CBD From Farm to Table

The Cannabis Plant

Every finished product was once a raw material subjected to different levels of extraction and reactions before reaching the final consumer. CBD is not an exception to this rule. It requires a lot of knowledge starting choosing the right land for the cannabis plant to selecting the strain, growing the plant, harvesting, and extracting the much desired CBD from the plant parts.

There is quite a lot of information on the health benefits of CBD with little to no information on the plant itself and the various methods involved in cultivation. Hence the need to focus our article on how CBD is produced from the farm to the shelf. Please note that this article was written for information purposes only. Unless otherwise stated, all claims in this article are based on scientific data and research and not from the FDA or any other concerned regulating body.

The Cannabis Plant

The cannabis plant has a long history of serving different purposes in ancient Chines, Roman, and Egyptian medicine. The plant was cultivated for its industrial and medicinal properties. It is a wild pollinated plant with fruits. Most strains of the cannabis plants are short-day plants and are predominantly dioecious, i.e., having distinct male and female reproductive organs. Its origin can be traced to Central Asia. The plant is also known as hemp and has been used for the production of hemp seeds, hemp fiber, oils, juice, and other medicinal purposes or as a recreational drug.

Chemical Composition

The cannabis plant contains a varying concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes, which play important roles in its health benefits. The cannabinoids are a large group of chemicals capable of interacting with the endocannabinoid system to control cognitive responses. The cannabis plant contains over 100 different cannabinoids with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN) as the most important members. These plant chemicals are present in different parts of the plant ranging from the flowers, the leaves, and roots.

The female plants are high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which occupies almost 31% by weight of the entire plant. Other plant species like C. ruderalis are short growers and may only contain trace amounts of THC with cannabidiol (CBD) concentration of over 40%.

Cultivation

Most of the species of the cannabis plant e.g., Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica) are tall growers. The average plant grows up to 13 feet or 4 meters. While cultivating the cannabis plant, the following parameters should be taken care of.

Growth Medium

  • Nutrients: The cannabis plant requires a growth medium rich in essential nutrients like nitrogen phosphorus and potassium. These can be made available via the application of synthetic or natural fertilizers. It also requires other nutrients like sulfur, magnesium, calcium. Some of the micronutrients required for optimum growth include molybdenum, zinc, copper, manganese, and boron chloride. Please note that cannabis nutrient needs may vary from one species or strain to the other, so it should follow a trial by error process.
  • Warmth: Cannabis grows best at temperatures between 75 to 86 0F (24 or 300 C). Temperatures below 15.5 0C or above 310C can decrease the potency of THC and slow the overall growth of the plant. Some of the plant strains may experience a mild shock at 13 0C.
  • pH: The cannabis plant grows better in a slightly acidic to neutral soil (between 5.8 to 6.5). This value may, however, be grossly affected by organic fertilizers, which can make the soils more acidic, thus limiting the growth of the plant.
  • Water: Every plant requires adequate water supply for survival. The amount of water available for plant growth is determined by the temperature, light, size, and stage of the plant and the soil’s ability to retain water. The cannabis plant requires a medium water supply since too much water can kill the plants. Sandy loam soil is ideal for the plant since it has a high water retention capacity and does not get waterlogged easily.
  • Light: Light plays a significant role in the germination and flowering of the cannabis plant. For optimum growth, the plant requires at least 12 hours of light and darkness. If you intend to keep your cannabis plant indoors, you should provide at least 16-24 hours of light with 0-8 hours of darkness.It should be noted that flowering is triggered by the increase in the length of the dark cycle i.e., prolonged darkness enhances flowering. While some species may require 8 hours of darkness to flower, others may require up to 13 hours as the case may be.
  • Humidity: Dry conditions can slow down the rate of photosynthesis in the cannabis plant. For optimum growth, average humidity of 40-60% relative humidity is required.

