co2 extraction process

CO2 Extraction of CBD – Process and Why it’s Important

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With the gradually increasing rate of legalization, the CBD market is booming, cannabis is rapidly entering the market, especially in the U.S.A. Extracts are an essential element for the booming CBD industry. People invested billions of dollars into the cannabis industry in 2018 in the United States for expansion.

The extraction must come before making it into tinctures and topicals. But what is an extraction? You can find many ways to remove CBD from the hemp plants called the extraction or the extraction methods. But all extraction methods are not made the same and equally. These methods determine the quality of the end products. In this case, the CO2 extraction method is getting more popular. What is the CO2 extraction of CBD?

At present, one of the best and safest ways to pull CBD from hemp is the CO2 extraction method. Please read this article to have a clear conception of the CO2 extraction process and how it works. Also, know if it’s safe, its benefits and drawbacks, and how supercritical CO2 extraction is superior.

What is the CO2 Extraction Process?

Plants contain essential oil to be extracted by using specialized equipment or processes. Many different types of extraction are available. They can be divided into two distinct methods- Mechanical or Solvent. The Mechanical extraction methods need no equipment but to follow some processes to extract the oil. This category of processes includes rosin presses, ice water hash, and dry sieve.

On the other hand, Solvent-based devices require a machine containing a solvent to extract the oil. Among the common solvents, CO2, butane or propane, alcohol and hexane are mentionable. CO2 is a very powerful and the most popular solvent working under pressure.

The CO2 extraction method comes out from the food industry as its roots, where it’s very popular in isolating plant compounds from spices, herbs, and flowers for cooking. This well-established method caught CBD manufacturers’ attention in recent years because of its quick and precise process.

The pressurized carbon dioxide is used in the CO2 method to detach cannabinoids from industrial hemp and then draw out CBD and a host of other phytocannabinoids. You can find three different types of CO2 extraction– supercritical, subcritical, and mid-critical. Among them, the supercritical method is mostly used by CBD manufacturers. A few companies also use the subcritical and ‘mid-critical’ methods. Each method refers to the state of the CO2 while being used to extract the plant compounds.

Understanding How the CO2 CBD Extraction Method Works

Most of the CO2 extraction machines have three distinct chambers. CO2 is pressurized and cooled into a supercritical liquid in the first chamber, and the second chamber holds the plant material. Finally, the finished product and the gaseous CO2 are collected in the third chamber for future use. Some CBD producers begin the extraction process using gaseous CO2 while others with liquid CO2.

While working, the cooled and pressurized CO2 goes through a sealed chamber having raw hemp. Then it works to dissolve trichomes- the membranes of small hair-like glands allowing the supercritical carbon dioxide to pull out all the active plant materials. It also extracts the larger molecules- chlorophyll, waxes, omega-3, and lipids.

After completing the process, the manufacturers obtain a dense, peanut butter-like substance. Then this substance is sent through a winterizing process to isolate the CBD and the other cannabinoids. Remember, this process may differ from producer to producer.

co2 extraction

How Is Supercritical CO2 Extraction Superior?

Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction is the most commonly used method to detach the different components from the plants as it produces a pure, clean, and safe product. Carbon dioxide turns into a supercritical state at 1071 psi and 31.1°C having the properties of both liquid and gas. CO2 is advantageous because it can reach into small spaces like a gas, dissolve, and act as a liquid solvent.

Another advantage is that the physical properties of supercritical CO2 can be easily manipulated, allowing it to bond to any molecule as the manufacturers choose. By using supercritical CO2, the manufacturer can control the whole procedure because CO2 can be recycled, making this method more environmentally friendly than others.

CO2 has been labeled safe for industrial extractions by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Moreover, CO2 acts as a cleaning agent and kills microbial bacteria, molds, and mildews during the process. The production using supercritical CO2 can be higher than any other extraction method, and it can easily diversify the product quality by adjusting the physical properties.

The residue will evaporate, if any, on the extract, as CO2 is a gas at room temperature. Extracts got from the supercritical CO2 extraction method are more appealing to the food and beverage and medical industries because it is guaranteed that there is no residual solvent available on the product.

As a result, the extract will be purer and safer than other solvent-based extraction methods. Again, the plant is not subjected to extreme temperatures, and consequently, it does not experience any degradation like other extraction methods. Thus, the supercritical CO2 extraction is superior indeed.

Is CO2 Extraction Safe?

Most professional and reputable manufacturing companies use the CO2 extraction method because it’s the safest way to create the cleanest and purest product. Supercritical CO2 extraction is certainly the highest-quality method for CBD extraction. Because this method is precise economical, clean, and safe compared to other extraction methods, for example, butane extraction can leave traces of heavy metals that may cause lung irritation when consumed.

CO2 extraction leaves no residual solvents with products and poses minimal health and safety risks. Vent lines used in this method are small, and the chances of ignition or explosion are minimal. When heated and pressurized, CO2, a versatile solvent, extracts and isolates the active natural components – cannabinoids and aromatic terpenes- from hemp without harming their potency.

Benefits and Drawbacks of CO2 Extraction

The CO2 extraction method is a favorite among professional CBD manufacturers because of the many benefits. It has been proven that this method is an efficient, quick way to produce CBD oil in the food industry.

Here are a few benefits of the CO2 extraction method of CBD:

  • Safer for manufacturers
  • Not explosive or toxic
  • Better for the planet. CO2 is reusable and doesn’t create waste
  • A most efficient and quick way to manufacture CBD
  • Produces a pure, high-quality end product

Although there are a lot of great benefits, the CO2 extraction method is not a viable fit for all CBD companies. The CO2 extraction isn’t flawless and perfect too. Whether you’re a consumer or a CBD business owner, you should consider some downsides to the process that it’s an expensive, complex process, and the qualified and experienced personnel must operate the machinery. CO2 extraction is usually only attainable for professional, large-scale operations for all of these reasons.

Here are some mentionable drawbacks of the CO2 extraction below:

  • The equipment for CO2 extraction is costly and is impossible for many companies and individuals looking to extract their hemp oil.
  • Even if you have the equipment necessary for CO2 extraction, it takes a lot of specific knowledge to ensure it’s operated properly and safely. Even an amateur chemist also shouldn’t use CO2 equipment without professional training.
  • As the CO2 extraction equipment is expensive and needs professional knowledge to operate, CBD products created with this method become more expensive than those created using a different technique.

Final Thoughts

The CO2 extraction method is largely used in the cannabis industry due to its effectiveness in purifying the crude plant material. When used in a supercritical state, CO2 allows the producer to control the process by manipulating its physical properties to isolate and purify certain molecules.

The CO2 extraction method retains more terpenes and cannabinoids than other extraction methods. Instead of destroying them, it offers consumers CBD topicals, tinctures, and edibles that provide improved benefits and more of them.

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