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How CBD Oil is Made: Growing, Extracting, Processing, and Purifying

How CBD Oil is Made: Growing, Extracting, Processing, and Purifying

 Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

Making CBD Oil 

When it comes to CBD products, consumers are often warned that not all CBD is created equal. But what does that mean? Essentially, it's all in how the CBD oil is made. In the unregulated industry, the methods of processing Cannabidiol (CBD) from hemp to oil directly impacts quality.

CBD is a chemical compound extracted from different strains of the Cannabis Sativa plant that partners with the body’s endocannabinoid system to help fight injury and illness. CBD research points to the possibility of helping symptoms associated with anxiety and pain, and it’s already been FDA-approved for treating certain epilepsy disorders. 

The possibilities are endless for the CBD industry, but to elevate your cannabis experience, it’s important to educate yourself on how CBD oil is made and support brands that place value on purity over profit. 

The Plant and Growing Process 

To initiate the growing process, farmers breed plants with high concentrations of CBD and low concentrations of THC to comply with the 2018 Farm Bill. This is why most CBD oil products are extracted from the CBD-rich hemp plant. 

Farmers breed hemp through seeds or cloning. Once the breeding process is established, the plants are put in soil and harvested at the end of the flowering period. For the best quality, hemp thrives in moderate climates with well-drained soil.

Once a stock is harvested, the plant is air-dried for three to four weeks before the stems are soaked to make the decortication process easier. Decortication happens before extraction when the fiber of the plant is removed from the stem.

Using Plant and Growing Information to Buy Quality CBD Products

When it comes to CBD, pay attention to where your products come from. Some states stand out because of the support they receive from the state government. Colorado and Oregon benefit from a system that’s willing to help farmers through research, grants and programs. 

According to Hemp Grower, “The Oregon Department of to ensure that hemp farmers understand the rules and best practices for hemp cultivation.”

A good indicator of “best practices” is usually a US Department of Agricultural organic stamp. When CBD products uphold these standards, it means they were grown in clean conditions and extracted without genetic modification or harmful toxins. 

The Extraction Process 

The extraction process is the method of turning plant to oil. Various solvents are used to separate cannabinoids into an oily substance. The solvents that growers use to extract has heavy implications on the quality of the products. 


CO2 extraction utilizes carbon dioxide to produce a highly concentrated oil when the gas is put under high pressure in a low-temperature environment. This manipulates the gas into a liquid, which is then passed through the harvested plant materials resulting in the purest oil possible.


This extraction method utilizes ethanol, a polar solvent that mixes with water to draw out water-soluble molecules and cannabis compounds. The resulting dark oil is a mixture of cannabis compounds and Chlorophyll, which is later filtered out. Although this filtration step also removes some of the extracted cannabinoids, thus lowering the overall purity of the product. 


Hydrocarbon extraction utilizes solvents like propane, butane or acetone to extract CBD oil. Although a cheap and easy process, the extracted oil often has a higher concentration of THC, and a lower concentration of CBD. Plus, the possibility for residue is high, which significantly lowers the purity and effectiveness of products.  

How to Use Extraction Information to Buy Quality CBD Products

When it comes to quality, CO2 extraction yields the best products, but at a higher price because of the need for expensive equipment and knowledgeable extractors. 

The best bang-for-your-buck is ethanol extraction. It’s not only a lower cost method but also can produce high-quality oils. Although the additional filtration step leaves more room for the possibility of error, like solvent contamination. 

Hydrocarbon extraction methods are best to be avoided, which should be easy since most mainstream companies now avoid this low quality extracting process.


After the extraction process, comes decarboxylation. Decarboxylation is a simple heating process that most CBD oil products undergo to activate CBD and its benefits for the human body. The heat activates the Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA), which subsequently produces CBD that will interact and bind with receptors within the endocannabinoid system.


Purification, or winterization, is an optional step of the process that removes excess fatty acids, chlorophyll and other plant materials. 

How does winterization work? CBD extract is mixed with 200 proof alcohol and frozen. Then the mixture is run through a paper filter where the alcohol and excess are separated and removed from the pure CBD by evaporating off the alcohol.

Testing CBD products 

Unfortunately, the CBD oil industry lacks regulation, which leaves consumers at risk of purchasing low quality, impure CBD products. According to the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, the industry faces issues when it comes to labeling, contaminants and “the complete absence of any cannabinoids.”

So it’s important to support companies that invest in third-party testing of their products. These labs test for contamination and degradation, and it’s always a good sign when you can readily find these results on a brand’s website. 

Plus, groups like the Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards (FOCUS) are working towards the future of CBD as they are looking to implement widespread standards similar to those already adopted in states like Colorado.

How to Use Processing, Purifying, and Testing Information to Buy Quality Products

Now that you get the gist of how CBD is made, you know exactly what to look for. When reading labels and researching companies, ask yourself these questions:

  • Where was the hemp harvested?
  • How was the CBD extracted?
  • Is it organic?
  • Was it third-party approved? 

  • Plus, look for companies embracing the future: QR codes on CBD labels. “The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) recently announced that all hemp products, including CBD oils, will be legal for purchase only when labeled. The label should include a QR Code that informs consumers about the ingredients used and a certificate of analysis done by a third-party lab,” according to Beaconstac


    Although the CBD industry’s lack of regulations can be intimidating, this should not stop you from reaping the benefits of high-quality products. Plus, understanding how to make CBD oil and where to buy CBD oil will not only make you a better consumer, but it will influence producers to be more transparent and reputable, thus elevating the entire quality of the industry.