The Complete Guide to How CBD Oil is Made

The Complete Guide to How CBD Oil is Made

From supermarket shelves to Instagram ads, CBD is nearly impossible to avoid. But even with more and more people trying CBD every day, one of the most common questions consumers frequently ask is, “How is CBD oil made?”


But answering that question isn’t quite as simple as it may seem. Many CBD providers use different methods at all stages of production, and things like the CBD extraction process and the type of CBD used to make a CBD oil tincture matter greatly when choosing whom to trust.


In this blog, we will look at each of those steps in order to paint a complete picture of how CBD oil is made, what the different types of CBD are, what to look for when buying CBD oil, and what different CBD oil products do to help you make an informed decision when buying CBD oil products.

Golden yellow droplet on gold background surrounded by yellow gold bubbles

What is CBD?

First things first: What is CBD, exactly? Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is a cannabinoid found in both marijuana cannabis as well as industrial hemp that works alongside many other cannabinoids to act upon your endocannabinoid system (ECS).


CBD was first discovered in the 1940s. In 1963, scientists began working to study and understand the effects of individual cannabinoids like CBD, THC, and CBN. However, more than 40 years passed after this initial research before CBD and other hemp-based products could be sold throughout the United States, thanks to the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill.


One of the primary provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill is that industrial hemp plants (the kind from which CBD is primarily extracted), could not contain more than 0.3% THC by dry volume. This provision has led to a large demand for the types of cannabis plants that have a very high CBD yield while simultaneously containing almost no THC.

Where Does CBD Oil Come From?

If you’ve ever wondered, “Where does CBD come from?” the answer begins with Cannabis sativa L. And if you want to get to the bottom of how CBD oil is made, what better place to start than the root of it all?

What is Cannabis Sativa L.?

Cannabis sativa (sometimes referred to as Cannabis sativa L for Carl Linnaeus, the botanist who classified the species) is an herbaceous species that has been cultivated throughout history. Cannabis sativa is cultivated for a variety of uses, including  and recreational purposes. 

Sativa vs. Indica

Let’s look at the difference between Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, the two primary varieties of the cannabis plant. Physically, sativa plants are typically much taller than their indica counterparts, which tend to resemble a bush more than a tree. Further, sativa plants tend to be much more resistant to heat, can grow in warmer climates, and have much longer flowering cycles. 


Those characteristics make growing and harvesting a large crop of sativa plants much easier, as they can be easily grown outside under the types of conditions most farmers are already used to. Indica plants, on the other hand, typically must be grown in controlled environments that use complicated techniques like growth lights and hydroponic irrigation.

Hemp vs. Marijuana

For the reasons above, Cannabis sativa L. is the widely accepted choice for industrial hemp growth as the stalks are taller (meaning more hemp-based textiles can be produced), it’s easier to manage, and a longer flowering cycle leads to less bud death before it can be harvested. Those traits don’t necessarily keep the plant under the required 0.3% THC, but the way industrial hemp is planted surely does.


When cannabis plants of all varieties begin to sprout, there is a careful calculation that must be made depending on the purpose of the plant. For recreational marijuana growers, this means weeding out all the “male” plants to stop pollination from occurring and allowing more THC and thicker buds to form. 


How is CBD Extracted?

Now that you have a basic understanding of how high-CBD strains of hemp are cultivated, the next step is understanding the CBD extraction process.


When people think about how CBD is extracted, many think of everything from futuristic space labs to their stoner friend, Dave, making Cannabutter in his kitchen, but the truth lies somewhere in the middle.


When it comes to how CBD oil is extracted, there isn’t just one answer. So let’s walk through the two most common types of extraction to get a deeper understanding of what all those buzzwords you see on labels and websites really mean.

Ethanol Extraction

Ethanol extraction is perhaps the most popular CBD extraction process, as it is safe, simple, and effective. In this method, high-grade grain alcohol (ethanol) is used as a solvent to separate CBD and other cannabinoids from the plant itself. Ethanol extraction can be done under warm or cold conditions, and is considered extremely time-efficient when compared to other CBD extraction processes like CO2 extraction. 

CO2 Extraction

Supercritical (or subcritical) CO2 extraction is a method that involves using carbon dioxide that is under extremely low temperatures and very high pressure to strip hemp flower of all cannabinoids and terpenes. CO2 extraction is highly precise and can produce some of the purest cannabinoid extracts when done properly. However, because of the high cost of equipment and the steep learning curve, this is not always the case. 


When this is done well, CO2 extracted products are some of the purest in the world, but when done in less-than-optimal conditions, there is great room for error. That potential for error is why subcritical CO2 extraction is largely used by “boutique” CBD brands that cater to the “luxury” class of CBD consumers.


So now that you have a basic grasp of how CBD is extracted, let’s take a look at the different types of CBD extracts and how that important terminology can make a big difference in which CBD products to choose.

Types of CBD

When first-time CBD users begin their research, one of the biggest areas of confusion is over the many “types” of CBD that exist. This confusion stems from industry-specific terms like “isolate,” “full-spectrum,” and “broad spectrum,” but most first-time consumers (and even many CBD veterans) don’t really understand what those terms mean. 


