Posted on

how is cbd isolate processed

Broad-spectrum CBD products fall somewhere between CBD isolates and full-spectrum extracts. Essentially, broad-spectrum contains much of the hemp’s cannabinoids and terpenes, minus the THC.

To learn more about BHO extraction methods, check out our post on BHO extraction here.

Hemp seed oil is oil extracted from the hemp seed specifically, which contains no CBD. While it may have some health benefits, including diet and skin care, any benefit derived from CBD will not be present in hemp seed oil. You may find that extractors cut their extract with this oil to help dilute the extract, it will give the tincture a more earthy flavor but as stated does not add any additional CBD to the mixture.

Can CBD Isolate Be Full Spectrum?

Despite the ongoing claims made by CO2 and other extract processors, BHO and light hydrocarbon extraction is the only method for obtaining true full-spectrum outcomes.

CBD isolate is accomplished using chromatography. This process takes out all of the terpenes, which are responsible for scent, flavor, and other differentiators. Additionally, chromatography separates out the unwanted cannabinoids, such as the most commonly known psychoactive one — THC. Last, but not least, this process removes all plant matter.

Full-spectrum oil retains its complementary and medically applicable compounds. Researchers have found that the cannabis plant’s minor cannabinoids have therapeutic value, and that terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids support the entire endocannabinoid system.

One study published by the Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research compared the effects of a CBD isolate and full-spectrum extract. It found that CBD isolate had a bell-shaped response curve where it peaked at a medium dose and tapered off at higher and lower doses. Responsiveness to the full-spectrum solution, however, “continued to increase as higher doses were administered.” While CBD was effective at reducing inflammation and pain at a certain dose, the entire palette of cannabinoids is needed to provide increasingly higher dosages. This is a great explanation of the “entourage effect.”

THC free
THC free products may not be desirable to some CBD users, but are preferential to others. The limited amount of THC in hemp extracts will not get CBD users high, but consistent use of full spectrum or broad spectrum CBD may result in a failed drug test (Broad spectrum oils can contain an indeterminate amount of residual THC). Unlike broad spectrum oils, you can be certain an isolate is completely THC free, so it is the best option for consumers who want to avoid psychoactive ingredients or are concerned about drug testing.

To highlight the purity of isolate, the second most concentrated form of CBD is distillate, a broad spectrum oil that is around 80 percent or more cannabidiol. While distillate is also considered a concentrate, other plant compounds remain in the final extraction.

Purity
Isolate is pure CBD available. Purity is desired by the pharmaceutical industry because it is easier to measure the effectiveness of a lone compound vs. multiple active ingredients working with or competing against each other. The only federally legal CBD drug, Epidiolex for childhood epilepsy, is made from isolate.

Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum vs Isolate

CBD isolate is the purest form of cannabidiol available, around 99 percent CBD. The extract transforms from an oil into a white powder at the end stages of the refining process. CBD isolate is popular due to its versatility, ease of use, and because it is the only CBD product that is guaranteed THC-free.

However, not everyone wants THC in their CBD. The closest one can get to full spectrum and still be THC-free is broad spectrum. These oils contain all the same compounds found in a full spectrum product, but without THC.

Versatility
CBD isolates blend well with edible and topical recipes. Because the concentrate is tasteless, you can cook with CBD isolate by sprinkling it on top of a dish, adding it to a storable olive oil infusion, or baking with it on low temperatures. Same goes for topicals⁠—isolate mixes well with tinctures, creams, oils and more. Isolate can also be peppered on flower or other smokable herbs.

CBD isolate is completely void of any other plant compounds, including THC. And unlike full and broad spectrum oils, isolate is a solid.

In order to achieve optimal CBD content, decarboxylation is a critical step prior to distillation. The process of decarboxylation is to remove carboxylic acid and CO2 from cannabinoids present in the cannabis extract. Converting the acidic cannabinoid (CBDa) to its neutral form (CBD) ensures the end product contains all of the several benefits the cannabinoid has to offer. Furthermore, failure to remove CO2 from the extract will also affect the ability to properly form a vacuum in your distillation apparatus. The decarboxylation process is achieved through the application of heat in a reactionary vessel.

This crystallization process is started by putting the CBD oil into a large vat, or reactionary vessel, with a stirring attachment. The mixture is heated while constantly being stirred. Then, the temperature is lowered and the rate of stirring is slowed down. Once the mixture has cooled and nucleation starts to occur (the initial stages of crystallization), the stirring rate is drastically increased, which causes the crystals to separate from the solution. After this, the crystals are rinsed with pentane, or another chemical solvent, to remove any remaining unwanted impurities.

While under vacuum, the extract is loaded into the feed tank where it passes over a heated rotating plate. From there, the heated oil then enters a secondary vessel where there are spinning wipers and a thin film is created around the heated, jacketed vessel. A long condensing coil in the middle of the vessel, cooled with recirculating fluid, recondenses the vapors back into liquid form. Receiving vessels then collect the CBD (known as ‘main body’) from the terpenes, volatiles and high boiling point cannabinoids (known as ‘heads’ and ‘tails’).

Step 3: Filtration

Making CBD isolate requires more steps than creating a CBD oil, as you have to remove every other element, such as phospholipids and flavors, from the product. While the process is more complex and requires additional equipment, it creates a totally pure end product that is free of anything besides CBD.

Winterization is the process of removing the fats, waxes and chlorophyll from the extract. Not removing these will lower the percentage and purity of the targeted CBD compound we are trying to capture. To achieve winterization you are essentially cooling down the extract to sub-zero temperatures with a solvent. Then, maintaining that chilled environment for a period of time in order for the lipids (fats and waxes) to coagulate and separate from the crude oil – now termed ‘miscella’.

Depending on what end product you’re trying to make you may prefer to use a CBD isolate powder when manufacturing lotions, edibles, beverages, etc. In order to make a powder you are simply taking the CBD isolate crystals and grinding them down into a powder-like substance.

Now that our extract has been winterized, filtered and decarbed, we can perform distillation. There are short path and wiped film distillation apparatuses on the market, for the sake of this article we will use wiped film distillation.