Is it possible to make CBD oil at home?

  • Cannabidiol (CBD) shows promising signs of its therapeutic potential and medical applications, with scientists reporting that it may be helpful when used to treat pain, anxiety, and seizures(1).
  • The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp and other cannabis derivatives with low THC from being defined as marijuana(2), allowing the cultivation of hemp, albeit with numerous restrictions(3).
  • A 2019 study reveals that a growing number of adults in the U.S. are becoming interested in trying CBD. Some of the motivations for these adults include easy access to the products, availability of unbiased research, and recommendations by their doctors(4).
  • Using CO2, alcohol-based solvents, and food-grade carrier oils are the three primary methods of extracting CBD from hemp. Natural oils may be more effective solvents in drawing out cannabinoid resin(5).
  • Carrier oils like hemp seed oil, olive oil, and MCT oil are considered as a safer option than using CO2 or other harsh solvents to extract CBD oil.

Why Are People Becoming Interested in CBD Oil

CBD or cannabidiol is a promising compound that has potential therapeutic and medical applications. Scientists studying CBD reports that the product can potentially help in reducing pain, treating anxiety, preventing seizures, and more(6).

CBD is obtained from hemp, which is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant species. Unlike medical marijuana, CBD by itself lacks sufficient amounts of a compound called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to cause a “high.”

In December 2018, the 2018 Farm Bill was signed, which categorically separates hemp and other derivatives of cannabis with low THC from being defined as marijuana(7). This change in its legal status allows hemp production and transport of hemp-derived goods across state lines, although it is heavily regulated(8).

Possessing CBD oil is legal in most states in the U.S., so long as the product’s THC content does not exceed 0.3%. Since it is non-psychoactive, a certificate or recommendation from a doctor is not required to purchase and consume CBD(9).

A study made by High Yield Insights in 2019 showed that 40% of adults in the U.S. ages 21 and above are interested in giving CBD a try(10). Some factors that motivate Americans to try CBD include the availability of research, easy access to its products, and physician recommendations.

The growing interest in CBD has especially fueled intrigue on how it is made.

CBD Oil Manufacturing Process

The process of manufacturing CBD from hemp is complex and made up of various stages, using a unique set of equipment for each step. It can take several months to produce CBD oil successfully, starting from hemp cultivation all the way to its extraction and refinement.

Just like any product, producers can only make top-quality CBD oil when they have a reliable and well-organized supply chain that ensures consistency throughout the entire process.

Here is a summary of the main steps involved in the manufacturing of CBD:

1. Raw Material Testing

The first step upon receiving the raw hemp material is to test it for purity. Besides analyzing the plant, the test is also done on all of the materials involved in the production process.

2. Oil Extraction from Hemp

The second stage is where the hemp flowers are ground and crushed so as to increase its surface area. These are then delivered to an extraction machine which uses a solvent such as CO2 or ethanol to dissolve the needed extracts.

This process takes place at high pressure, and eventually, the solvent transitions to provide the active ingredients to make it ready for the third stage.

3. Dewaxing and Filtration

The extracted oil is once again dissolved using a food-grade solvent and frozen to precipitate wax and other impurities. These contaminants are then filtered to yield a much purer oil, and a processing technician decides whether the solution is suitable or not.

The same technician can then select from wintered filtration, vacuum filtration, pour-through filtration, or gravity filtration for further processing. The third step may be done multiple times until the desired purity level has been achieved.

4. Distillation

The fourth step is critical in the removal of remaining impurities and extracting the purest CBD possible. It requires the utmost care and caution as inexperience here can lead to the loss of precious cannabinoids and terpenes.

Maintaining the right temperature, circulation, and manipulation of vacuum are all essential in drawing out the various cannabis extracts.

5. Isolating the CBD

CBD isolation reaching up to 99.5% or more will require specialized equipment and experienced technicians. To get to this amount of CBD yield, a combination of distillation and chromatography techniques, along with a mixture of solvents, are needed.

