final processing temperature of about 175°F (80°C). Use a candy thermometer to verify the temperature and adjust if necessary. Stir the oil and plant material at this time and cover the slow cooker once again.
  4. Every few hours, stir the oil and flower material to evenly distribute the infusion throughout the process. Do not stir frequently, as this will allow more of the volatile terpenes to escape into the air. To preserve as many of the volatile constituents as possible, such as terpenes, leave the lid on the pot throughout the entire process. This can be left to process overnight without stirring.
  5. After the 24-hour period is over, cool the oil by unplugging the slow cooker and allowing the materials to remain in the pot and the oil to cool to room temperature a few more hours.
  6. Strain the oil from the plant material through cheesecloth and into a clean glass jar. The oil is now ready to use by itself in measured doses or in any recipe.

Store in a cool, dark, and dry area. Use within 6 months for freshest flavor

Sandra Hinchliffe

Sandra Hinchliffe is the founder of posyandkettle.com, a home herbalist, allergy chef, autoimmune disease survivor, and an inventor of pretty things for people of sensitive constitution. She uses her 30+ years background as a home herbalist and medical cannabis patient to create a repertoire of recipes designed to be both beneficial and delightful. She is the author of “The Cannabis Spa at Home, the first book to bring together cannabis, spa, and herbal healing, “High Tea,” a collection of gracious cannabis tea-time recipes for every occasion, and “CBD Every Day,” a farm-to-table CBD experience guide with a collection of allergy-friendly, preservative-free, artificial fragrance-free and dye-free CBD-infused edible and spa recipes.

MORE FROM Sandra Hinchliffe

Non-psychoactive and increasingly popular as a relaxation drug, CBD can also be a DIY extract

How is CBD extracted from cannabis?

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All the cannabidiol (CBD) you find in your favorite gummies, drinks, and oils has to go through an extraction process first. CBD, for those who don’t know, is a cannabinoid found in cannabis. Extracting CBD involves isolating the chemical compound from the surrounding plant material and distilling it in high concentrations. Research has shown that cannabinoids may have beneficial effects on physical and mental health, and extraction makes it possible to consume more of those cannabinoids with less effort.

CBD products

All the cannabidiol (CBD) you find in your favorite gummies, drinks, and oils has to go through an extraction process first. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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CBD products

In this article, you’ll learn about how CBD is extracted from hemp and cannabis, as well as which extraction process yields the best results.

How to extract CBD from cannabis

Extracting cannabinoids from cannabis or hemp can be as simple as making cannabutter at home. But for large-scale manufacturing purposes and more potent results, there are two primary methods for efficient CBD extraction. Each method presents distinct benefits in creating a high-quality, highly-potent CBD product.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction method: Carbon dioxide is a versatile gas with a variety of commercial uses, including extracting compounds from plant matter. The CO2 method uses the gas in its normal state as well as in supercritical liquid form. Through the use of a pressurized chamber, called a closed-loop extractor, CO2 gas is compressed until it becomes a liquid. The liquid is forced over the cannabis material where it strips away cannabinoids like CBD. The entire solution is brought back to temperatures and pressures at which the CO2 reverts to gas and evaporates, leaving behind the CBD extracted out of the cannabis plant material.

Andrew Leising, VP of Strategic Sourcing for Balanced Health Botanicals, elaborated on the process: “CO2 is a scalable and highly versatile form of extraction. There are CO2 extraction units built to process anywhere from 1 to 1,200 pounds of biomass in a single run. With CO2 extraction, you can not only extract cannabinoids on a large scale efficiently, you can extract specific compounds like terpenes.”

Terpenes are the naturally-occurring compounds that infuse cannabis with its signature aromas and flavors as well as potential therapeutic benefits. Full-spectrum CBD products rely on extraction methods that can keep these compounds intact.

Solvent extraction method: The solvent extraction process is similar to using CO2, but it’s notably cheaper and faster. Butane has long been used in cannabis extraction but ethanol and propane are also popular. This method also uses a closed-loop system wherein the liquid butane, propane, or ethanol washes over the cannabis, releasing the CBD, other cannabinoids, and terpenes. The solvent then has to be carefully heated or cooled to separate the solvent from the extracted compounds without damaging them. The main drawback of solvent extraction is that some solvents may extract impurities from the cannabis plant material, which could give the end-product an unpleasant taste.

Both of these extraction methods use highly combustible chemicals and can be dangerous. Only trained professionals in properly equipped labs should attempt any kind of chemical extraction.

How long does CBD extraction take?

The process of CBD extraction is fairly expedient and can take place in a single afternoon. According to Leising, it takes about three to four hours to process up to 1,200 pounds of cannabis.

What happens after CBD oil extraction?

After CBD oil is extracted from hemp or cannabis, the process of winterization begins. This process removes the impurities and unwanted elements that made it through the extraction process, such as fats, lipids, and waxes. In essence, winterization transforms crude oil into purified oil. The process gets its name from a step which involves mixing the extracted oil with ethanol and freezing the solution. The impurities and undesirable compounds solidify and fall out of the solution, which is then passed through a filter, separating wax, lipids, and fats from the oil. The final step involves removing the ethanol from the solution.

CBD may go through further refinement after winterization to create the purest possible CBD product. The additional refinement phase is known as short-path distillation. The process is similar to winterization, but it involves using reduced pressure to allow lower-than-normal boiling temperatures. The solution is heated just enough for the impurities to boil off and travel a short path out of the system, leaving pure CBD oil to distill into the collection chamber.

Which CBD extraction method is best?

Many cannabis experts agree that the CO2 method is best for producing premium oil that stays potent longer because the hemp or cannabis compounds remain stable during this type of extraction. Full-spectrum CBD oil, prized for its potency and purity, is made via CO2 extraction. Other methods may destabilize the compounds, potentially creating lower-quality CBD oil with a shorter shelf life.

Leising agrees that the CO2 method is superior. As he shared, “CO2 is generally preferred for the extraction of cannabinoids that are meant for ingestion or further refinement. Due to the nature of the extraction process, you can be assured that your extracted oil will be free of any residual solvents, microbes, and fungi.”

The same is not true for the solvent method, which often fails to eliminate such impurities.

Can I extract CBD oil at home?

It depends on what extraction method you’re considering. Let’s say you have a thriving indoor cannabis garden and want to consume the cannabis you’ve harvested without having to smoke it all. You can safely make CBD oil at home via a simple infusion and consume a high concentration of cannabinoids without risking life or limb.

CBD tincture

You can safely make CBD oil at home via a simple infusion and consume a high concentration of cannabinoids without risking life or limb. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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CBD tincture

What you don’t want to do is attempt to make a CBD extract using inedible solvents or CO2. Leising explained, “You cannot perform CO2 extractions at home. The equipment is cost prohibitive, and if you don’t know how to operate the equipment, it could be extremely dangerous. The equipment runs at extremely high pressures between 2500-4000 PSI and could be very dangerous if the operator is not properly trained.”

Bottom line: don’t risk your life for CBD oil. Visit a reputable dispensary and shop for high-quality, lab-tested products instead.

Learn about the two methods for large-scale CBD extraction and how they affect the final product.