So to help you fully understand what you’re getting when buying CBD oil, let’s dive into the most common types of CBD and what that means for you as a consumer.

Green hexagon CBD isolate molecules aligned in a row

CBD Isolate

CBD isolate is the “purest” form of CBD on the market. That’s because isolates only contain CBD. This means that during the CBD extraction process, all other cannabinoids and terpenes are weeded out (no pun intended), leaving only CBD molecules behind.


These isolates are then used in the formulation of a variety of CBD oil products like CBD oil tinctures, CBD gummies, and your other CBD-infused favorites. Isolate-based products are much beloved by people venturing into the world of cannabis-related products for the first time as well as those that can’t take any risks regarding THC content (like professional athletes, for example).


However, one drawback to pure isolates is the lack of other potentially helpful cannabinoids and terpenes. That’s where full-spectrum and broad-spectrum products come into play.

Full spectrum CBD including CBC, CBD, CBDA, CBG, CBN, THC, THCA, THCV of hexagon shapes arranged in a line of varying rainbow colors surrounded by rainbow dots

Full-Spectrum CBD

The term “full-spectrum” simply means that you get the full array of whatever cannabinoids and terpenes were in the plant from which your CBD was extracted. And while this method certainly includes all of the compounds stripped out of isolate-based products, it also includes trace amounts of THC.


Generally, the level of THC in full-spectrum products is not enough to get you high, but in some cases (with prolonged use), enough THC can build up in your system to register a positive result on more sensitive drug tests. 


Another potential drawback to full-spectrum products is that the level of CBD and other cannabinoids is largely dependent on the potency of the plants used, which means that consistency can sometimes be a challenge.

Broad spectrum diagram of light blue CBD hexagons with one THC hexagon

Broad-Spectrum CBD

If isolates are on one end of the CBD spectrum and full-spectrum CBD is on the other end, then broad-spectrum products can be said to rest somewhere in the middle. The theory with broad-spectrum CBD products is that by creating a full-spectrum solution and then removing only the THC molecules from the mixture, a perfect hybrid can be created.


However, in practice, broad-spectrum products tend to face many of the same pitfalls as full-spectrum products do. For starters, because most broad-spectrum is usually just “full-spectrum minus THC,” there is always the possibility that not all THC has been entirely removed, meaning that long-term use could lead to a build up of THC in your system, leading to similar “false positive” test results.


Further, the issue of consistency still factors in, because while one batch may be higher in the secondary cannabinoid CBG, the next batch may be higher in CBN content. That is why some companies have taken the term “broad-spectrum” into their own hands and created specialized formulas that merge the best aspects of both broad-spectrum and isolate-based products.

Superior Broad Spectrum icon of four blue circles arranged in a venn diagram

cbdMD Superior Broad Spectrum 

cbdMD does things a little differently than most other CBD companies. After wondering for years how to solve the problems of consistency and purity when it comes to broad-spectrum CBD, they finally cracked the code with their proprietary “Superior Broad Spectrum” formula.


Creating Superior Broad Spectrum products is a complex process that can be summed up rather simply. First, they use an ethanol CBD extraction process to create pure CBD isolate. From there, a complex purification process known as “flash chromatography” is used to create isolated forms of two other widely regarded cannabinoids, CBG and CBN.


The next step is to carefully combine those cannabinoids, along with select terpenes, in a predetermined ratio to assure that every batch of Superior Broad Spectrum CBD is exactly the same as the last. 


Because of this complex, multi-step process, cbdMD is able to offer a consistent, reliable formulation every time.

Light-haired woman in white shirt stands in a field of cannabis plants with clipboard and pen

What to Look For When Buying CBD Oil

Now that we’ve extensively covered the different processes and decisions that go into CBD production and answered a variety of questions ranging from “How is CBD oil made?” to “Where does CBD come from?” and “How is CBD extracted?” The next thing most people will want to know is what to look for when buying CBD oil.


So to make the decision-making process simpler, let’s quickly cover the three most important things to look for when buying CBD oil online. 

1. Production

How and where is the CBD you’re looking to purchase produced? This may seem like a strange question, especially for a beginner, but it’s easily one of the most crucial questions to ask.


That’s because many CBD companies attempt to cut costs by purchasing hemp extracts from overseas, where the level of quality control and regulation of hemp farming can be much more lax depending on the country. And while, more often than not, these products will be fine, there is always the possibility of residual pesticides or solvents that haven’t been entirely removed.


Because of that possibility, it is strongly suggested that you only purchase CBD products made from USA-grown hemp to ensure that you are always getting the absolute highest-quality hemp-based products on the market.

Man wearing safety glasses, hair net, face mask, and gloves stands behind in lab coat and drops oil into tincture bottle

2. Testing & Transparency

Closely related to the importance of high production standards is the importance of third-party testing and, perhaps most importantly, transparency.


Anyone can claim to use the freshest, pesticide-free hemp in all of their products, but how can you really be sure of that? Lab results – that’s how. 


Any reputable CBD brand will be very forthright and transparent when it comes to the results of third-party lab testing, which typically means that their Certificates of Analysis (sometimes simply called “Lab Results”), will be freely available somewhere on their website.


