CBD oils can now be found everywhere. However, very few people know how CBD oils are actually produced. We want to educate people about hemp cultivation and CBD oil production.
With the amount of CBD oils on the market, you have to look closer if you want to buy a high quality CBD oil. The best CBD oil should not only be organically grown, but also produced as gently as possible. A good CBD oil is therefore not easy to find, as many suppliers do not reveal anything about the manufacturing processes and the production of the oils.
At ALPINOLS, everything takes place under one roof. From hemp cuttings to hand-picked hemp plants to the finished CBD oil, we want to make the entire value chain as transparent as possible.
Table of contents
How is CBD grown and harvested?
Our CBD is grown in Switzerland. CBD, also known as cannabidiol, comes from the hemp plant. And as with any plant, the seed is at the very beginning. It is important to establish the reason for growing hemp. If you only want to harvest the seeds and fibres, you have to proceed differently than when harvesting for CBD oil production.
The cuttings are planted in the field in spring, at ALPINOLS this usually happens in May. This is because hemp is sensitive to frost. The time of planting should therefore not be earlier than April or May, so that the temperatures do not drop below 0 degrees.
We grow our hemp either outdoors or in a greenhouse. The difference between these ways of growing hemp and indoor growing is that both greenhouse and outdoor are very natural ways of growing. In the greenhouse, the plants are planted in the field, but they are surrounded by a protective roof. This way, they are protected and can draw all the good nutrients from the soil.
The soil in which the cannabis plant is grown must be kept free of weeds. This is done by hoeing or by covering the plants with a foil. In addition, hemp takes very deep roots. This would allow the hemp plant to get enough water from deeper soil layers even during drought. However, it can also absorb harmful substances in the soil if it has not been cultivated organically for long enough.
In nature, the hemp plant forms its inflorescences after the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year (usually 20 June to 22 June). In the greenhouse can be helped a little by the change of darkening and light. This makes it possible to harvest several times a year.
Harvesting then takes place in autumn when the plants are ripe, or when the time has been stimulated in the greenhouse. For harvesting, the flowers and leaves are then separated from the stem. For our CBD oil, only the trim is used, which is the fine leaf edge around the flowers. In order to harvest this as gently as possible, our hemp is harvested by hand.
After the harvest comes the drying of the trim. The plant parts of the hemp must be completely dried in order to be processed further. The finely chopped leaves are dried in an oven. The heating converts the CBDa into CBD. This conversion is called decarboxylation. However, too much heating destroys cannabinoids and terpenes, so this process must be done very carefully.
What forms of extraction are there for CBD oil?
In Switzerland and Europe, only the leaves and stems of the hemp plant may be used for hemp extraction. The fine leaves, which are harvested by hand in our country, are also called trim.
The trim is then processed further and goes into an oven where the finely chopped leaves are dried. In this way, the CBD, which is still present in the plant as CBDa, can be converted into CBD. This is also called decarboxylation.
The CBD that has now formed and other cannabinoids, terpenes and plant substances must now be extracted to obtain the CBD oil. The method chosen determines the degree of purity and quality of the finished CBD oil. We present four extraction methods and tell you how CBD oil is extracted here in Switzerland.
Oil extraction usually uses a vegetable oil to extract the cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are fat-soluble, so you can mix them with an oil and heat it up to about 100°C. The cannabinoids will then dissolve in the oil so that it can be used further. However, vegetable oil is quickly perishable and the CBD content with this extraction is also low.
In this extraction process, the CBD is dissolved with solvents such as alcohol, ethanol or other solvents. The finely chopped leaves that contain the CBD are mixed with the solvent and then heated until only the CBD extract remains. However, not only CBD is extracted here, but also the chlorophyll, which can be harmful to humans in large quantities. In addition, residues of the solvent may be present, which would be very harmful to health.
Therefore, find out exactly which CBD extraction method is used by a supplier. Reputable suppliers use the following method, CO2 extraction.
What is CO2 extraction in CBD oil production?
As the name suggests, carbon dioxide is used in CO2 extraction. That doesn't sound so good at first, if you know CO2 more as exhaust gas. We will explain to you why CO2 extraction is the highest-quality extraction process.
Carbon dioxide offers an important advantage: it is completely gaseous at normal room temperature, but under high pressure it becomes liquid. For the CO2-extraction, the CO2 therefore flows under high pressure in liquid form over the finely chopped hemp leaves to dissolve the components of the hemp leaves. In this form, CO2 acts as a solvent for the CBD.
Afterwards, it becomes completely gaseous again at normal temperature and no residues remain in the extract, as is the case with solvent extraction, for example. What remains is the pure CBD extract with all other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
However, CO2 extraction is very expensive and complicated to produce, so it is not yet used for every CBD oil despite its high quality. Expensive machines and expert knowledge are needed to be able to use the high-quality extraction process.
A distinction is made between three different categories of CO2 extraction for CBD oil production: supercritical, subcritical and medium-critical CO2 extraction.
Supercritical CO2 extraction
Supercritical CO2 extraction, also called supercritical CO2 extraction, is a form of extraction in which the CO2 is still present in gaseous form above a critical point, but as densely packed as it would be in liquid form.
