The Complete Guide to CBD Extractions (CO2 Marijuana Extraction, Olive Oil, Solvents)

The 101 Guide
MarijuanaBreak Staff MarijuanaBreak Staff / Updated on June 10, 2019

cbd extraction

Also known as cannabidiol, CBD is one of the numerous compounds found in the cannabis plant that is now known to have an array of medicinal benefits. Over the last few years, CBD has become so popular that it is now being extracted, produced and manufactured into a wide range of products, including edibles, CBD oils, and even creams.

The most popular form of consumption is CBD oil and it is used to treat a number of illnesses; primarily because of the way it affects the endocannabinoid system (ECS) without providing users with a ‘high’ that is illegal in many countries around the world. THC is the cannabinoid best known for providing this high. Not only does CBD not get you high, but it may also help to reduce THC’s psychoactive effects.

In this article, we will look at the best ways to extract CBD from the cannabis plant but first, let’s find out what the substance is and why it is so coveted.

What is the CBD Substance?

If you are reading this article, you most probably know what THC is. It (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) is the most active ingredient in cannabis, and until recently, it was by far the best-known.

THC is renowned for the mind-altering high it provides to users. In contrast, CBD is not psychoactive, but it does promote positive changes in the body.

The way CBD affects our body is quite different from the modus operandi of THC in the sense that it is not involved in direct stimulation of the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The major impact of CBD is on other receptors such as Serotonin, Adenosine, and Vanilloid.

For instance, the stimulation of the TRPV-1 (Vanilloid) receptor by CBD influences a variety of processes including body temperature, inflammation, and pain perception.

Moreover, CBD is known to inhibit the functioning of FAAH enzyme that directly acts on the CB1 receptor and enables THC to produce its psychoactive effect. CBD has established global interest among industry specialists and its discovery has prompted medical experts to take a closer look at the benefits of CBD.

co2 cbd extraction

What Are CBD Benefits?

While studies are still trying to get to the heart of the matter, it does appear as some of the best CBD oils or products could have a raft of medical benefits.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

As a society, we are developing an over-reliance on pain medication to deal with issues such as inflammation. According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, CBD reduced the levels of chronic inflammation in rats and mice. CBD is also used for conditions with chronic pain such as fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.

Mental Health Disorders

A study published in Current Pharmaceutical Design suggested that CBD had a similar effect to certain antipsychotic drugs and it was potentially safe to use on patients with schizophrenia. Further studies showed that CBD could have a positive impact when used on people with neurological disorders. It also has potential anti-seizure properties and is used by individuals with epilepsy.


The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology posted a study which suggests that CBD can block cancer cells from invading an area or spreading around the body. In summation, it could suppress cancer cell growth and possibly assist in the killing of these harmful cells.

The above is just a taste of what CBD is doing to help the medical industry. Let’s take a look at how it is extracted from the cannabis plant.

CBD Extraction Methods



The purpose of CBD extraction is quite simple; to create the cannabinoid (and others) in a highly concentrated form to make it suitable for human consumption. You must use a plant material rich in CBD such as special cannabis strains or hemp.

Special Strains such as AC/DC and Charlotte’s Web have a high CBD concentration (up to 18% in some cases) and a low THC concentration (as little as 5%). You need a favorable CBD/THC ratio because even in cases where plants have a THC concentration of up to 6%, the extra high CBD content should hopefully render the psychoactive effects of THC inert.

cbd co2 extraction

Various strains of industrial hemp are another way to extract CBD. They are grown around the world legally; including in India, China and several countries in Western Europe. One of the most popular industrial hemp strains is Fedora 17 because it has an extremely low THC content which means that any CBD extracted from it has virtually no psychoactive effects.

CBD oil made from hemp is legal in almost every country around the world including in all 50 states in the U.S. because of the negligible THC content.

Without further ado, let’s look at the 4 most common CBD oil extraction methods:

CBD Extraction Methods:

1 – The CO2 Cannabis Extraction Method

This form of CBD extraction is actually divided into supercritical, subcritical and ‘mid-critical’ categories but supercritical is by far the most commonly used. In fact, it is the most regularly used extraction method of all because it is safe and provides a pure end product.

In simple terms, CO2 cannabis extraction uses pressurized carbon dioxide (CO2) to pull CBD (and other phytochemicals) from the plant. CO2 acts like a solvent at certain temperatures and pressures but possesses none of the dangers. While it is safe and effective, it also involves extremely expensive equipment. The rather sophisticated machines used for the purpose work to freeze the CO2 gas and compress it into a supercritical cold liquid state.

CO2 typically behaves like a gas at standard pressure and temperature, and is easily changed to a solid while in this state; the solid version of the gas is known as ‘dry ice.’ Using the aforementioned equipment in a lab, you can turn CO2 gas into a liquid by ensuring the temperature drops below -69 degrees Fahrenheit while increasing the pressure to over 75 pounds per square inch (psi). At this stage, you have your starting point for CO2 Cannabis extraction.