Many companies even allow you to see results for specific batches, providing consumers with the results for the exact batch that’s in the product they are currently using. These lab results work to not only keep companies honest, but also to give CBD users peace of mind in knowing that they have purchased a safe, clean, and effective product.

Hand in blue glue holds beaker with lid closed filled with plant matter

3. Customer Satisfaction

Just like in nearly every other business, your first line of defense against bad actors in the CBD industry is good ol’ fashioned customer reviews. There are plenty of paid reviewers and affiliate sites that will gladly tell you that “X” product is the best and that you can get 10% off with their special code, but hearing the praise and complaints of real customers will almost always be the most truthful and honest.


So whether that means asking your friends and family or reading the reviews listed on a brand’s website or social media pages, getting information straight from the everyday people that use those products is a great way to paint a picture of what to expect from a company. 

5 Great CBD Options for Your Everyday Life

After all of this talk of extraction methods, CBD spectrums, and lab results, I’m sure you’re probably champing at the bit to get your hands on some CBD and try it for yourself. But before I send you out into the wild, you should know that not all CBD products work the same way. 


Each type of CBD oil product on the market has a specific use and method of delivery, which means getting familiar with what each one does is crucial to finding the product that best fits your lifestyle.

Lineup of six natural flavored cbdMD CBD oil tinctures in different colors with varying strengths of 300 mg, 750 mg, 1500 mg, 3000 mg, 5000 mg, 7500 mg

1. CBD Oil Tinctures

CBD oil tinctures are the standard by which most companies judge their CBD. That’s because with CBD oil tinctures, the only ingredients are typically CBD and a carrier oil (usually MCT), which makes it harder to hide behind things like the fruity flavors you find in CBD gummies. This makes tinctures a great introduction to CBD, as they also allow you to adjust the serving size to suit your comfort level and find what works best for you. 


One thing many beginners don’t know about CBD oil tinctures, however, is how to properly take them. Rather than immediately swallowing your tincture, you’re better off taking it “sublingually,” which just means that the drops should be placed under the tongue and allowed to rest there for at least 30 seconds before swallowing. This allows CBD to more quickly enter your bloodstream and get to work faster.

 Bottle of Tropical Mix 300 mg CBD gummies in purple label next to three stacked gummies and notebook and pen

2. CBD Gummies

Another popular form of CBD for newcomers is CBD gummies. These tasty, pre-measured servings allow you to get your daily CBD in a fun and flavorful way. Gummies are typically the favorite product of people that are constantly on the go and need a product that is as convenient as possible.


Additionally, most brands also sell CBD capsules that offer the same pre-measured ease of use as gummies in a traditional pill form. Perfect for adding to your morning routine or whenever you need a quick pick-me-up.

Bottle of 1000 mg CBD PM sleep aid with softgels on bedside table with clock

3. CBD Sleep Products

Where products like gummies, capsules, and tinctures can be taken throughout the day to keep CBD in your system, there are also specific CBD sleep aids designed to make getting a good night’s sleep easier than ever.


These products typically fuse time-tested herbal ingredients like melatonin, chamomile, and valerian root with plenty of CBD to not only help you fall asleep quickly, but also get the deep, quality sleep you deserve.

Two CBD topical 1500 mg and 750 mg rollers of cbdMD Freeze standing next to bottle laying flat with cap off of 300 mg CBD Freeze

4. CBD Topicals

Unlike the three previous products, CBD topicals aren’t ingestible and don’t enter directly into your bloodstream to produce effects. Instead, topical CBD products work by allowing CBD and other compounds like menthol (a proven pain reliever) and arnica (a common anti-inflammatory agent) to penetrate the first few layers of skin.


This means that CBD topicals have a wide range of uses to help combat things like post-workout soreness and other minor aches and pains. Because of these uses, CBD topicals are widely used by professional athletes, manual laborers, and anyone who needs fast-acting, targeted support.

Three Romance, Relax, Resist boxes of CBD bath bombs stacked next to purple Relax lavender bath bomb with pink flowers and plants in background

5. CBD Bath Bombs

CBD bath bombs are a rather recent addition to the world of CBD, but they have quickly become a fan favorite for many. Whether you’re exhausted from traveling, just finishing a tough workout, or just in need of a little peace and quiet, CBD bath bombs can turn an ordinary bathtub into a world-class spa.


They work just like ordinary bath bombs, only they’re infused with CBD and work similarly to topical products. No CBD from bath bombs enters your bloodstream, but the combined effects of high-quality CBD and a warm bath make it nearly impossible to not feel rested, relaxed, and refreshed once you’re done using one.

Learn More About CBD

There’s always more to learn about CBD, from product options to updated information and industry trends. Stay connected and up-to-date with the entire CBD community by checking out cbMD on both Instagram and Facebook!

Disclaimer: The cbdMD page contains general information about health, diet, lifestyle, and nutrition. Any information provided should not be considered or treated as medical advice and always consult a medical professional before making any lifestyle changes. Products and information mentioned on the cbdMD blog are not intended to be used as a substitute for medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Any links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience only and cbdMD is not responsible for their content.