CBD Extraction: From Plant to Product

These days, CBD and other cannabinoids come in countless products. CBD can come as an oil, a tincture, a topical cream, a gummy, a pill, and much more. Other cannabinoids like Delta 8 and HHC come in similar products, like gummies and vape pens. You likely already know that these cannabinoids come from the cannabis plant, specifically the hemp plant. However, you may need to learn how hemp is transformed from a blooming plant into products on store shelves. You must learn about CBD extraction.

In this article, we will specifically discuss how hemp becomes products such as CBD oil and hemp gummies. If you are interested in how the hemp plant grows in personal gardens and on industrial farms, you can read more about that here. We will discuss how to harvest the hemp flower from the plant, how to extract the cannabinoid CBD, additional steps for extracting cannabinoids like Delta 8, and infusing these cannabinoids into your favorite products. Once you finish the article, you will be an expert on the process of transforming hemp into ingestible products.

Harvesting Hemp

After months of growth, the hemp plant reaches its peak potential. The female hemp plants bear flowers, and these flowers possess the greatest quantities of cannabinoids in the hemp plant. Therefore, growers are most interested in harvesting the flower to extract high-quality cannabinoids en masse.

The hemp flower is almost always harvested by hand. Despite incredible modern farming equipment, giant farms and DIY growers harvest hemp flower in a similar fashion. First, they clip the flower buds at the branch‘s stem, then trim the unwanted leaves. Afterward, the flower is left to cure in a moisture-controlled environment. It may take a few weeks, but eventually the flower will dry out and become ready for use. In this state, the flower buds can be ground up and smoked, or one can extract the cannabinoids directly from the plant.

Extracting CBD

Many growers will sell cured flower, but most growers specializing in hemp extract CBD directly from the flower. There are generally two ways to extract CBD for large operations: CO2 or ethanol extraction.

CO2 extraction uses the gas carbon dioxide to isolate CBD from the hemp flower. You likely know carbon dioxide as a gas, since we exhale carbon dioxide with every breath. However, one can manipulate carbon dioxide into a liquid and solid under the right conditions. For CBD extraction, carbon dioxide is coerced into a “supercritical state.” The supercritical carbon dioxide acts as a solvent that pulls CBD and other cannabinoids from the hemp flower. CO2 extraction is a clean chemical process that creates organic and consistent batches of CBD.CBD Tincuture

The other typical way to extract CBD is ethanol extraction. You may hear ethanol and think about your car’s gas tank, but ethanol is an alcohol like a potent spirit or cleaning isopropyl alcohol. First, hemp flower is soaked in ethanol, which strips it of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. After they extract the CBD, they move the ethanol and cannabinoid solution to a special heating area. Then, they heat the solution to the point where ethanol evaporates into a gas. All that remains is a clean, organic, and natural cannabinoid concoction.

For home growers, these methods are too dangerous and expensive. Home growers usually opt for using dry ice (similar to CO2 extraction) or cooking oils (similar to ethanol extraction) to extract CBD from hemp flower. These extraction methods take much longer but are more accessible and far safer.

All these extraction methods might make your head spin, so if you are looking for a more detailed breakdown, you can look here.

Secondary Extraction

Hemp growers may aim to create high-quality CBD, but others want to create different cannabinoids. They create alternative cannabinoids like Delta 8 through a process of secondary extraction. First comes the primary extraction, when hemp flower transforms into CBD. To create alternative cannabinoids, CBD transforms into cannabinoids like Delta 8.

Like extracting CBD, there are many methods for extracting cannabinoids like Delta 8. First, they combine CBD with a solvent, similar to catalysts like CO2 or ethanol. Then, they add an acid to the mix. The acid, along with a stable heat source, catalyzes a reaction in the CBD oil. Up to 20 hours later, the CBD has become a veritable cannabinoid cocktail. The final step is the complicated process, “high-performance liquid chromatography,” which can separate the solution into specific cannabinoids, such as Delta 8.

Other cannabinoids, such as HHC and THC-O, undergo even further processing. Lab technicians alter their chemical makeup, which makes them partially synthetic cannabinoids. These tiny molecular changes, like additional lipid tails and carbon chains, can dramatically change the cannabinoid’s psychoactive effects.Cannabinoid Chemical Compounds

Overall, the secondary extraction process to produce cannabinoids like Delta 8 is significantly more complex than CBD extraction. However, the final cannabinoid concoctions make for a sweet psychoactive experience. But before you can enjoy these cannabinoids, the producers must infuse them into your favorite products.

The Final Product

Once one extracts CBD and Delta 8 from the hemp plant, the final step is to make it consumable. After extraction, CBD and Delta 8 are in a raw liquid state. Although anyone could instantly consume this liquid orally, many manufacturers put it through an additional distillation process to ensure purity. Once the producers have the oil, the possibilities are endless.

One can consume the oil orally, and CBD oil may be the most popular hemp product. The oil can be mixed with alcohol and sold as drinkable tinctures. Also, cannabinoid oil functions like any other cooking oil, meaning they can parse it into recipes. They mix cannabinoid oil into gummies, cookies, and brownies like any other ingredient. Interestingly, one can reintroduce the oil to hemp flower, creating infused flower. Hemp flower is soaked in cannabinoid oil, typically psychoactive cannabinoids. Infused flower combines the psychoactive power of cannabinoids like Delta 8 along with the joy of smoking legal hemp.

Essentially, cannabinoid oil opens the door to create stellar cannabinoid products. They mix the oil right into your favorite products, going all the way from the plant to you.


Overall, the process from plant to product is a lengthy one. First, they clip the hemp flower from the plant. Then, the flower is left to cure. Once the flower dries, it is now ready for extraction. A complex chemical process cleanly separates the CBD from the flower. If producers want to go further, they can extract the extraction, isolating cannabinoids like Delta 8. When the extraction finishes, an oily residue is left over. The cannabinoid oil may seem unassuming, but it is the beating heart of your favorite hemp products. With a little bit of know-how and patience, anyone can create their own hemp products. On the other hand, if you enjoy the products you buy online, you now have a little more appreciation for the process behind the product.