There are important differences between the vast array of extracts: CBD isolate, broad spectrum, and full-spectrum product formulations. We discuss. We create all of our scientifically-formulated Pure + Potent products with a commitment to quality and purity in mind. Call us today to learn more.
Extraction Explained: Debunking Myths & Clarifying Terminology
The extracts and concentrates industry is constantly evolving and developing new processes and products to satisfy every type of cannabis and hemp consumer. Along with it, new terminology has emerged to capture the differences in the various complex extraction processes. Terms such as CBD isolate, broad spectrum, and full spectrum have all made their way into the vernacular of the extraction industry, and are often times used incorrectly or interchangeably.
Understanding the foundations of these terms is important for differentiating the advantages and disadvantages of the various extraction methods and product types. There are important differences between the vast array of extracts: CBD isolate, broad spectrum, and full-spectrum product formulations, and using the correct verbiage is vital for producers and consumers alike.
Hemp Oil vs. Hemp Seed Oil vs. CBD Oil: The Where and How of Hemp Extraction
Hemp extraction is the most popular form of CBD extraction for a variety of reasons; it has rich CBD content, low THC levels, and the added benefit of coming from a less-aggressively regulated source. Every strain of cannabis and hemp has its own unique chemical profile, meaning that each product will contain different amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes that were purposely bred by cannabis farmers.
Three of the more commonly confused and conflated terms in hemp extraction are hemp seed oil, hemp oil, and CBD oil. Let’s explore the key differences:
Where Does Hemp Seed Oil Come From?
Hemp seed oil is oil extracted from the hemp seed specifically, which contains no CBD. While it may have some health benefits, including diet and skin care, any benefit derived from CBD will not be present in hemp seed oil. You may find that extractors cut their extract with this oil to help dilute the extract, it will give the tincture a more earthy flavor but as stated does not add any additional CBD to the mixture.
Where Does Hemp Oil Come From?
Hemp oil is extracted from almost every part of the hemp plant other than the seed, including the flowers, stems, and leaves. All of these parts of the plant contain CBD, so any hemp oil containing CBD can also be called CBD oil. Hemp oil extracted from hemp flowers contain the highest level of cannabinoids and terpenes, which are concentrated on resinous trichome glands on hemp flowers.
Where Does CBD Oil Come From?
Hemp oil, or CBD oil extracted from hemp plants, is different than cannabis extract, but both can be called CBD oil. The main difference is that while CBD can be extracted from cannabis plants, it can also extract trace THC along with it. Typically, any residual THC in CBD oil is intentional, as cannabis consumers demand more CBD presence in their extracts.
How Are Hemp Oil and CBD Oil Extracted?
Just as important as where the oil is extracted is how it is extracted, and there are multiple ways to target chemical compounds found in cannabis. Hemp producers employ a variety of extraction methods, including alcohol, supercritical CO2, and butane extraction to remove the therapeutic compounds found in hemp plants. Each method caters to a varying yield, quality, and purity of hemp-derived CBD.
While each of these extraction methods have their place, BHO extraction is one of the most widely used methods with cannabis and is now moving to dominate the hemp market with ts ability to extract the full representation of the plant in concentrated form. This is called full-spectrum extraction.
To learn more about BHO extraction methods, check out our post on BHO extraction here.
Extraction Outcomes: CBD Isolate, Broad Spectrum, and Full Spectrum
Extraction methods matter because different extraction methods will reap different outcomes in terms of retaining the hemp plant’s original compounds. For example, if the goal is to retain valuable terpenes and a full complement of cannabinoids through the extraction process, butane extraction is the best option because CO2 can lose terpenes and cannabinoids at the beginning of the extraction process, while ethanol can lose terpenes at the end. Super chilled Butane or Propane extraction won’t lose those valuable and pertinent hemp compounds.
These extraction outcomes also come with their own set of terminology: isolate, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum extracts.
What Is CBD Isolate?
One extraction method is to remove every compound except for CBD, thereby producing an isolate product that often resembles a white powdery substance. CBD isolate, also known as pure CBD, is an odorless and tasteless crystal or powder that contains 99+ percent CBD.
How Is CBD Isolate Made?
CBD isolate is accomplished using chromatography. This process takes out all of the terpenes, which are responsible for scent, flavor, and other differentiators. Additionally, chromatography separates out the unwanted cannabinoids, such as the most commonly known psychoactive one — THC. Last, but not least, this process removes all plant matter.
