The benefits of CBD oil are tangible for a variety of conditions including pain management, sleep, seizure reduction, anxiety management, nausea, beauty aid, and inflammation reduction. As a natural remedy, many people are turning to CBD to curb the nasty downsides to prescription drugs. Many patients experience relief of chronic symptoms that other opioid-based drugs were the only solution without the same risks of addiction and other side effects.
While the healing properties of cannabis products were used in ancient medicinal practices, the past few decades have led to a clearer understanding of the full benefits of these naturally occurring compounds. As a result of the legalization of cannabis-derived products for medicinal and recreational use, scientists have had better access to studying the products.
While the full benefits of CBD have not yet been unlocked, there’s no doubt that a wide variety of consumers are finding significant benefit in using CBD oil. If you are new to the world of CBD, the wide variety of offerings on the market can be overwhelming and challenging to understand exactly what you’re consuming. There are several methods available to produce CBD oil, with numerous forms of consumption and at varying price points.
The methods of extraction are not only an indication of the quality, but the safety of the product you’re receiving. If you’re ready to try CBD oil, or want more information on what makes a quality CBD product, here’s what you need to know before buying.
While the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are very different, extraction methods are similar for both compounds. There are more than 100 known cannabinoids, or chemicals found in the cannabis plant. CBD and THC are sourced from the same plant, cannabis sativa, but are colloquially known as hemp or marijuana depending on their concentration of those valuable cannabinoids. Marijuana is primarily associated with the mind-altering THC. CBD is primarily cultivated in hemp plants, which has very little THC concentration.
Therefore, hemp is the primary plant used for CBD oil production and its products are legal in most of the United States. Plants with higher compounds of THC are illegal in most places, unless legalized for medical or recreational purposes by the state. In addition, hemp plant products are much less likely to fail a drug test. Unless consumed in very large quantities, it’s generally viewed as a safer alternative than marijuana if drug testing is a concern.
The first step in creating a CBD product is to source a quality hemp plant. Naturally occurring CBD is grown in a variety of concentrations and growing conditions. As with any other plant, organic growing methods are preferable to those using pesticides, herbicides or other contaminants that will appear in your final product. As a bioaccumulator, hemp plants are prone to absorbing what’s in the soil, air, or water as it’s grown, and will pass on those compounds in its final form.
It’s also important that your plant is domestically grown. Due to wide-ranging legality and implications, farming conditions, and quality checks, your safest bet is to purchase CBD sourced from domestic, industrial hemp plants. In particular, look for farms where the plant is harvested and stored in dry, ventilated conditions to prevent mold and mildew growth. While it takes time for the plant to dry out, contaminants may be introduced in a farm that isn’t properly storing their buds. With strong control standards in place, your final product is less likely to have harmful contaminants.
Extracting a cannabinoid from the cannabis plant into its usable form can be done several ways. In all methods, some fundamental principles hold true. After a plant has been harvested and dried, a nonpolar solvent is required to extract cannabinoids from the plant’s leaves and stalks. A solvent is a liquid where the chemical reaction occurs. A nonpolar, in particular, has similar electronegative properties throughout the chemical structure. Alcohol, hydrocarbons and CO2 are the most common solvents for CBD and other cannabis derived compounds. Lastly, the CBD product must also be heated to activate the compound for consumption at some point in its production.
Sometimes thought of as the original method, alcohol extraction is a popular technique by CBD manufacturers. While grain alcohol, or ethanol, is the most common solvent used in this method, other alcoholic compounds can also be used in the process. In this method, the hemp is first soaked in the solvent. As the hemp plant is dissolved, the solvent evaporates, leaving just the hemp oil behind that can be added to a variety of products.
In addition, the oil can also be extracted by the alcohol method through a tool called a “rotovap,” or a rotary evaporator. First made commercially available in the late ‘50s, this device is used in a variety of chemical laboratories to gently remove products by solvent. In this method, the solvent is saved in a separate container, rather than evaporating. This allows the alcohol or other solvent to be reused in future extractions.
These chemicals are defined by their composition of just hydrogen and carbon, and serve as a solvent for the hemp plant. The most commonly used are propane or butane, which are ignited to heat the plant material. Usually, this process is done in a series of tubes where the oil is able to drip into a separate container as the plant burns. A screen or mesh insert prevents plant matter from being introduced into the oil. In addition, if the extraction is done properly, the butane or propane should completely evaporate and leave the oil free of contaminant.
A more complex technique for extracting CBD is the CO2 method, requiring specialized training and equipment. This is among the newest processes for CBD extraction available on the market. Referred to as Supercritical CO2 extraction, the CO2 is chilled to extremely low temperatures to form a liquid under high pressure. This actually changes the physical properties of the CO2 as it is forced through the plant. This creates isolates of the cannabinoids, allowing for greater control and customization of the final product’s compound. For example, THC can be removed from the compound as the cannabinoids are isolated.
Due to the extreme temperature of the CO2, many other harmful properties, like mildew or mold on the plant are eliminated from the oil. CO2 extraction essentially sanitizes the product, making it safer for consumption. The CO2 method also removes the need for extensive post extraction refinement. Because the CO2 is a naturally occurring atmospheric gas and doesn’t contain harmful properties like alcohol or hydrocarbons, there’s less work to be done to clean the product after extraction.
Depending on the type of CBD product that’s created and the type of extraction used, decarboxylation is done either before or after the extraction process. Hemp plants have a compound called CBD-A, which is an inactive chemical that yields little benefit when taken in this form. Just like THC must be heated to breakdown the chemical to enjoy the psychoactive effects, CBD also requires heat to become effective. Decarboxylation is a key step to changing CBD-A to CBD, which release carbon dioxide and allows CBD to interact with the body’s systems. This process can be done as simply as heating flowers in an oven or heating the oils while making a final product. Typically, the compound must experience temperatures of 200 degrees or more to form CBD, rather than CBD-A.