Once you have the liquid CO2, the next step is to increase the temperature and pressure past the point where the liquid becomes ‘supercritical.’ This term means the CO2 is now capable of adopting properties halfway between a gas and liquid simultaneously. Effectively, the supercritical CO2 is capable of filling a container (like gas) while also maintaining density (like a liquid). When CO2 is in its supercritical state, it is ideal for chemical extraction because it won’t cause the denaturing or damage that would make it unfit for human consumption.

co2 extracted cbd oil

Regarding extracting the CBD oil using this technique, you simply begin with liquid CO2 and raise its pressure via a compressor. You must also raise its temperature using a heater. The next step involves passing the supercritical carbon dioxide through some high-quality cannabis which should be in an extractor. Now, the CO2 will pull the essential trichomes and terpene oils out of the plant.

The solution gets passed via a separator and is broken down into its requisite parts. The good stuff (including trichomes and terpenes) is sent to the collection container. Meanwhile, the supercritical CO2 goes through a condenser and is turned back into a liquid. Finally, the liquid goes to a special storage tank and can be used to begin the process all over again.


Subcritical extraction

This form of extraction involves low temperatures and low pressure. Subcritical extractions take longer than their supercritical counterpart and also produce a smaller yield. While it retains the terpenes, essential oils and other sensitive materials, it doesn’t extract larger molecules such as chlorophyll, omega 3 & 6. Subcritical extraction is less likely to damage terpenes.

Mid-critical is simply a general range between subcritical and supercritical. Some companies combine supercritical and subcritical to create a full-spectrum CO2 cannabis extract. They use the subcritical extraction method to separate the drawn out oil and draw out the very same plant material using supercritical pressure. The oils are then homogenized into one which creates an amalgamated oil. This is known as the CO2 Total Extraction Process.

Pros and Cons of CO2 Cannabis Extraction

CO2 Comparison 1 2 3
Pros Safety: CO2 is a common food additive and is used to produce carbonated soft drinks for example. Effectiveness: CO2 has been used as an extraction solvent for years by food companies. It is used to remove caffeine from coffee and as an extraction solvent when producing essential oils. Purity: The cannabinoids produced are potent and free of chlorophyll with minimal risk of contaminants.
Cons Expensive: You can only complete the process with the aid of extremely expensive equipment; estimates suggest the kit costs around $39,000. Technical Ability: CO2 Cannabis extraction is not something that should be attempted by an amateur chemist.

2 – The Olive Oil Extraction Method

While other liquids such as ethanol can be used in this process, olive oil is the most commonly used substance for this extraction which can be performed at home. The first step involves ensuring the raw plant material is decarboxylated. In layman’s terms, it means you have to heat the plant at a certain temperature for a specific length of time to activate the plant’s chemicals.

Most experts recommend heating at 248 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes or at 284 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Once this step is completed, add the plant material to the olive oil and heat to 212 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 2 hours (and at least 1 hour). This process should result in the extraction of the cannabinoids, and ultimately, you should receive oil with the CBD content you require.

Pros and Cons of the Olive Oil Extraction Method

Olive Oil Comparison 1 2
Pros Very Safe: You won’t blow yourself up using this method to get CBD! Inexpensive: You can set everything up at home without breaking the bank.
Cons Perishable: Regardless of whether your cannabis infused oil is high in CBD or THC, it is highly perishable so you must store it in a cool, dark place and use as soon as possible. Low Yields: This form of extraction only produces fairly low yields, so there is no possibility of a company using it due to the labor-intensive nature of the method.

3 – The Dry Ice Extraction Method

The dry ice extraction method is another method of CBD extraction that can be performed at home although it takes a bit more time and effort than its olive oil equivalent. As well as the cannabis plant itself, you’ll need the following equipment:

  • Around 3 pounds of dry ice.
  • A large piece of Plexiglas or a mirror.
  • A paint scraper or putty knife.
  • Thick gloves that are heat resistant and eye protection.
  • A clean 5-gallon plastic bucket.
  • 3 bubble hash mesh bags; sizes are 73, 160 and 220 microns.
  • 3 large, clean glass jars for storage.

Put on your gloves and eye protection, chop up the cannabis plant into small pieces and place it in the bucket. Cover the plant with the dry ice and leave it for 3 minutes; it is best only to fill the bucket halfway; this process causes the freezing of the trichome resins. Fit the 73-micron bag over the bucket and sake the ice & plant combo for around 4 minutes; this knocks the frozen trichomes off.

Turn the bucket upside down on the Plexiglas and shake as much resin through the mesh bag as possible. Scrap the hash off the Plexiglas with your scraper and place it into one of the jars. Repeat with the 160 and 220-micron mesh bags, and you’ll be rewarded with three different strains of extract.

Pros and Cons of the Dry Ice Extraction Method

Dry Ice Comparison 1 2 3
Pros Ease of Use: The steps above are very easy to follow. Clean: Unlike other methods, there is very little mess with dry ice extraction. Decent Yield: You’ll end up with a lot more than if you use oil extraction.
Cons Low-Quality: This is entirely dependent on the user, but you will ruin the quality of the product if you shake it for too long. Not Always Easy Getting Dry Ice: Depending on where you live, it isn’t always so easy to get your hands on 3 pounds of dry ice unless you order it online.

