In order to make consumable CBD products, cannabidiol (CBD) must be extracted from hemp plant material. There are many different methods used for extraction, and they are definitely not all equal. These methods can vary in cost and, more importantly, in the quality of the final product. To make Active CBD products, we use a method called supercritical CO2 extraction, because we want to provide our customers with the highest quality products possible. There are cheaper and easier methods out there, but we prefer not to sacrifice quality by cutting costs in this vital area. So, what exactly distinguishes CO2 extraction from other solvent extraction methods?
The base of each method is a solvent, or a “substance, ordinarily a liquid, in which other materials dissolve to form a solution.” In general, the solvent being used determines the cost of each extraction as well as the risk factor if any solvent is left over in the final product. Some popular methods rely on harsh solvents like butane, hexane, and propane, which cost less to use, but can lead to impurities in the final product and can be very dangerous if not done properly. Ideally when using hydrocarbon solvents like butane, one would completely remove the solvent from the end product. Unfortunately this can be difficult to do and there are sometimes trace amounts of solvent left over in the end product, which can be harmful when inhaled or ingested.
Photo from Eden Labs https://www.edenlabs.com/processes/co2-extraction
The reason that we use supercritical CO2 extraction is that it is cleaner and safer than using solvents like butane. The equipment and processes required for CO2 extraction are more expensive than other methods, but the end result is a clean product with no risk of toxic solvent leftovers. This is because carbon dioxide (CO2) is a naturally occurring substance that does not leave behind residue, making it safe enough to carbonate your favorite brand of soda. Not only is it safe to consume in these products, but it is literally in the air that we breathe every day. The “supercritical” part of the name refers to the fact that the CO2 is pressurized to convert it into a supercritical fluid. A supercritical fluid occurs when a substance passes the pressure and temperature needed for the “critical point” at which there is no distinction between the liquid and gas phase.
Photo from Supercritical Fluid Technologies, Inc. http://www.supercriticalfluids.com/company-information/about-supercritical-fluids/
As a result, the fluid is neither a liquid nor a gas, but possesses the properties of both phases. The fluid is used to extract the desired compounds from the plant matrix, and then completely evaporates from the extract once the pressure is removed. The ability to completely evaporate is what makes this method so popular among those who want zero risk of leftover solvents. Furthermore, if the CO2 somehow did not completely evaporate, there would be no risk in consuming these leftover traces because CO2 is naturally occurring and harmless. When quality and safety are top priorities, supercritical CO2 extraction is the way to go!