Cannabis plants contain a slew of phytochemicals which work together in a phenomenon known as the entourage effect(1). The entourage effect tells us that while the individual phytochemicals in Cannabis may be effective, their sum is greater than the individual parts. Many of the different phytochemicals and terpenes within a common cannabis or hemp plant have individual benefits, but when combined they tend to have a much more profound effect. For instance, while CBD has been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory properties, those properties are enhanced when used in conjunction with THC.
Where can I find hemp?
Hemp can currently be grown in thirteen states in the US. Within those states, the limits toward what dictates it as hemp or marijuana rely on the growth environment and overall results after harvesting. Cannabis is only considered legal industrial hemp if the THC levels are below 0.3%. Due to this restriction, it can be convoluted as to what constitutes a legal hemp grow. In most states, hemp is not easily accessible for civilian cultivation. There are exceptions to this (such as Upstate Elevator Supply Co’s home state, Vermont), and so if you are in a state where you can legally cultivate hemp, check out Green State Gardener to fulfill all of your growing equipment needs.
CBD can be extracted from industrial hemp or any strain of Cannabis. But since the legality is still under scrutiny the majority of CBD on the market today is being extracted from industrial hemp grown organically in states like Colorado, Kentucky, and Vermont.
The most common and cleanest methods of extracting CBD from plant matter are Ethanol Based, Lipid-Based, and CO2 extractions.
Ethanol Extraction: Ethanol extraction is performed by using Ethanol (alcohol) to extract the cannabinoids. First, the Ethanol is allowed to come in contact with the plant matter, typically at a colder temperature to avoid the binding of chlorophyll. Next, the extraction is refined through chromatography to remove additional unwanted plant matter. While a full plant extract (full spectrum) is a better end product for human consumption, things like chlorophyll take up a lot of real estate without providing benefit to the consumer.
CO2 Extraction. CO2 extractions are the more sophisticated of the bunch, but also require a greater level of chemistry know-how and a more refined technique to get the best yields at an efficient output. To do this, most CO2 extractions are done in commercial labs using equipment that is unaffordable for at-home, personal use. The CO2 extraction process uses temperature and pressure differences to isolate cannabinoids at high-efficiency rates by passing the hemp/Cannabis through a system of chambers that regulate the temperature and pressure administered to the plant matter. The end result is typically a pure, concentrated extraction containing primarily CBD along with a handful of other present cannabinoids in the plant that is safe for human consumption.
Lipid-Based Extractions. Lipid-based extractions diffuse the active cannabinoids into a lipid or fat by applying pressure, heat, and time. This is similar to the process of making what is commonly referred to as “cannabutter”. Lipid extractions are typically done by either heating the mixture of decarboxylated plant matter and the oil/fat of choice over a stove, or by combining them in a vessel and heating them in a water bath to prevent burning. Once the mixture has come to the ideal temperature it is left to sit so that it will bind to the lipids in as high a volume as possible. Some will even repeat this process after cooling in order to allow more of the cannabinoids to bind.
When attempting to extract only CBD from plant matter, and reduce the number of extraneous cannabinoids in the extract, there are steps that can be taken to focus out the CBD. For example, the extract can be heated at high temperatures in order to vaporize some of the cannabinoids like THC that vaporize at a lower temperature than CBD. This is an important process for many CBD companies in order to provide a product that is a full spectrum extract, while still falling within the confines of the law.
In addition to these refining methods, many CBD products undergo a process called decarboxylation. This process involves heating the plant matter to a certain temperature for a specific period of time in order to convert the already present CBDA into CBD (removing the acid and making it bioavailable in humans upon consumption). Decarboxylation should be done for most extraction methods, or the body will not be able to process the CBD and allow it to bind to the brain’s endocannabinoid receptors.
Though the CBD is available in hemp and could be consumed after it has been decarboxylated, the taste is rather undesirable. It is not recommended to add the raw plant matter to products, but rather to perform one of the above methods to extract the CBD and other phytochemicals into another medium that can then be consumed, such as Upstate Elevator Supply Co. CBD oils, capsules, salves, and more.
Russo, E. B. (2011, July 12). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid‐terpenoid entourage effects. Retrieved December 07, 2017, from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x/full[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]