So in simple words: The CO2 is still gaseous, but already so densely packed that it almost becomes liquid. This short moment before the CO2 is liquid is called the critical point.
In order to maintain this critical point, certain pressure and temperature conditions must be present. The pressure must be above 73.75 bar and the temperature above 30.980°C for the supercritical carbon dioxide to be formed.
This form of extraction for CBD oil production gives the highest yield, as larger molecules such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are also extracted. However, this form of extraction also destroys other components that are more sensitive. Terpenes and phyto cannabinoids do not survive supercritical CO2 extraction.
Subcritical CO2 extraction
Subcritical CO2 extraction is also called cold extraction. A lower temperature is used than in supercritical extraction at the same pressure, so that the CO2 becomes liquid but does not completely lose its properties as a solvent. The pressure is thus above 73.75 bar and the temperature below 30.980°C.
Due to the cold extraction, the process takes longer overall than with supercritical extraction, but has a decisive advantage. The lower temperature also preserves sensitive components of the hemp that would be lost at too high a temperature.
Total CO2 extraction
A CO2 total extraction uses both supercritical extraction and subcritical extraction. Here, the sensitive components of the hemp plant, such as terpenes and plant cannabinoids, are first extracted via subcritical extraction. This is followed by supercritical extraction of the same hemp mass, which filters out larger and less sensitive components. In the end, both extracts are mixed to a common CBD extract.
Medium critical CO2 extraction
Medium-critical CO2 extraction, as the name suggests, takes place in the middle of the temperature and pressure ratios of supercritical and subcritical extraction. However, supercritical CO2 extraction remains more frequently used.
How is the THC extracted from a CBD oil for a Broad Spectrum CBD oil?
The CBD extract can now be further processed into a CBD oil. However, there is also the possibility to turn a Full Spectrum CBD oil, which also contains THC, into a Broad Spectrum CBD oil without THC.
For this, a filtration is needed first, which is also called winterisation. Winterisation means nothing other than that the CBD extract is placed in a freezer. The vegetable fats of the hemp dissolve.
Afterwards, the remaining CBD extract is mixed with ethanol and sent through a flash chromatograph. In this device, the THC is separated from the remaining hemp extract with different pressures. Due to the different molecular size of the different cannabinoids, like THC, the THC can be squeezed out by different pressure.
The ethanol is then distilled under vacuum so that it dissolves again. The solution is not heated above 40 degrees by the vacuum and thus protects the important components of the CBD extract.
What comes after the CBD oil production?
After the CBD extract could be extracted from the finely chopped organic hemp leaves, which were hand-picked in our fields, the CBD extract has to be mixed with a carrier oil. In this way, a CBD oil with a certain concentration can be produced. At ALPINOLS, for example, organic sunflower seed oil is used to bring the CBD extract to the desired concentration.
When the carrier oil has been added and the CBD oil with the desired concentration is ready, it has to be filled into vials and labelled. In addition, packaging is also added. After that, the CBD oils are ready for shipment.
To ensure high quality and to be as transparent as possible, every supplier should have their CBD oils tested by an independent laboratory. At ALPINOLS, for example, we have also had our terpene profile analysed to verify the high quality of our CBD oils. You can view this here.
Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum vs. Hemp Oil
Hemp has many uses. Not only the hemp seeds, but also the leaves, stems and flowers are used. You can get quite confused when you read CBD oil, hemp oil, full spectrum or broad spectrum. We want to explain to you what the difference is.
Basically, Full Spectrum and Broad Spectrum are terms that belong to one CBD oil. The difference between two CBD oils is described here. In a Full Spectrum, all other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids are included in addition to CBD. The legal amount of THC is also a component of a Full Spectrum CBD oil.
A Broad Spectrum, on the other hand, has exactly this amount of THC filtered out. A Broad Spectrum CBD oil also contains CBD and all the important cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, but it does not contain THC.
Since CBD and all other components are present as an extract after extraction, this must be mixed with a so-called carrier oil. Sunflower seed oil, MCT oil or hemp oil or hemp seed oil are often used for this.
A pure hemp oil is therefore not to be confused with a CBD oil. The differences lie particularly in the plant components of hemp that are used. Hemp oil, or hemp seed oil, is made from hemp seeds. These usually do not contain many of the cannabinoids, but rather valuable omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. However, hemp oil is also characterised by a strong, bitter taste.
CBD oil and hemp oil are therefore not the same. We have an overview for you so that you can see the difference:
- A Full Spectrum or Broad Spectrum is a CBD oil.
- Hemp oil is mostly made from hemp seeds, while CBD oils come from the fine hemp leaves and stalks.
- A hemp oil is produced from cold pressing, a CBD oil is extracted from the harvested hemp leaves.
Conclusion on CBD oil production
The production of a high quality CBD oil is an important part of finding a good CBD oil. Not only the harvest, but also the extraction method, testing and the carrier oil are important to assess the quality of a CBD oil.
The following criteria are important:
- An EU-certified hemp variety, which is produced according to organic guidelines.
- A CO2 extraction of the CBD, as well as the other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids
- The decision for a Full Spectrum or a Broad Spectrum CBD oil
- Independent laboratory tests to verify the CBD oil
The decision for a CBD oil should therefore be well researched so that you can be sure you have found the best CBD oil for you.