CBD: From Field to Formulation
Posted on April 13 2021
There are a plethora of different ways to consume CBD. This includes gummies, balms, salves, beverages, tinctures, and gel capsules, just to name a few. However, these relaxing and rejuvenating products all began their journey as one thing: hemp.
It’s through an involved extraction process that cannabidiol is isolated from hemp and removed to create the CBD products that we know and love. Extraction is especially beneficial, because it makes it possible to consume CBD without the additional cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, like THC.
But just how does this process work? And why is it important? Before we can answer these questions, we need to start from the beginning: what is hemp?
What is hemp?
Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant that contains less that 0.3% THC. Traditionally grown for industrial purposes, its fibers have been used for rope, textiles, plastic, paint, clothing, and so much more. In fact, hemp cloth has been found in burial chambers of ancient Chinese emperors, dating all the way back to 1200 BCE!
In the modern era, hemp continues to be used industrially. However, it is also the primary source of cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD is a naturally-occurring compound extracted from hemp plants that aids individuals with anxiety, cognition, movement disorders, and pain—all while avoiding the hypnotic and psychoactive properties of medical marijuana.
In a sense, CBD provides the calming and pain-relieving benefits of other cannabis products while avoiding the “high.”
It is important to note that hemp is not marijuana. While they are both varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant, their different chemical compound is what sets them apart.
Due to the 2018 Farm Bill, the United States defines marijuana as any cannabis plant that features greater than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC is the psychoactive compound found in cannabis that is responsible for the hypnotic “high” that accompanies marijuana.
Hemp, on the other hand, is any strain of Cannabis sativa that contains less that 0.3% THC. Thus, hemp contains a higher concentration of CBD and other cannabinoids, while avoiding any “high.”
So, basically, hemp contains more CBD and less THC, while cannabis contains more THC and less CBD.
It all starts in the field.
Given that hemp is a plant, the entire CBD extraction process begins in the field.
Hemp is grown just like any other crop—at a farm. Once the hemp reaches maturity, the plant is then cut down and sent to a manufacturer’s laboratory, where extraction takes place.
Hemp is grown all over the world. In the United States, hemp farms can be found in places like California, Colorado, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vermont, and Oregon. However, as we start to gain a greater understanding of the various benefits of CBD, and as legislation changes, hemp farms are popping up in more and more states.
Hemp is a fascinating plant, because the concentration of CBD is entirely dependent on genetics. Blake Smith, a chemist and hemp expert, says that, “Getting the right form of genetics is extremely important for what types of medicine and formulations you can do at the end process. High CBD strains will end up with a more pure CBD product.”
“Typically,” continues Blake, "most farmers leave their plants in the ground as long as they can, because it will increase the total amount of CBD production within the plant itself. However, it also increases the THC production. You have to be below 0.3%! So if you leave your plants in too long, the Department of Agriculture will come and burn your crop. A very costly mistake!”
What happens in the lab?
Once the hemp arrives at the lab, various tests are run to verify the plant’s concentration of cannabinoids, potency, and whether or not pesticides were involved in the growth process.
After the lab results have been verified, it’s time to isolate and extract the CBD. While there are many methods of extraction, Farmer & Chemist uses ethanol to remove cannabidiol. Once extracted, you’re left with crude oil and ethanol that goes through a process called winterization, when fats, lipids, and eventually, ethanol, are removed from the solution.
Finally, the winterized CBD is distilled. Distillation allows for further impurities to be boiled and removed, resulting in the ultra-pure, ultra-effective CBD oil found in Farmer & Chemist products.
Why is the extraction process important?
According to Doug Burgoyne, PharmD and co-owner of Farmer & Chemist, the extraction process is important “when you consider how many products are on the market. You have to consider where all these products come from, whether or not they work, and the science behind all that.”
“If you’re putting something in your mouth or rubbing something on your skin, you want to know that what you’re using is safe,” continues Doug, “and that it’s going to work.”
So how does Farmer & Chemist’s extraction process compare to other CBD companies? Blake says it best:
“What I can honestly say is that our distillates are ALWAYS over 85% pure and usually in the 90th percentile for cannabinpiod content—which means there is very little other than cannabinoids that are in that distillate. And that is what allows us to make superior products, and that’s the magic that makes us different than anybody else. And that is what allows us to make things that nobody else can.”
If you have any more questions about hemp or the extraction process, stop by our brick-and-mortar store located at 7719 S Main St. in Midvale, Utah. One of our brilliant on-staff pharmacists would love to answer any query or quandary you may have.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@farmer_and_chemist) to keep up to date with all things CBD!