The isolation step is repeated as many times as it takes to achieve the desired purity level.

6. Various Formulations

This is the stage where the CBD extracts are mixed in the various food-grade carriers. The different types of CBD products are:

  • Oils
  • Capsules
  • Creams
  • Soft Gels
  • Dropper bottles
  • And more

Technicians also carry out potency tests during this stage to make sure that no CBD potency has been lost.

7. Final Product Testing

When the final product is ready, it is then tested carefully for heavy metals, microbes, pesticides, and other pollutants. The tests performed here are to ensure that the product has achieved the required potency levels and is fit for public consumption.

Conventional Methods of Extracting CBD Oil

The extraction process of CBD oil greatly influences the final taste and quality of the product.

There are two options available for beginners when it comes to making CBD oil at home, while a third one requires more sophisticated equipment and skill. The first method uses food-grade alcohol during the extraction process, while the second involves natural plant oils to draw out CBD.

The third method is the industry standard for mass-producing CBD oils as it utilizes CO2 and is considered the cleanest of the three. CBD extraction using CO2 is also the most controlled and verifiable, thus making its output the most potent(11).

Extracting CBD with Alcohol-Based Solvents

The most common method in extracting CBD oil is by using solvents that are based on alcohol. It is a simple and relatively cheap process, with the equipment being readily available.

Since it is the easiest to perform, the approach does not produce the best nor the safest CBD oil for consumption. The alcohol-based solvents that are mostly used in this extraction technique include rice alcohol, butane, hexane, ethanol, or isopropyl alcohol.

Although inexpensive, there are several reasons as to why this approach is not the most suitable for consumption.

The first reason is that the output will most certainly not result in pure CBD, as it often contains contaminants from the solvent. These residues are what make extracting CBD with alcohol-based solvents unsafe for human beings(12).

Another reason is that using alcohol-based solvents brings with it the risk of explosions. This is especially true when producers lack the experience and knowledge in handling such chemicals.

Since the unhealthy components will be present in the product, most of the therapeutic benefits of CBD will be missing. Other impurities that are present in the cannabis plant are not thoroughly cleansed either.

There is also an undesirable taste in the final output, which is caused by the presence of alcohol and chlorophyll.

Extracting CBD with Carrier Oils

A relatively popular option for homemade CBD oil extraction is by using oil-based carriers. Also known as lipid extraction, this method is considered to be a safer and more organic approach for drawing out CBD.

Hemp seed oil is commonly used, as it can be very healthy due to its Omega acids, but others like olive oil and coconut oil are also viable.

Using oils and fats to extract CBD may be more compatible with the oil-filled trichomes that are found in the cannabis flower buds. Scientists in a 2018 study made olive oil their first choice in extracting CBD, which could mean lipid extraction may be more effective in drawing out cannabinoid resin(13).

The downsides to this method are that producers cannot mass-produce the product while the carrier oils, being edible, have a short shelf life. Although it is ideal for personal use, storing of the CBD oil made from this approach is another concern.

Finally, the product is only practical to be used as sprays or tinctures, and they are not to be smoked or vaped.

Extracting CBD with Super or Sub-Critical CO2

This is the most advanced CBD extraction method as it follows a more scientific approach, with a lot of care taken to provide a suitable environment for cannabinoids.

Technicians apply extremely low or high temperatures in a strictly controlled setting to preserve and isolate as much of the cannabinoids as possible. In this way, the purity and integrity of the cannabinoids are correctly maintained.

The end product does not have traces of the green chlorophyll from the hemp plant, giving a cleaner and purer CBD oil. This CO2 extraction method provides the most potent CBD to date.

However, there are also a few drawbacks to this approach. Using high temperatures in the process can result in the complete loss of terpenes, leading to lower quality aroma and flavor.