4 – The Solvent Extraction Method

Ethanol, low-grade alcohol, and butane are among the most common substances used in Solvent Extraction. Although ethanol extracts the full range of cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant which makes the end product safe for consumption, it also extracts chlorophyll which may lead to some unpleasant side effects. You can remove the chlorophyll by filtering the extract, but you significantly reduce the oil’s potency. Butane offers a stronger oil than ethanol, but it is more likely to contain solvents which could irritate the lungs.

All you have to do is add the liquid (whether it is butane, alcohol or ethanol) to the plant material. The extraction liquid will strip away the cannabinoids and flavor from the plant material but will probably take some of the green colorings too. Once you believe you have enough cannabinoids in liquid form, heat the liquid to evaporate it down to the CBD base oil.

Pros and Cons of the Solvent Extraction Method

Solvent Comparison 1 2
Pros Appropriate For Some Products: If you use high-grade alcohol, you may produce good quality oil suitable for vaping cartridges. Straightforward Process: Once you have the equipment, it isn’t difficult to complete the process.
Cons Extremely Dangerous: Butane and Ethanol are flammable, so it isn’t worth starting a fire in your home to extract CBD in this manner. Potentially Harmful: As well as destroying plant waxes, this form of extraction may produce oil that contains chlorophyll or other harmful contaminants.

Final Words About CBD Extraction

cbd extraction yield

It is extremely important to understand the various CBD extraction methods as they have a major impact on the quality of the end product; not to mention your health. We don’t recommend utilizing the solvent method because not only is it dangerous to make, it is also more likely to cause health problems. The cost of CO2 supercritical extraction means it is not possible for 99.9% of readers although it is an excellent, safe and efficient method.

Those who create their own CBD oils will tend to use dry ice or olive oil, which provide great purity, yield and are easy to do. There are also other extraction methods that we have not mentioned in this guide. If you have experience in extracting CBD from the cannabis plant and would like to share your method, feel free to contact us in the comments or through our Facebook page.

We would be more than happy to add your information to this article.


  1. Albert Sikora
    Dry Ice Facility

    I am planning to open a CBD facility using the dry ice extraction process in California. In the approval stage still, so once it is done, we are going to deploy this, as have researched a lot, and found this to be the most viable and suitable option for our CBD business.

  2. Debbie Lowe
    Love this

    This is great! I use CBD for my anxiety and it has helped me come out of my comfort zone more than ever!

  3. Rhoda. Kraatz
    Authentic CBD is third party tested

    If you are looking for pure CBD, then yes extraction methods do play a role. However, more important is if your CBD has a third party tester stamp, and if your manufacturer offers money back guarantee. Those are the best signs of authentic CBD.

  4. Tom Urban
    A differnt method ????

    what is the Organic Fractionated method and how does that compare to CO2

  5. Alex
    CBD Capsulator

    Thank you for good review. Do you know what this “CBD Capsulator”?

    Thank you, great information!! New to the industry and this article was helpful.

    Thank you, great information!! New to the industry and this article was helpful.

  7. Industrial Hemp Farms
    CBD extraction

    We offer ethanol CBD extraction of hemp at our Colorado Facility. We can turn hemp biomass into Winterized/Decarboxylated CBD Crude Oil and from there convert into distillate and isolate. We also sell hemp biomass, clones and seeds. If you want to check us out you can see here

    Thanks MB! Keep up the good work

    1. Ervy George

      Since chlorophyll is water soluble, and the essence your after, is not. Use hot water to rinse and squeeze the material and repeat. You’ll wash away most of the chlorophyll. Then the solvent process will yield a higher quality of product. Naturally, ethanol is part water itself, you’ll need to evaporate the final product longer to get rid of the water that will undoubtedly be still in the material before you rinse it. I would think ethyl ether would be even better, however way more volatile of a solvent. However, an aqueous solution of acetone used in a vehicle of ether would remove the chlorophyll, however may extract some of the essence you’re after. In any event, any reaction using ethyl ether should only be carried out by knowledgeable and qualified personnel. If you thought butane was flammable, step aside cupcake, ether is extremely volatile. Ether is also known to have no permanent impact on CNS cognition like ethyl alcohol or ethanol, butane and acetone , although both are ‘aromatic hydrocarbons’ and acetone a ‘ketone’ the ethers are anhydrous and again have no permanent impact on the CNS…Acquiring ethyl ether can be somewhat problematic given its a preferred solvent for clandestine manufacturing of a wide variety of alkaloids. Also, keep in mind there is water in acetone too! Anytime you find hydrogen and oxygen you’ll find water. Water is the most abundant solvent on earth, given time, it will break down anything. However, I’ve been known to digress.

  8. Donny Young

    What a comprehensive article. Great work!

  9. Stan
    Great info

    Really great, helpful information. Thanks for the article

  10. Janny B
    Excellent article and very helpful

    I am new to this industry but articles like this truly help.

  11. Neil Mckinley Campbell

    All these articles omit the microwave extraction process.

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