cbd extraction methods

CBD Extractions: Which Method is Best?

Updated October 13, 2023

CBD has become a sought-after compound for its potential ability to elevate health and well-being.* It undergoes a meticulous extraction process from the hemp plant before it graces our tinctures, capsules, edibles, topicals, and vapes.

There are several CBD extraction methods at our disposal, and each boasts its unique advantages and pitfalls. Below, we'll delve deep into the world of CBD extraction, weighing the pros and cons of each method and ultimately addressing the burning question: Which extraction method reigns supreme?

How CBD is Extracted

CBD, a prominent cannabinoid, can be extracted from both hemp and cannabis plants. The extraction process involves decarboxylation, transforming the acidic precursor of CBD and other cannabinoids into their active forms. 

This crucial step enhances their ability to synergize with the body's endocannabinoid system. In the US, the Farm Bill mandates that CBD must be extracted from hemp and contain a THC content of less than 0.3% for it to be deemed legal. 

Among the various extraction methods available, CO2 extraction and solvent extraction are the most popular techniques in producing high-quality CBD products.

A woman wearing a yellow shirt takes a dropper of CBD out from the bottle.

CO2 Extraction

CO2 extraction, often hailed as the industry gold standard, uses supercritical carbon dioxide to meticulously separate cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids from the hemp plant. 

But why is it so revered?

  • Process: This advanced method requires three chambers. The first holds the raw hemp material, the second contains pressurized CO2, and the third collects the resulting extract. The CO2 is propelled from its chamber into the one with the hemp, facilitating the extraction.
  • Advantages:
    • Purity: CO2 extraction is celebrated for maintaining the chemical integrity of the extracted compounds, ensuring a high-quality end product.
    • No Impurities: Unlike other methods, this process avoids introducing contaminants, ensuring a cleaner and more potent final product.
    • Preservation: The method effectively retains the stability of the compounds, ensuring that the final product remains potent and effective.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Complexity: The process is intricate and necessitates specialized equipment and expertise.
    • Cost: CO2 extraction can be more expensive than other methods due to its complexity and required equipment.

In the vast landscape of CBD extraction methods, CO2 extraction stands out for its ability to produce a high-quality, pure, and potent CBD product. 

Learn more about the CO2 extraction method.

Solvent Extraction

Solvent extraction is another prevalent method that employs solvents like ethanol or hydrocarbons (butane or propane) to extract CBD from the cannabis plant. As these solvents wash over the plant trimmings, they effectively draw out the plant's essential compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and phytonutrients.


  • Cost-Effective: This method is relatively inexpensive and doesn't necessitate specialized equipment.
  • Preservation of Flavor and Aroma: Hydrocarbons are particularly adept at retaining the cannabis plant's inherent flavor and aroma, making the final product more authentic in taste.


  • Safety Concerns: Given the flammable nature of the solvents used, this method can pose risks if not executed under controlled conditions.
  • Potential for Residual Solvents: If not meticulously performed, residual solvents may remain in the final product, which can be harmful.
  • Extraction of Unwanted Compounds: Solvents, especially ethanol, can extract chlorophyll from the cannabis plant, imparting a bitter taste to the final product.

In solvent extraction, once the solvent washes over the cannabis plant trimmings, the resulting mixture contains a rich concentration of the plant's compounds. This mixture undergoes further refinement to eliminate most of the solvent. 

A final purge ensures the complete removal of any lingering solvent, resulting in a concentrated CBD oil. When ethanol is used, the obtained liquid is distilled to segregate the cannabis oil from the ethanol, further isolating the desired compounds.

While solvent extraction offers a cost-effective and efficient means of extracting CBD, it's crucial to ensure the method is executed correctly to guarantee a high-quality end product free from contaminants.