Losing these compounds means that the product will not have its unique therapeutic benefits and distinctive taste. Terpenes are especially important since they improve the effects of cannabinoids in CBD oil.

How to Make CBD Oil at Home

From the descriptions of the extraction methods above, using oil-based carriers appears to be the most suitable technique in making homemade CBD oil.

Utilizing oil from hemp seed is common, but MCT oil (fractionated coconut oil) is also an excellent option since it helps improve the absorption of CBD.

Things that are needed:

  • 16 ounces of carrier oil
  • 1 ounce of hemp flower tops (approximately)
  • Baking sheet
  • Herb grinder
  • Crockpot or double boiler
  • Nut milk bag, coffee filter or cheesecloth
  • Glass jar with a lid (for storage)

1st Step: Choosing the Carrier Oil

Any plant-based oil will do, but the best options are either MCT or hemp seed. Olive oil offers a mild taste and is readily available in most kitchens.

2nd Step: Prepare the Hemp Flowers

Choosing an ideal strain of hemp is critical in making sure that the end product is as pure as possible.

With a grinder, start grinding down the hemp flowers sufficiently enough into a fine mass. A knife can also be used so long as the pieces are small and balanced to ensure maximum extraction of CBD.

3rd Step: Decarboxylation of the Crushed Hemp

The decarboxylate step will see the hemp transform its inactive CBD-A into its active form, which is CBD. The larger manufacturers often use advanced CO2 equipment in this part of the process, but the same results can also be achieved at home.

The ground hemp flower parts are then placed on a baking plate and allowed to bake for an hour in 225 degrees Fahrenheit. The resulting baked cannabis should turn out quite crisp and has a light brown coloring.

4th Step: Mixing the Oil and Extracting the CBD

In this stage, the decarboxylated hemp is mixed in a crock pot or double boiler with the carrier oil. It is then placed with water in a large container to be heated.

The temperature during this part should not exceed 300 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid destroying the terpenes. Maintain the low heat to a simmer and continue this extraction process for two to three hours.

Continue stirring and check to see its color every thirty minutes or so. A brownish-green color means that the mixture is now ready for the next step.

5th Step: Straining the Oil

In this stage, the emulsified cannabis in oil is screened using a strainer (preferably cheesecloth) and filtered into a jar or bottle of choice for storage. Thoroughly squeezing the cheesecloth ensures that most of the CBD oil is extracted from the hemp.

The glass container should then be sealed and stored in a cool, dry, and dark place to maximize its shelf life.

In case an open-mouthed jar is used to strain the oil, it is possible to pour the extract into dropper bottles for more convenient use as tinctures. Mixing the oil with a cream or lotion during the preparation step allows for the final product to be applied as a topical.

What Happens After the CBD Oil Extraction Method?

When the extraction process is complete, the resulting output is considered as “full-spectrum” CBD oil. This type of oil means that other cannabinoids apart from CBD are still present in its mixture.

These full-spectrum CBD oils also have other beneficial properties from the hemp plant, such as amino acids and terpenes. Most people choose full-spectrum CBD oil because they believe it benefits the endocannabinoid system (ECS), the part which regulates functions such as the immune system, pain, sleep, and appetite(14).

There are also CBD isolates, which are basically CBD oil without any trace of THC. To make this type of CBD oil, the extract needs to be cooled and purified further into a crystalline form, turning it into a white powder.

Regardless of whether CBD is made as a full spectrum or isolate, the oil can be mixed into other substances to create different products.

  • Producers can make CBD oil tinctures by mixing CBD with a carrier oil based on coconut or hemp seed.
  • CBD gummies are made by combining the extract with natural flavoring, organic corn syrup, and juice.
  • CBD oil is added to various ingredients to create edibles, such as in chocolates or baked goods.
  • Manufacturers make CBD capsules by mixing CBD oil with MCT or use olive oil to create its casing.
  • CBD vape oils are made by combining a mixture of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin along with natural flavoring.
  • Essential oils, aloe vera, waxes, and shea butter can be combined with CBD oil to create salves, creams, and other topicals.

