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How you feel about the medication you take actually makes a big difference to how quickly you get better, or whether you get better. So, feeling good about CBD – should you decide to use it – is very important.
If you are going to feel good about CBD, you should know where it comes from.
So, where does it Come from?
People have made cannabidiol in labs, but why bother when there is a convenient plant that makes it for us? The cannabis sativa plant is the original source of CBD, and the cannabis plant produces large quantities of CBD, so there is no need to search far and wide for an alternative source.
When you examine a cannabis plant, you find that the second most abundant cannabinoid is CBD. (The most abundant is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, but that one gets you high, and it’s not found in CBD).
Some industrious botanists and scientists are trying to breed cannabis strains that have more CBD than THC, but they have not quite succeeded – yet.
However, industrial hemp has very little THC in it and quite a lot of CBD. The Farms Act of 2018 is possibly going to completely legalize industrial hemp growing, so there might be a lot more, and much cheaper, CBD on the horizon. Be sure to keep an eye on this site for more developments there.
How does Cannabis Make CBD?
The cannabis plant makes 7 different CBD-type compounds. Only CBD has been explored to any great extent but there are hopes that other CBD-type compounds can be used in therapies. They behave similarly to CBD and it is not unreasonable to assume that they will do similar things.
Some of the genes that cannabis uses to make CBD have been identified. The same metabolic pathway cannabis uses to make THC is used for CBD production, with some small alterations. It starts (for the sake of simplicity) with cannabigerolic-acid (CBGA), but instead of an enzyme called THCA synthase – which leads to THC via THCA – CBDA synthase is employed. This produces cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). A simple decarboxylation step makes it into CBD.
The Decarboxylation Step
As an interesting side point, THCA is the form of THC in the cannabis plant. It needs heating to decarboxylate it and make it into THC. Ever eaten cannabis? If so, you already know that it does not do much unless you have heated it first. This decarboxylation step is the reason people need to smoke, cook or vaporize cannabis to get the effects.
CBD also needs decarboxylating. Although CBD is found in abundance in drug-type cannabis plants, there is substantial CBDA that has not been decarboxylated. Young plants have lots of CBDA and the concentration decreases as they get older, but gradually the CBDA is converted into CBD.
Curing the cannabis plant by drying it out helps to maximise CBD content over CBDA. A further heating step, for example by vaporizing it, will convert all that CBDA into CBD for you to enjoy.
CBD can be produced with a variety of methods. If you want to waste a lot of time and money, you can start with olivetilic acid and follow the reaction steps to get to CBD. However, if you want CBD that is affordable, just grow a plant and extract it.
Fibre-type cannabis plants like industrial hemp have more CBDA than any other cannabinoid. So if you are using this type of plant, you can get a substantial CBDA fraction that you can then decarboxylate.
Using drug-type cannabis plants will yield a lot of CBD but also THC, so you have to distil this out.
The main method for CBD production is supercritical carbon dioxide extraction. It is safer than propane extraction, which can blow up in your face if you are not careful. It is also a lot more environmentally friendly and cheaper, not to mention less toxic.
Supercritical CO2 Extraction – a Brief Guide to CBD Production
CO2 has some interesting attributes. When you heat it above 31 degrees Celsius and pressurize it to over 1000 psi, it develops some strange but useful characteristics. It starts behaving as if it were both a gas and a liquid. This is called the supercritical phase, and it works because CO2 never forms a liquid, it can only exist as a gas or a solid. If you try force it to become a solid, it does wonderful things to resist.
Supercritical CO2 is useful because it acts as a powerful solvent, allowing CBD to be dissolved in it. This is a tightly controlled method, which can be precisely tuned to stop unwanted products like chlorophyll from being dissolved too.
In the process, ground cannabis or hemp is added to a pressurized chamber, which then has CO2 pumped in at the right pressure and temperature. The precious cannabinoids dissolve, leaving the dead plant matter behind when the CO2 is siphoned off.
Lowering the pressure in a separate chamber causes the CO2 to gasify. It is then pumped back into its CO2 bottle for reuse. Left behind in the bottom of the separating chamber is a goopy mixture of cannabinoids, terpenes, waxes, and resins that had dissolved in the CO2.
This mixture has everything that can be extracted from the cannabis plant in it. Try to vape this and you will not enjoy it. There is a lot of stuff in there that is no use and possibly harmful. Besides, inhaling waxes does not seem like a good idea.
But what to do with this thick mixture? A technique called winterization is used. Add ethanol to the mixture, stick it in the freezer for a day or two, take it out and filter it. All the fats and waxes are left behind. Leave the resulting mixture outside and let the ethanol evaporate and hey presto, you have a “full spectrum” cannabis oil.
The heating steps in this method help a lot of the CBDA to convert into CBD, but there can still be a lot of it left. Simple heating over about 120 degrees Celsius for a few hours can complete the step. But it will also turn all the THCA into THC.
Other methods involving fossil fuel gases work yet produce different results. The high pressure of supercritical extraction can kill some of the other cannabinoids that are looking increasingly important for the most effective cannabis extracts for health. This is the entourage effect. However, subcritical extraction can leave behind chlorophyll, which tastes horrible. Supercritical extraction kills all the bacteria in the plant too.
Pure CBD Production
Purifying your cannabis extract further to get a pure CBD isolate usually involves fractional or short path distillation. These techniques heat the mixture to a very specific temperature where the desired chemical (in this case, CBD) evaporates. Slowly cooling the mixture causes the evaporated mixture to condense in fractions. At the right temperature, CBD will condense and you can extract just this and nothing else
Supercritical extraction equipment can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and requires some technical knowledge. It is best left to the experts, but it is very cool to know about.
So now you know where CBD comes from and about CBD production. Be safe and enjoy!
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