Harvesting and storage

The cannabis plant can be harvested for one of the following reasons;

  1. Industrial use
  2. Medicinal use
  3. Smoking

The seeds are harvested when they are fully developed. The best time to do this is when the accompanying buds start to deteriorate. If you intend to harvest the plant for fiber, then it should be harvested before the flowering kick starts. Cannabis grown for smoking is harvested when the trichomes have turned cloudy, with about 5 to 15% of the trichomes turned reddish amber/brown in color. The harvested buds are dried in a controlled environment and are cured in sealed non-plastic containers. The cured plant parts are kept in the dark until they are required for any industrial or medicinal use.

How is Cannabidiol Produced From the Cannabis Plant?

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is a chemical (plant-based) which is extracted from the Cannabis sativa (Cannabis plant). This chemical belongs to the cannabinoid family, which has been known to possess some therapeutic activities and can also be used as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, anti-tumor, anti-depressant substances, and anti-cancer agents.

The family cannabinoid has over 100 naturally occurring compounds such as cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol.  All these compounds can act in synergism or singly to produce a wide range of benefits relating to health.  Plant-based cannabinoids (Phyto-cannabinoids) can interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to draw out its intended therapeutic effects. The Endocannabinoid system helps in controlling intellectual activities such as pain sensation, appetite, internal, and hormonal balance. The ECS receptors are spread all over the cells and body system and are ready to interact with the cannabinoids resulting in one or more effects.

Prior to the discovery of CBD in 1940, the cannabis plant has been known to serve therapeutic purposes in ancient Egyptian and Roman medicine. It was used for the treatment of seizures, tapeworm infections, and wound healing. The whole of these activities was formerly linked to the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol, which was very psychoactive and had the power to alter or change the function of the brain.

CBD today has been confirmed to be a non-psychoactive chemical and can also be used for a very long time without the fear of addiction or possibly life-threatening side effects. CBD was recently conferred with the GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) status by the FDA.

Types of CBD Products

Full-spectrum

A full-spectrum CBD product contains all the naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis plant, i.e., cannabinoids, essential oils, and terpenes. Full-spectrum CBD products are prepared by utilizing the chemicals present in the plant for synergistic activities. It is believed that these compounds can interact with CBD to improve its medicinal properties. Since full-spectrum CBD products contain little to traceable amounts of THC, they are best used by people who live in regions where there are no restrictions on the use of THC.

Broad-spectrum

A broad-spectrum CBD product contains all the necessary chemicals in full-spectrum CBD products except THC. It comes in handy in cases where people are interested in enjoying the full benefits of the plant without the presence of THC.

Pure isolate

Just as the name implies, this contains 99% of CBD without the presence of any other compounds.

Nano-enhanced CBD

Nano-CBD (water-soluble CBD or Nano-Enhanced CBD) can be described as a pure CBD isolate prepared by passing CBD oil into highly-specialized Nano-emulsification systems to reduce its particle size into smaller units. This increases its rate of absorption when passing through the digestive system.

Methods of CBD Extraction

Before now, CBD extraction has always focused on the use of highly flammable hydrocarbons and other not-so-effective processes, which were costly and time-consuming. These hydrocarbon extractions were dangerous to carry out, placed a massive limitation on the scale of the experiment, and above all, had a high probability of tampering with the quality of the final product and may lead to side effects. Due to their unacceptable nature, the dangerous extraction processes were carried out at the backyards by ambitious chemists since the compound was illegal. 

Thanks to the FDA and other drug governing agencies for lifting the ban on CBD products, today, there is a growing body of research aimed at creating safer and economical extraction processes like olive oil, dry ice, solvent, and CO2 extraction. This guide will focus on the CO2 extraction process.

The CO2 Extraction Process

This is the most commonly utilized method of extracting cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils from the cannabis plant since it does not denature or damage the final products. This extraction method proceeds via two levels; subcritical and supercritical CO2 extraction.

While the two methods are used worldwide, most manufacturers prefer to focus on supercritical CO2 extraction since it is fast, economical, and produces pure-isolate CBD products. Using CO2 extraction of CBD requires a lot of techniques and specialized equipment, which have been summarized below.

How Does Supercritical CO2 Extraction Work?