Selecting the Best Cannabis Strain

Ensuring the quality of the final CBD oil product is essential to have a pleasant experience. Both the extraction process and the quality of the cannabis strain are equally vital to achieving this.

The following are some of the top quality strains available in the market:

ACDC

ACDC is a cross between Cannatonic and Ruderalis and is known as an evenly balanced hybrid strain. It has remarkably high CBD levels and very low THC.

It has an earthy, sweet smell, with some saying that it brings a hint of fruit as well. ACDC buds are green in color with orange hairs and are fluffy but tight.

Charlotte’s Web

Perhaps the most popular strain of cannabis, Charlotte’s Web is a hemp cultivar that was created by the Stanley Brothers for its low THC and high CBD content. These properties are used by many manufacturers to make a variety of CBD-based health products.

The Charlotte’s Web strain gained worldwide attention when it was featured on CNN for its positive effects on a young girl that had a rare seizure disorder.

Harle Tsu

The Harle Tsu is another high-CBD strain made by the Southern Humboldt Seed Collective. It features high CBD content and is a mix of the Harlequin and Sour Tsunami strains.

Users claim that Harle Tsu can work as an anti-inflammatory and anti-pain product without the psychoactive effects of medical marijuana.

Harlequin

Harlequin is a strain that was popular long before CBD-rich varieties like Charlotte’s Web became known. It is the Sativa dominant product crossbred from various strains such as the Colombian Gold, a Nepali indica, and Swiss and Thai landrace strains.

Cannabinoids and the ECS

Both the chemical compounds CBD and THC are naturally present in the cannabis plant material, and they are known as cannabinoids. Upon ingestion, these cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system.

The ECS is made up of three parts: the endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes. These elements all work together to help the human body regulate its various functions.

Specifically, the ECS communicates with the peripheral and central nervous systems of the body to send messages to and from the brain. There are two primary types of cannabinoid receptors that are crucial to this process.

CB1 receptors are the ones that are found in the central nervous system, which include the nerve tissues in both the brain and spine. The CB2 receptors reside in the peripheral nervous system, which includes the immune and digestive systems and the nerve tissues in the body.

The Effects of CBD vs. THC on the Brain and Body

The endocannabinoids produced by the human body are similar to CBD and THC found in the cannabis plant. When either of the two binds with the cannabinoid receptors, the brain’s release of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that send signals between cells in the body, are affected.

Both CBD(15) and THC(16) possess the same molecular formula “C21H3002”. They are made up of 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms, but they differ in terms of chemical structure.

This dissimilarity is why CBD and THC interact in a different way with cannabinoid receptors and thus have contrasting effects on the human body.

With THC, the chemical compound binds primarily to the CB1 receptors that reside in the brain. This action causes the psychoactive effect from marijuana and other products that have high THC content.

On the other hand, CBD binds to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors found in the body and the brain. Since it attaches to these two, its effects are distributed equally in the body, allowing it to affect conditions like depression, inflammation, and pain(17).

Health Benefits of CBD vs. THC

Since THC and CBD bind to CB1 receptors, they are capable of treating many similar conditions. However, each of them has separate uses due to how they affect different areas of the nervous system.

CBD and THC offer some health benefits to the physical and mental wellbeing of humans. The two cannabinoids engage with the ECS, which prompts the body to initiate various biological responses.

As of now, the most common applications of CBD and THC include addressing inflammation, pain, and anxiety and sleep problems.

Since it is non-psychoactive, CBD is more widely used between the two for its healing properties. People also use THC but more for recreational purposes rather than medicinal.

What Are the Side Effects of CBD and THC Use?

Although not dangerous, there are also some side effects from the use of CBD and THC. Overdose on either of the two cannabinoids is not possible, and there have been no fatalities linked to CBD use thus far(18).

These are the side effects of CBD:

  • Appetite changes
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Interactions with medications
  • Changes in blood pressure

Below are the common side effects for THC:

  • Fatigue
  • Red eyes
  • Intoxication
  • Memory impairment
  • Impaired motor skills and reaction time
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Increased hunger
  • Dry mouth

The psychoactive properties of THC are why it has more side effects compared to CBD. Since THC can impair motor skills and reaction time, people are advised not to operate a vehicle after intake.

Conclusion

Cannabidiol has a very high potential in medical applications due to its inherent therapeutic properties. Research has found that CBD may be beneficial in treating a variety of health conditions, including chronic pain, inflammation, and seizures.

A growing number of people in the U.S. are becoming more aware of CBD oil products, especially since the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law. This bill allows for the cultivation and commercial transport of hemp-based goods under certain restrictions.

Creating CBD oil at home is straightforward, affordable, and safe, so long as the proper guidelines and techniques are followed. Extracting CBD using carrier oils is seen by many as a more organic option since using alcohol-based solvents brings with it several health risks.

When making homemade CBD oil, it is best to set aside at least five hours to complete the entire process. Taking time to prepare everything can significantly improve the odds of producing high-quality CBD oil.


  1. Huestis, A. Human Cannabinoid Pharmacokinetics. Chem Biodivers. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2009 Jun 2. Published in final edited form as: Chem Biodivers. 2007 Aug; 4(8): 1770–1804. doi: 10.1002/cbdv.200790152
  2. Abernethy, A. MD, PhD (2019, July 25). Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/congressional-testimony/hemp-production-and-2018-farm-bill-07252019.
  3. Hudak, J. (2018, December 14). The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer. Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/12/14/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/.
  4. High Yield Insights (2019). More Consumers are Interested in Trying CBD. Retrieved from: https://www.highyieldinsights.com/press-articles/2019/foodinstitutecbd.
  5. Casiraghi A, Roda G, Casagni E, Cristina C, Musazzi UM, Franzè S, Rocco P, Giuliani C, Fico G, Minghetti P, Gambaro V. Extraction Method and Analysis of Cannabinoids in Cannabis Olive Oil Preparations. Planta Med. 2018 Mar;84(4):242-249. doi: 10.1055/s-0043-123074. Epub 2017 Dec 4.
  6. Huestis, A. op. cit.
  7. Abernethy, A. MD, PhD. op. cit.
  8. Hudak, J. op. cit.
  9. Harrison J. VanDolah, Brent A. Bauer, MD, Karen F. Mauck, MD. Clinicians’ Guide to Cannabidiol and Hemp Oils. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2019.01.003.
  10. High Yield Insights. op. cit.
  11. Radmila Pavlovic, Giorgio Nenna, Lorenzo Calvi, Sara Panseri, Gigliola Borgonovo, Luca Giupponi, Giuseppe Cannazza, and Annamaria Giorgi1. Quality Traits of “Cannabidiol Oils”: Cannabinoids Content, Terpene Fingerprint and Oxidation Stability of European Commercially Available Preparations. Molecules. 2018 May; 23(5): 1230. Published online 2018 May 20. doi: 10.3390/molecules23051230.
  12. Romano, L.L. & Hazekamp, Arno. (2013). Cannabis oil: Chemical evaluation of an upcoming cannabis- based medicine. Cannabinoids. 1. 1-11.
  13. Casiraghi A et al. op. cit.
  14. Alger BE. Getting high on the endocannabinoid system. Cerebrum. 2013;2013:14. Published 2013 Nov 1.
  15. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Cannabidiol, CID=644019. Retrieved from: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Cannabidiol.
  16. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Dronabinol, CID=16078, Retrieved from: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Dronabinol.
  17. Zou S, Kumar U. Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(3):833. Published 2018 Mar 13. doi:10.3390/ijms19030833
  18. WHO (2018). CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Critical Review Report. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf.
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