Extraction Method - Pros and Cons
While the alcohol and hydrocarbon methods are widely accepted, the CO2 method allows greater control over the types of cannabinoids and chemicals that are included in your final product. There’s less chance of chemical residue, having unwanted THC, or other contaminants like mold. However, the CO2 method also tends be more costly due to the complex process required to make it. Only those with specialized training and equipment can properly conduct CO2 extraction.
Alcohol extraction and hydrocarbon extraction require much more work to purify the product for consumption. Especially with hydrocarbon extraction, there is a chance of dangerous chemical residue left by the highly volatile butane or propane used in the process. When done properly, very little residue should be left behind by hydrocarbon extraction, but when the proper operating procedures and purification processes are not observed, the product may do more harm than good when consumed.
In general, it’s recommended to purchase products made by CO2 extraction because of the increased safety measures and expertise needed. As you’re purchasing a product, be sure to understand what type of extraction was used.
What Product Is Right For Me?
All three extraction methods have the potential to produce a high quality CBD product, but the key differentiator is whether the company selling the product has done the work necessary to ensure its safety. As you’re looking to purchase a product, ask whether the product undergoes regular safety and quality testing. In particular, the company should test for contaminants in its product, like butane that may remain after the extraction is completed. Testing should always be conducted by an independent lab to ensure accuracy and unbiased results.
Reputable companies will share their findings with the consumer. Since CBD oil has risen in popularity rapidly and due to the complex legal implications, CBD is not currently regulated by the FDA. Do your research on the company before purchasing, and if necessary, you may want to have an independent test run on the product before consumption. You’ll want to ensure there’s no pesticides, heavy metals, foreign compounds, molds, or solvents in your CBD product.
In addition, look at the product’s price. While an expensive product is just a correlation with high quality, purchasing a cut rate product means you may not be receiving the benefits of quality extraction and purification. While it doesn’t cost a fortune to buy a quality CBD product, the least expensive on the market may be cutting corners to maintain that price point.
Lastly, be wary of explicit health claims made by the manufacturer. There is only one FDA approved product derived from cannabis, which is a seizure management drug called Epidiolex. While there are many benefits to CBD oil that have been observed in a number of consumers, not enough testing has been done to make these kinds of claims. Any company that is willing to make medical claim is likely not reputable.
For a product to be legal in most states, it must have less than 0.3% THC. For those who are concerned with drug testing or the psychoactive effects of THC, fully read all information available on the product for the concentration of THC. If no information is available, you may want to consider another company for your CBD product.
But, outside of the THC concentration, the CBD itself is can have a wide variety of strengths associated. Be sure to check the label for both the dosage size and the amount of CBD contained in the product. Product sizing and dosage can range greatly between forms and manufacturer. You may need to do some math to understand what you’re getting. Look at how many mg of CBD per oz to compare concentration across products. For example, if the 2 oz bottle contains 1,000 mg of CBD, you’re getting 500 mg/oz of CBD.
When beginning a CBD regimin, you’ll want to start with lower concentrations and ease into the proper dosage. A low dosage for most people is between 250 - 500 mg, while higher dosage is around 1,000 mg. It takes some experimentation and testing to determine what amount of CBD is right for you. It’s important to always ask a medical professional before starting a regimen and to closely monitor health and wellness indicators.
There are many product forms available, including isolates, capsules, creams, liquids, tinctures, CBD for Pets, and more. No matter your preferences, there is a form of CBD out there to serve your needs. When you’re looking to buy a product, it’s also important to consider the form you’re taking. For example, creams may be harder to measure when applying than just simply taking a pill. But, you also may be able to get more targeted pain relief with a cream. Trying several forms is an important step to need to finding the most comfortable and controllable application method for your specific needs.
As with THC products, CBD oils can lose their potency as they age. There is an “expiration date” on cannabis products, meaning they will lose effectiveness and concentration. To protect your product, store it in a cool, dark place. Light, humidity, and temperature can cause the product to lose its effects. Ideally, temperatures less than 70 degrees are optimal to control degradation. In addition, oxygen levels can cause cannabis products to degrade. Tightly sealing your CBD oil is important to extending its shelf life.
It’s also important to look on the label to see if there’s a date of production listed for your CBD oils. If a product has been sitting on a shelf for a long time, you may not be receiving the same potency you’re paying for. This can vary greatly based on the place you’re buying your products from. If you’re visiting a brick and mortar location, it’s worth asking about the turnover of products in the store. If ordering online, ask for more information about the items you’re purchasing to determine production date.
It’s also important to only purchase as much CBD oil as you can use in a reasonable time frame. Buying in bulk may not be right for everyone, because of the shelf life of the product. If your oils have been sitting for too long, it’s worth buying a fresh product to replace them.
Vita Leaf Naturals
Vita Leaf Naturals is one such company dedicated to producing safe and potent CBD products. Sourced from organic hemp and the highest quality ingredients, Vita Leaf Naturals was actually born from the need for CBD products that are safe for pets. Now producing products for all CBD consumers, the company is committed to bringing the purest phytocannabinoid products to everyone who needs them.
Vita Leaf Naturals produces extracts, isolates, and capsules for a wide variety of needs, including for pets, health, and beauty use. The top priorities of Vita Leaf Naturals are quality and affordability, cutting out middlemen who do bottling and packaging. This streamlined process helps keep the product affordable for all who need relief from symptoms.
Each product is 100% organic, independently lab tested, has no additives, and is extracted via the CO2 method. In addition, all products are nano-enhanced, aiding absorption of the CBD. Learn more about Vita Leaf Natural’s products here.