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The Most Common CBD Production Methods: Their Properties and Bioavailability

Feb 25, 2021

The Most Common CBD Production Methods: Their Properties and Bioavailability

CBD has been the hot topic around water coolers for years now, and with great reason. This holistic product has caught the attention of wellness enthusiasts worldwide. If you are an avid user, or if you are just beginning to understand the many benefits of CBD, you may be wondering about the CBD production process and how it affects CBD quality and bioavailability. We at PharmaCBD want to help you understand each step of the production process and how it affects the final product.

The Extraction Process

Once hemp is grown and harvested, the next step in producing the final cannabidiol (CBD) product is the extraction process; this is where the CBD and other cannabinoids are extracted from the hemp plant. This extraction contains CBD and other cannabinoids like Delta-8 THC, as well as helpful terpenes and flavonoids. There are various ways to extract these compounds, and some extraction processes are more efficient than others.

  • Steam Distillation – This process is asked about occasionally, but is primarily used when wanting to extract terpene profiles to save for use post extraction. Water is very inefficient at extracting cannabinoids, so steam distillation isn't implemented as a primary extraction method.
  • Hydrocarbon Extraction – Despite having a bad reputation, using saturated hydrocarbons is the most efficient way to extract from cannabis. Using non-polar solvents means we don't have to worry about compounds miscible in water such as chlorophyll, tannins, fats and lipids. This means starting with a nice golden oil with superior taste and aroma. One of the reasons hydrocarbon extraction gained a bad reputation is directly relative to hobbyists using poorly refined solvent and inferior purging methods. We purge all oils using enough heat to lower viscosity and vacuum to pull solvents free. Most of our product is further refined with fractional distillation, which is a precise extraction of what we want, leaving no extraction solvent in our products. An interesting fact to note: people using lighters to ignite their products take in more butane from that source than hydrocarbon extracts.
  • Ethanol Extraction – This is a common extraction method as it is fairly inexpensive to execute and produces a high yield of oil. The main issue with this extraction method is that many facilities use denatured ethanol instead of food-grade ethanol; this is due to the additional expense of the food-grade ethanol. The use of denatured ethanol can lead to a final product that includes isopropyl alcohol, methanol, and ketones, among other things.
  • Supercritical CO2 Extraction – This method is often touted as solventless and clean. While the previous statement is partially true, it uses composed gas to make a liquid form of CO2 which usually pulls moisture into the end product making it a waxy, dark, oil. Much like ethanol, the yield is high, but cannabinoid percentages are lower. Refining this crude into a final product can also be messy and time consuming when dealing with moisture in the product. It can lead to potential mycotoxin contamination. There are some designs that are much more efficient, but are also much more expensive and require specialized knowledge to operate efficiently. Keep in mind while the volatility of other solvents is mentioned as dangerous, CO2 extraction requires very high pressure limits which can be dangerous if the unit fails and throws shrapnel.
  • Short Path/ Fractional Distillation - This is where we use precise setpoint of heat and vacuum during distillation to remove compounds we don't want, and extract the ones we do want. When combined with steam distillation pre-extraction, post-extraction fractional distillation allows us to collect and recombine all of the compounds that make a clean, full spectrum product with the highest levels of cannabinoids possible.

Processing the CBD

Once the compound is extracted from the hemp plant, there are a few processes that it must go through to refine it into the desired final product.

  • Full-spectrum processing – This method allows for a finished product that contains the highest percentage of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids than any of the other processes. Nothing is removed from the hemp oil other than any unwanted substances like molds or residual toxins.
  • Broad-spectrum processing – This method is almost exactly like full-spectrum processing. However, an added step is taken to remove any traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Any CBD product labeled “broad-spectrum” or “THC-Free” has gone through this process.
  • Isolate processing – This method isolates an individual compound within the hemp oil and removes all other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. You will find this process used to create labeled CBD Isolate or Delta-8 THC isolate, which is a legal form of THC that is currently available throughout the United States.
  • Nanoemulsion – This process breaks down CBD oils into a form that is more water-soluble. Water solubility makes the product more bioavailable because it increases the body's rate of absorption of the CBD.

Creating the Product

The final step in the CBD production cycle is creating the final product itself. CBD, Delta-8 THC, and other cannabis-related products come in many different forms. Each product has its own set of properties and bioavailability. For any of these types of ingestible products, if the original oil has undergone nanoemulsion, it will have a higher bioavailability rate.

  • Sublingual products – Tinctures are oil-based, sublingual products. They are dispensed using a dropper that is usually included with the bottle containing the tincture. A few drops are placed under the tongue, and the capillaries beneath the tongue carry the cannabinoid-rich oil into the bloodstream. After a minute or so, the remaining oil is swallowed and absorbed through the digestive tract. This type of product contains carrier oils to allow for better bioavailability.
  • Oral products – CBD edibles and capsules are eaten or swallowed with liquids and absorbed through the digestive tract. This method tends to take a longer period before the user experiences results. However, the benefits from this method of consumption tend to last longer than with other ingestion methods.
  • Salves and creams – These CBD products are applied to the skin. The CBD oils get absorbed through the skin and into the underlying muscles. This form of application brings quick results to the specific areas of the body to which it is applied.
  • Inhalants – These products, like hemp flower and vape pens, are inhaled into the lungs. This method provides quick delivery of benefits, although those effects usually do not last as long as with oral products.

We Spare No Expense

We at PharmaCBD spare no expense when bringing you only premium quality CBD and Delta-8 THC products. Take our Delta-8 THC or our full line of CBD Tinctures, for example. As with all of our inventory, these products are produced from hemp compounds using the more expensive Supercritical CO2 extraction method mentioned earlier; this ensures that our final products are of the highest quality and contain no residual hydrocarbon or ethanol solvents.

You deserve the highest quality and most bioavailable products for your health and wellbeing. PharmaCBD is here to provide you just that. Shop our online store or use our convenient contact form to get in touch with us today!