The Complete Guide to How CBD Oil is Made

The Complete Guide to How CBD Oil is Made

Every wonder how CBD oil is made? In this guide, you’ll learn where CBD comes from and how it’s extracted, plus what to look for when buying CBD oil for yourself.

From supermarket shelves to Instagram ads, CBD is nearly impossible to avoid. But even with more and more people trying CBD products every day, one of the most common questions consumers 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 what CBD is, where it comes from, how it’s manufactured, and how the different types of CBD are made and used.

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).

Discovery of CBD

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 percent THC by dry volume. That’s because the THC is the one cannabinoid that’s intoxicating; CBD has many benefits, but it won’t get you high. 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.

The cannabis varieties sativa and indica sit side by side

What is CBD Oil Made From?

If you’ve ever wondered, “What is CBD oil made of?” 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?

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 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 percent 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. The highest concentration of cannabinoids, whether THC or CBD, occurs in the resin in unfertilized “female” plants. So growers of marijuana and industrial hemp high in CBD remove all male plants from their fields. On the other hand, industrial hemp is also grown for fiber and seed, in which case growing both male and female plants is fine.

Two bottles of cbd oil sit among raw hemp plants and fibers made from hemp


How is CBD Oil Made From Hemp?

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.

But these basic extraction processes are only the beginning. There are also different types of CBD oil created through different manufacturing processes. So maybe a better question is: How are CBD oils made?

A small tool pulls up a thick strand of cbd oil

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.

How CBD Isolate is Made

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.

How Full-Spectrum CBD is Made

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.

How Broad-Spectrum CBD is Made

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 buildup 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.

A brightly colored spectrograph image shows the various compounds in cannabis

How cbdMD Superior Broad Spectrum is Made

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 overseen by experts. We can’t go into a lot of detail (we don’t want anyone to steal our methods), but the result is a broad-spectrum hemp extract that accurately reproduces levels of CBD, CBG, CBN, and select terpenes across all product batches.

The next step is to incorporate this Superior Broad Spectrum formula into our tinctures, gummies, topicals, capsules, and other products.

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

Learn More About CBD

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