how to make CBD oil

How to Make CBD Oil

Hemp and cannabis have a long history throughout the world.

The first recorded use of cannabis as a medicine was in 2,737 BC by Emperor Shen Neng of China. During his rule, he instructed his people to explore the differences between the masculine and feminine traits of the cannabis plant.

It’s possible that he could be considered the father of modern, alternative, medicine.

There is archaeological evidence to suggest that the source plant for CBD, cannabis sativa, was likely one of the first agricultural crops planted by early man. In fact, while we often associate growing cannabis and hemp as a modern achievement, it has often been associated with the birth of agriculture some 10-12,000 years ago.

The medical community in the United States has been using cannabidiol in one form or another since the 1970’s and many may be surprised to find that it has even been legal in some states – medically speaking – since the 90’s. Read more about the history of cannabidiol here.

When it comes to discussions about marijuana, its psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), gets most of the fanfare and criticism (or acclaim, depending on your point of view.)

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the more prevalent cannabinoids in cannabis accounting for up to 40 percent of the plant.


CBD is one of over 110 active cannabinoids inside marijuana plants and is most predominant inside the resin glands (trichomes) of the female cannabis plant. Your body contains cell receptors known as cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids, found in cannabis, are agonists that bind to these receptors. Cannabinoid receptors can be found all over the body including, but not limited to, the:

  • Skin
  • Digestive tract
  • Reproductive organs

Together all of these cells make up the larger endocannabinoid system (ECS). If cannabinoid receptors are locks, then agonists – or the cannabinoids found in CBD – are keys. CBD interacts with cells in our bodies that we produce naturally called endocannabinoids. These cells are able to interact due to their similar composition.

The ECS system has been described as the greatest neurotransmitter system in the body and has a hand in just about everything your body does including:

  • Appetite
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Female reproduction
  • Immune system
  • Memory
  • Metabolism
  • Sleep
  • Stress response
  • Thermoregulation

CBD can be derived from both marijuana plants as well as hemp plants. Hemp naturally contains low concentrations of THC, and high concentrations of CBD.  Because hemp is used for products such as paper and clothing, CBD can also be created as a byproduct of these processes.

In addition to the possible health benefits associated with the studies listed above, hemp oil products provide the body with a number of essential oils, which are often missing from our diets. As we’ve previously explained on HempMeds, this can include important vitamins and minerals, proteins, flavonoids, terpenes and omega fatty acids.

CBD oil can be applied topically or orally and it is non-psychoactive, meaning it contains no THC. HempMeds also offers daily CBD oil products that can be taken in pill form.


The effects of CBD oil and their benefits have been well documented, however, the extraction of CBD and how pure CBD oil is made is a more complex process.

how cbd oil is made

There are three main processes for making CBD oil:


The supercritical CO2 extraction method is the safest, and most efficient method of CBD extraction, however, it is also the most expensive. CO2 extraction is being used for a variety of industries including:

  • Coffee
  • Vanilla
  • Tea
  • Fruit and nut extracts
  • Fruit and nut aromas
  • Omega-3 oils
  • Fragrances
  • Perfumes
  • Oil extraction from algae (as an alternative energy source)

supercritical CO2 extraction method

Lab techs use state of the art equipment to create phase changes in carbon dioxide by utilizing temperature and pressure. The carbon dioxide is cooled and compressed to upwards of 10,000 psi – by comparison your car tire is pressurized to about 300 psi. When compressed to these extremes, CO2 becomes ‘supercritical’, which simply means that it converts to liquid when placed under extreme pressure.

In this supercritical state, the CO2 possesses the properties of a liquid and gas at the same time. The CO2 is then heated up and passed through the hemp in a closed loop extractor, without causing harm to any heat-sensitive nutrients like enzymes or vitamins.

The result of this process is a released and recycled CO2 that leaves a highly concentrated, totally pure extract that is more easily digested by the body. The CBD oil that comes through supercritical extraction is a full spectrum cannabinoid product that is transparent with a light amber color.

Supercritical CO2 extraction is also the key to understanding more cannabinoids in cannabis like Cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabicitran (CBT) and how they interact with each other (called the Entourage effect). This can lead to increased understanding of marijuana in the medical field, and will also allow growers to come up with more effective, new and exciting strains.

Ethanol and canola oil method


According to the FDA, ethanol is “generally regarded as safe,” meaning that it is safe for human consumption when present at 16,000 parts per million (ppm) or less.

Ethanol is commonly found in paints, markers, personal care products such as mouthwash, perfume, and deodorant. Additionally, ethanol is used commonly as a preservative and additive with food. As it is miscible with water, ethanol is a good general-purpose solvent.

While ethanol can be used for extracting the full-range of cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis plant for CBD, even organic pharmaceutical-grade ethanol has drawbacks.

First, ethanol is a polar solvent. This means that it will readily mix with water and dissolve water-soluble molecules. This creates a great challenge for companies using the ethanol extraction method because chlorophyll is one of the compounds that will easily co-extract. Chlorophyll in the concentrate will result in a dark green coloring and an unpleasant bitter, grassy flavor.

Chlorophyll can be removed by filtering the extract, however, this additional step adds an increased cost and removes a significant proportion of the cannabinoids, therefore leading to a less potent CBD oil.

Secondly, ethanol extraction can reduce the oil’s potency due to the destruction of the plant’s waxes during the extraction process.

Olive oil can also be used to extract CBD oil, but like using ethanol it has its pros and cons.

The good part about extracting the cannabinoids with olive oil is that the technique is very simple and only requires that the olive oil is heated up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, then filtering the extract.

The bad part is that this extract cannot be concentrated. This leaves a less potent product, which requires users to take a much larger dosage to see any sort of effect.

the rick simpson method


After an accident at his workplace that saw Rick Simpson suffer from dizzy spells and tinnitus, Simpson saw a documentary highlighting the positive benefits of using cannabis. He approached his doctor about using cannabis as a treatment, however, his doctor refused. Undeterred, Simpson sourced it for himself. After a short time, he started seeing an improvement in his symptoms and continued to use cannabis as a treatment.

The Rick Simpson method, utilizes a hydrocarbon such as butane, pentane, propane, hexane or acetone to extract CBD oil from cannabis. With a low boiling point, hydrocarbons like butane can easily be purged at the end of the extraction process, resulting in a pure byproduct of CBD oil.

While this method is cheap and relatively easy, it is also extremely dangerous and can result in explosions or fires. During the process there are open fumes susceptible to nearby flames. 

It can also lead to products with a lower concentration of terpenes and other cannabinoids such as CBD. Couple that with the potential for unsafe residues to remain from the solvents that may interfere with a person’s immune function and this method is not the best choice for anyone looking for CBD oil.


The topical application of CBD allows the molecules to be absorbed directly into the affected area for faster, more focused onset of effects. Rather than ingesting hemp oil orally, which can take up to 2 hours or more as it needs to digest before entering the bloodstream, rub it on the affected areas directly.

This minimally invasive method for CBD use often serves as the first point of contact between curious consumers and the hemp oil industry. Reluctant to ingest, new users may be more willing to try topical applications for their first time before moving on to oral CBD products.

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