Why CBD Isolate?
Many people prefer CBD isolate due to its neutral flavor and taste, which makes it easy to add to food, drinks, and topicals. Extraction methods remove every other compound including THC. Individuals who don’t want to risk consuming THC or failing a drug test will often look for CBD isolates.
Can CBD Isolate Be Full Spectrum?
Even if terpenes are re-introduced into a CBD isolate, that doesn’t make it a full- or broad-spectrum product. Some studies have shown that CBD isolates aren’t as effective in higher doses as full-spectrum products that contain the original array of compounds. Researchers believe the additional terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids amplify the positive effects of CBD and mitigate any side effects. This is what is referred to as the entourage effect.
What Is Broad Spectrum?
Broad-spectrum CBD products fall somewhere between CBD isolates and full-spectrum extracts. Essentially, broad-spectrum contains much of the hemp’s cannabinoids and terpenes, minus the THC.
State-of-the-art chromatography processes remove all of the THC from a full-spectrum extract. This method of extraction keeps the hemp strain’s intended compounds. Adding cannabinoids and terpenes back into a CBD isolate would not be considered broad or full-spectrum.
What Is Full Spectrum?
Full-spectrum extraction preserves CBD from hemp, along with other common cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids. Full-spectrum products contain almost all of the naturally occurring compounds found in hemp. Full-spectrum CBD features all of the hemp’s chemical compounds, including other cannabinoids such as cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromevarinic acid (CBVA), cannabicyclol (CBL), and THC (among others). Full-spectrum products contain only a trace amount of THC — typically less than 3 percent concentration.
Full-spectrum oil retains its complementary and medically applicable compounds. Researchers have found that the cannabis plant’s minor cannabinoids have therapeutic value, and that terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids support the entire endocannabinoid system.
One study published by the Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research compared the effects of a CBD isolate and full-spectrum extract. It found that CBD isolate had a bell-shaped response curve where it peaked at a medium dose and tapered off at higher and lower doses. Responsiveness to the full-spectrum solution, however, “continued to increase as higher doses were administered.” While CBD was effective at reducing inflammation and pain at a certain dose, the entire palette of cannabinoids is needed to provide increasingly higher dosages. This is a great explanation of the “entourage effect.”
The synergistic, entourage effect of full-spectrum extracts is what makes it the most popular type in the cannabis and hemp field. Unfortunately, this can also lead to false claims made by producers that their product is “full spectrum” when, in fact, it is not. This is particularly prevalent in the CBD hemp oil industry, where various methods are used which do not in reality yield the full-spectrum results they claim.
Despite the ongoing claims made by CO2 and other extract processors, BHO and light hydrocarbon extraction is the only method for obtaining true full-spectrum outcomes.
There is a lack of clarity surrounding the most prevalent terminology in cannabis extraction. As light hydrocarbon (BHO) extractors, we believe in the importance of understanding what types of extracts are best for a given purpose, and hope this article has served as a helpful guide in building that understanding.
What Are the Most Popular CBD Extraction Methods?
CBD has exploded in popularity over the last couple of years and, while most people are familiar with the term and may have even sampled a few CBD-containing products, it’s rare that the average consumer knows the intricate details of the process used to create them. At Pharmstrong™, the entire process from seed to final product fascinates us – especially the extraction methods, as the various techniques used greatly affect the quality, taste, and potency of the final product. We believe it’s worth sharing tidbits about the most popular extraction methods on the market today because knowing this information is not only interesting, but helps the consumer make an educated decision when it comes to selecting the right CBD provider for their needs. Therefore, let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular extraction methods and a few advantages and disadvantages of each.
Quick Review of the Basics
Before diving into the specific extraction methods, it’s helpful to review a few simple, yet important, frequently asked questions about CBD in general:
What is it and where does it come from?
CBD is a cannabinoid, a chemical compound extracted from hemp plants.
Is it legal?
Yes! However it must be hemp-derived and contain .3% or less THC to be legal according to the 2018 Farm Bill. If you purchase a hemp-derived CBD product from a reputable company, who is transparent about the source of their products and provides lab results verifying the levels (or in many cases, the complete absence) of THC, you have nothing to worry about.