A close-up of a bottle of CBD and its dropper in front of a hemp plant

Other Extraction Methods

Steam Distillation

Steam distillation is a time-honored method used for CBD and extracting essential oils from various plants. Here's how it works for CBD:

Process: Steam distillation involves passing steam through the raw plant material, causing the CBD and other beneficial compounds to evaporate. This vapor, rich in cannabinoids, phytonutrients, and terpenes, is then collected. Upon cooling, it condenses into a liquid mixture of water and oil. The final step separates the water from the oil, leaving a pure CBD oil extract behind.


  1. Natural and Safe: One of the primary benefits of steam distillation is that it doesn't require solvents, making it a clean and natural method.
  2. Cost-Effective: It's relatively inexpensive and doesn't necessitate specialized equipment.
  3. Preservation of Compounds: This method effectively extracts terpenes, preserving the aromatic and therapeutic properties of the hemp plant.


  1. Inefficiency: Compared to other methods, steam distillation might yield less oil, meaning more plant material is required for the same amount of extract.
  2. Heat Sensitivity: The process involves heat, which can potentially alter or damage some heat-sensitive cannabinoids and terpenes.
  3. Inconsistency: The concentrations of CBD obtained through this method can vary, making it challenging to produce a consistent product.

Natural Solvent Extraction

Natural solvent extraction primarily utilizes natural solvents, with olive oil being a popular choice. Natural solvents, like olive oil, are considered safer alternatives to other extraction methods that use potentially harmful chemicals. 

The process involves heating the cannabis plant with the chosen solvent, which then binds to the desired compounds, extracting them from the plant material.


  1. Safety: Since natural solvents are used, there's no risk of leaving harmful residues in the final product.
  2. Preservation of Flavors: This method is known to retain the natural flavors and aromas of the cannabis plant, resulting in a more authentic-tasting CBD oil.
  3. Cost-effective: Natural solvent extraction doesn't require specialized equipment, making it a more affordable option for small-scale producers.


  1. Efficiency: Natural solvent extraction might yield less CBD.
  2. Chlorophyll Extraction: Along with the desired cannabinoids, this method can also extract chlorophyll, which might give the final product a bitter taste.
  3. Perishability: CBD oils produced using this method can have a shorter shelf life.

Dry Ice Extraction

Dry ice extraction involves separating trichomes from plant material using sublimated dry ice or solid carbon dioxide.

Here's how it works:

  1. Preparation: The hemp flowers are covered with dry ice, allowing them to freeze.
  2. Agitation: Once frozen, the flowers are shaken or agitated, causing the brittle trichomes to break off.
  3. Collection: The separated trichomes, rich in cannabinoids like CBD and THC, are then sifted through a mesh screen and collected.


  • Purity: This method yields a high-quality, full-spectrum extract, preserving essential oils, terpenes, and flavonoids.
  • Safety: Dry ice is non-flammable, eliminating the risk of explosions associated with some solvents.
  • Cost-Effective: Dry ice is relatively inexpensive and readily available.


  • Yield: While the product is of high quality, the yield might be lower.
  • Skill Requirement: Proper handling of dry ice requires care to avoid burns or injuries.

Which CBD Extraction Method is Best?

When it comes to extracting cannabidiol (CBD) from the hemp plant, the CO2 extraction method often stands out as the gold standard. Renowned for its safety and efficiency, CO2 extraction ensures a high yield and results in a potent final product rich in desired compounds like cannabinoids and terpenes.

However, the intricacies of this method demand sophisticated equipment and a thorough understanding of the extraction process. Consequently, CO2 extraction is typically the domain of well-funded CBD manufacturers with the capacity to produce at scale.

This commitment to quality is evident in established brands like Fab CBD, where only the best CO2-extracted CBD products make the cut.

An array of CBD products on a white shelf

CBD Extraction: Final Thoughts

As we explored the various CBD extraction methods, we found that each has its own distinct advantages. However, at FAB CBD, we prioritize the highest levels of quality and safety. That's why we use the industry-standard CO2 extraction method for all our CBD products.

We invite you to experience the exceptional purity and potency of CO2-extracted CBD for yourself. Explore our selection of products and discover what sets FAB CBD apart today.

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.