The extraction of CBD using supercritical CO2 have been identified to proceed via the following processes;

  1. CO2 to be used for the extraction process is cooled to about -560C and pressure of 75 pounds per square inch (psi). This places the CO2 into a supercritical state (a situation where the boundaries between gas and liquids are blurred, thus making it behave like liquid and gas at the same time). At this stage, CO2 behaves like an extraction solvent and is transferred to the next step.
  2. The supercritical CO2 is passed through a chamber with the cannabis plant materials (usually dry leaves and buds). The CO2 fills the chamber like gas and extracts the desired elements. 
  3. After a successful interaction between the supercritical CO2 and the plant parts, it extracts the terpenes and CBD present in the plant.
  4. The solvent containing the extracted CBD and terpenes is passed into a separator and broken down into different parts. The separated compounds are sent to the collection chamber while the CO2 is passed through a condenser and converted back to the original CO2 for further extractions.

Subcritical CO2 extraction

This proceeds via the same method as described above just that it utilizes a lower pressure and heat; thus, favoring the extraction of heat-sensitive plant-based materials, it is quite expensive and slower than supercritical CO2 extraction.

Difference Between Subcritical and Supercritical Methods of Extraction

Although the two extraction methods may follow the same pattern or procedures, here are the major differences between them.

Yield and Desired End Product

Subcritical CO2 retains and protects all the heat-sensitive components like essential oils and terpenes. It is best for the extraction of full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products, while supercritical CO2 extraction favors the yield of pure CBD products due to the heat and pressure applied. Supercritical CO2 can also come in handy in the extraction of large molecules like omega 3, chlorophyll, and waxes, which can be removed by winterization leaving behind pure isolate CBD oil.

Speed of Extraction

As stated earlier, subcritical CO2 proceeds at a much slower rate than supercritical CO2 extraction hence leading to more cost and energy consumption.

CBD Product Descriptions

Edibles

This usually includes baked products, candies, and food containing certain amounts of CBD. They are administered by chewing, and their effect can last from 4 to 6 hours. Since they are administered via the GIT, they take a longer time to be activated (from 45 minutes to 1 hour). The CBD in the product is released slowly based on enzymatic activities, thus giving it a long-lasting effect and comes in handy for chronic conditions requiring a steady dose of CBD throughout the day. Optimal results are obtained by increasing your dosage after one hour.

Breathable

Administering CBD products via the nasal route is one of the fastest ways to get the right dosage into your bloodstream after intravenous administration. This method of administration focuses on breathing in or inhaling CBD products. It produces observable results within minutes and is best for a sudden burst of pain, anxiety, and other ailments.

Sublingual Oils

Just as the name implies, sublingual (Latin; “under the tongue”) is a pharmacological route of administration where substances are placed under the tongue to diffuse into the bloodstream. These CBD products are delivered via a dropper and may serve as one of the most effective and friendly ways to administer the products. Sublingual oils have a greater level of bioavailability since they diffuse into the bloodstream, and their effect can last from 3 to 6 hours depending on dosage and body chemistry. Most companies recommend a 30-day use for optimal results.

Capsules

They are administered in the same way as vitamins or other food supplements, CBD capsules serve as the surest way to get your daily CBD dose while on the go. They are administered via the oral route or by swallowing and produce almost the same effect with CBD edibles.

Topical treatments

CBD products under this category come in the form of rubs, oils, and lotions. They are applied directly to the affected area and serve significant purposes for arthritis and pain inflammation. Its effect can last from 3 to 5 hours depending on the level of disease experienced, and the availability of receptors.

Conclusion

The role of CBD in health and diseases cannot be overemphasized. It has great potential in serving as a remedy for pain relief, chronic inflammation, arthritis, anxiety, and depression. Kindly contact us if you have questions on the cannabis plant and CBD, our team of experts will love to hear from you soon.

Robert Prescot | Author

Robert is one of our most experienced and knowledgeable writers. He resides in Las Vegas, NV with his wife and two sons. He has 10 years of online marketing experience and has spent several years in the CBD and hemp market.

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