What are some common uses of CBD?
This unique and powerful compound is very versatile, making it the perfect addition to many products. CBD is commonly added to carrier oils – such as organic olive oil or MCT oil – to create fast-acting oral drops (which go under the tongue), mixed with beeswax and essential oils for soothing topical balms, or broken down into tiny nanoparticles for incorporation into easy-to-swallow, highly bioavailable softgel capsules. CBD is also commonly used in vaping products and added to gummy candies and energy drink mixes.
Popular CBD Extraction Methods
In order to make beneficial and highly-effective products, the CBD must first be carefully extracted and preserved from the hemp plant. Maintaining the quality and purity of the main ingredient is essential to creating a premium CBD product.
There are several methods for extracting CBD from the hemp plant, and even a few DIY versions (which we don’t recommend). But let’s take a look at several of the most common extraction methods:
Extraction by Solvent:
With this method, a solvent – commonly food grade ethanol, or a hydrocarbon like butane or propane – is soaked or washed over plant trimmings, drawing out the desirable compounds. In the case of hydrocarbon extraction, the resulting mixture, which now contains the cannabinoids and other useful compounds such as terpenes, is then further refined (the refinement method depends on the desired end product) and the majority of the solvent is removed. From there, a final purging of any remaining solvent is done, leaving a concentrated CBD oil. With ethanol extraction, the resulting liquid is then distilled to separate the hemp oil from the food grade ethanol and further isolate the desired compounds.
Pros: The process is efficient, fairly inexpensive, and does not require as specialized equipment as other methods. Solvents are superior at locking onto and drawing out the desirable compounds. Hydrocarbons, in particular, are known for preserving the plant’s flavor and aroma well.
Olive Oil Extraction:
“Natural solvents”, like olive oil, are used as well for the extraction of CBD – not commercially, but rather by CBD/cannabis aficionados. The raw hemp is heated to a specific temperature (decarboxylated) and then added to the oil and heated again to extract the cannabinoids. The olive oil does not evaporate like ethanol or hydrocarbon solvents, so the final product will not be as concentrated and is more of a CBD-infused oil instead of a concentrated extract.
Pros: Inexpensive and easy to do in your own home and eliminates concerns over residual solvents, expensive equipment, and safety.
This popular, tried and true method for extracting essential oils can be used to extract cannabinoids as well. Steam is used to free the volatile compounds (cannabinoids in this instance) from the raw plant material. The resulting vapor, full of the desirable compounds, is then cooled and condensed. The resulting oil and water are then separated.
Pros: Inexpensive, straightforward, and a solvent-free method.
In this method, CO2 (which stands for carbon dioxide) is used to pull cannabinoids and other desirable compounds from the harvested hemp plants. This scientifically advanced, yet fascinating process generally involves three chambers. In the first chamber, CO2 – which is in a gaseous state under normal circumstances – is converted to a liquid state by increasing the pressure and significantly decreasing the temperature. Next, the temperature and pressure are slowly increased until the liquid CO2 reaches a “supercritical” point. This is the neat part. At this point, the CO2 is somewhere between a liquid state and a gaseous state and retains some of the properties of each; it expands like a gas, but is more concentrated like a liquid. Once in this optimal state, the CO2 is pumped into the second chamber, which holds the hemp plant material. The CO2 then passes through the hemp, separating the oil (rich in cannabinoids and other beneficial compounds) from the plant material. The oil and CO2 then make their way to the third and final chamber where the two separate and the residual CO2 simply evaporates. What’s left is a highly concentrated CBD oil extract.
Pros: An extremely precise, solvent free method that is safe (no flammable solvents) and environmentally-friendly (uses less energy and plant material).
Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to the products they use and the methods used to create them. But, we can probably all agree on one thing: a minimally processed and expertly crafted product, sourced from simple, quality ingredients is the best choice when it comes to products in the health and wellness category – CBD included. At Pharmstrong™, we create all of our scientifically-formulated Pure + Potent products with that commitment to quality and purity in mind, and we can promise that our safe, proprietary, and precisely executed extraction and purification process isolates all of the desirable compounds our customers want, and excludes those that they don’t. We would be honored to chat with you more in person in our Breckenridge, CO store, over the phone, or via email at any time to answer any remaining questions you may have about the extraction method we use, CBD in general, or one of our premium grade products.