CBD Oil is made using an extraction process. And, this extraction process can extract CBD plus the other cannabinoids creating a Full-Spectrum CBD oil or it can extract just CBD. And the CBD Isolate looks like a fine, white, crystalline powder, which is then used to make Isolate CBD product.

How is CBD Isolate made?

Now that you know what CBD Isolate is and what it looks like, let’s talk about how CBD Isolate is made. This information is not easy to come by.  A lot of companies call the process proprietary and don’t disclose the specifics. But, after a lot of digging, and I’m talking about a lot, I found 2 patent applications that talked about how they would go about making CBD Isolate. I’ll walk you through the process these patents outlined.

  1. You start with hemp.
  2. The hemp goes through an extraction process using Carbon Dioxide.  And you end up with what’s called a crude extract.

Up until this step is how full-spectrum CBD is made. The crude extract is mixed in with a carrier oil, typically coconut oil, olive oil etc.  And you have full-spectrum CBD Oil.

In the next couple steps, I’ll walk you through how Isolate CBD Oil is made. You’ll want to pay close attention because this is not the type of information most companies are openly revealing.

A.  Sometimes the crude extract goes through a refinement process. The extraction process can leave behind unwanted and undesirable residuals like chlorophyll, waxes, fats, etc. For this reason, it may be necessary take an an additional step – refinement. The refinement of hemp extracts is typically accomplished by dissolving the crude extract in an organic solvent, such as  methanol, ethanol, other alkyl alcohols or some mixture of these. The CBD- containing solution is then chilled, which causes precipitation of the undesired residuals, which are then removed using either centrifugation and/or filtration. And just in case you don’t know, centrifugation is is the process where a mixture is separated by spinning it really, really fast.

According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Ethanol is generally regarded as safe (GRAS). In fact, it’s used as an antimicrobial agent on pizza crusts.

However, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), Methanol found in gasoline, antifreeze, paints and thinners, adhesives, cleaning products, and inks.

Most of the health hazards of methanol come from inhaling it.

Short-term exposure from breathing methanol can cause:

  • Acid in the blood leading to death
  • Visual problems leading to blindness
  • Neurological damage
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease
  • Loss of smell

Long-term exposure from breathing methanol can cause:

  • Loss of consciousness, coma, seizure, or death
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of smell
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision and blindness
  • Seizures
  • Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease
  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Birth defects

And, it’s important to know that skin contact with methanol can cause Dermatitis, which is inflammation of the skin. So, if you’re using CBD Oil in the form of a topical like an ointment or salve that’s made with isolate then it could cause Dermatitis.

B.  Once the extract goes through the refinement process, it’s my understanding that there are 2 different routes to go.

1.  One of the patents discloses that the extract is dissolved in an organic solvent. Pentane is the preferred organic solvent.

Dissolving the crude extract in an organic solvent leads to the formation of CBD crystals.

The CBD crystals are collected and any trace of residual solvents are removed. On a side note, the only way to know for sure that traces of the residual solvents are completely removed is through laboratory testing.

According to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, pentane is an ingredient in petrol fuel for vehicles. It’s also used to make polystyrene foam.  Polystyrene foam is used in insulation & packaging.

Inhalation of high levels of pentane can cause irritation of the respiratory tract, drowsiness, headache, dizziness, a burning sensation in the chest, unconsciousness and in extreme cases coma and death.

Ingestion of pentane can lead to irritation of the digestive tract, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Ingestion of high levels can affect the nervous system.

Skin contact with pentane can cause irritation and dermatitis, which is inflammation of the skin.

Some of the other preferred solvents they mentioned included acetic acid, hexane and propyl carbonate.

2.  Another possible route to extract CBD is flash chromatography. In its simplest form, you can think of of Chromatography like a race in quicksand. The “lighter” chemicals are able to get to the finish line quicker, while the “heavier” ones take a while and in the process what happens is that you separate chemicals based on their weight. The other factor that comes into play is the stickiness of the sand. The chemicals that have a greater affinity to stick to the sand take a while to get to the finish line, while the ones that don’t stick to the sand as much get to the finish line quicker.

To separate CBD from the other chemical constituents, the extract is mixed with hexane & ethyl acetate in silica.

Eventually, the remaining solvent from the mixture is evaporated, which leads to crystallization. To make the crystals consumable, they go through additional chemical washes using typically methanol & pentane and additional filtration and evaporation.

And, again, the only way to know for sure that traces of the residual solvents are completely removed is through laboratory testing.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Hexane is commonly used  as a cleaning agent, in glues (like rubber cement & adhesives), varnishes, and inks.

Short-term exposure to high levels of hexane causes dizziness, slight nausea, and headache.

Long-term exposure to hexane is associated with neuropathy, with numbness in the extremities, muscular weakness, blurred vision, headache, and fatigue.

According the National Institute of Health (NIH), Ethyl Acetate is a flammable substance that could potentially cause headaches, irritation of your lungs and eyes, dizziness, nausea, weakness, and/or loss of consciousness.

So, as you can see, there are a lot of chemicals involved in making isolate CBD. And, if there are toxic levels of these chemicals left behind, they could end up doing you more harm than good. So, knowing the industry isn’t regulated, if I were you, I would ask the seller of the Isolate CBD Oil for lab test results.  And you want to check the lab test results for residual solvents. Check out STEP 4 of the video series on How to Find the Best CBD Oil for more info on how to check lab test results for residual solvents.

Otherwise, quite honestly, I’d recommend just steering clear of these chemicals all together and opting for full-spectrum CBD Oil rather than Isolate CBD Oil.

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Research Referenced: