Cannabis Extraction Techniques – Alcohol Extraction vs CO2

How Is Your CBD Extracted? Cannabis Extraction can be a bit daunting

Cannabis Extraction? What is it?

Many people are unaware of the various cannabis extraction methods that are used to extract cannabinoids (THC, CBD etc) and their essential oils (terpenes). Some of those methods include:

CO2 (Carbon Dioxide)
Ethanol Alcohol
Isopropyl Alcohol
Vegetable Oil

Today we are going to focus on Ethanol and CO2 cannabis extraction because they are the most commonly used techniques when it comes to making extracts and tinctures. I personally don’t like the sound of butane, propane, or isopropyl alcohol, as there is always residue left in the finished product no matter how clean you try to make it. Oils and butters are great for the home crafter, but it can be difficult to determine exactly how much extracted CBD or CBG is in the final product.

Ethanol Cannabis Extraction – (Food Grade Alcohol)

This is my preferred method of extracting cannabinoids and is the technique that FlowerChild uses; it takes longer and is more expensive in the long run, but I believe this is what makes our products work as well as they do.

The hemp flowers are put into large containers and 200 proof food grade alcohol is poured over them and agitated for a while to extract the cannabinoids. The plant/alcohol mixture is then filtered, leaving the alcohol mixture saturated with all of the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. This mixture is heated to around 150 degrees and the alcohol is slowly cooked off, leaving a rich, dark, molasses-like oil. This oil extract is filled with the goodness and healing potential of whole plant medicine.

This whole plant cannabis oil is also known as full extract cannabis oil, hemp oil extract, or Rick Simpson Oil (RSO). As a supplement and possible treatment for cancer, whole-plant cannabis oil can be orally administered (in minute quantities) or applied directly to the skin. Sublingual delivery (under the tongue) is the preferred method of ingestion and is the best way to get maximum benefits. Not only is it a convenient way to medicate, but intake through the oral mucosal membranes in your mouth provides for rapid and effective absorption; it goes directly into your systemic circulation because of the increased bioavailability of the cannabinoids.

FlowerChild uses food grade alcohol to extract the chlorophyll, cannabinoids, and terpenes!

FlowerChild takes this whole-plant cannabis extract and infuses it into cold-pressed grape seed oil to create our hemp CBD and CBG products. Our topical (salve) products have added essential oils and herbs, but our tinctures are pure grape seed oil and cannabis extract, with a peppermint oil option for taste. They are wonderfully clean: no preservatives, no chemicals, nothing you can’t pronounce!

Hemp seed oil vs. hemp oil

Note: Whole-plant cannabis oil is not the same as “hemp seed oil.” Hemp seed oil is made from the seeds of the hemp plant rather than the flowers/buds and therefore does not contain active cannabinoids. It is rich with essential fatty oils and you can easily buy it in health food stores, and though it often gets mislabeled as “hemp oil,” it is not the same. True whole-plant hemp oil is made from the buds/flower of the female cannabis plant and is comprised of many different cannabinoids, including THC, CBD, CBN, CBG, and more — as well as terpenes, flavonoids, chlorophyll, and other compounds.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Cannabis Extraction

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a supercritical fluid, meaning it converts into a liquid form when pressurized. At the same time, it is a pure chemical substance that occurs naturally and leaves behind no residues.

Accordingly, the Supercritical CO2 extraction method (aka CO2 extraction) can help ensure cannabis concentrates are pure.

Supercritical CO2 Cannabis Extraction Is Safe but is it Effective?

Supercritical CO2 extraction is a standard extraction method for the food and herbal supplement industries.

CO2 is used to produce carbonated soft drinks and as an extraction solvent when producing essential oils. It is also used to remove caffeine from coffee beans in order to make decaffeinated coffee, and as a solvent for dry cleaning. It’s considered safe, but it is effective?

The CO2 extraction process allows compounds to be extracted with little damage and low toxicity. It utilizes a high pressure vessel containing cannabis that essentially pulls the phytocannabinoids out of the plant.
Supercritical CO2 is inserted into the vessel and pumped through a filter, where it is separated from the plant matter once the pressure is released.

Now here’s the important part. If CO2 extraction is not done properly it strips the terpenes (essential oils) from the plant and leaves only the cannabinoids (THC, CBD). For Whole Plant Therapy it is vital that you get the terpenes as well as the cannabinoids. Lavender would not be lavender if the terpene linalool was removed. Think about it.

The Difference in Product between Alcohol Cannabis Extraction and CO2 Extraction

The most important difference here is that the alcohol cannabis extraction retains the chlorophyll, all the naturally-occuring terpenes and cannabinoids, and all the other plant compounds that contribute to healing. Chlorophyll is very important in that it oxygenates the body and creates an alkaline environment, and cancer and other diseases cannot survive in an alkaline environment. Terpenes are the essence of the plant and one of the main healing factors. All the flavonoids and other plant compounds also contribute healing potential and do best when they are working together in their natural form, the way nature intended. Alcohol extraction is a very gentle way of extraction that has been the go-to for herbalists for centuries.

CO2 extraction is harsher, it removes all of the chlorophyll and plant compounds, and if it’s not done properly it combusts the terpenes. With a CO2 extraction you are not getting Whole Plant Therapy!


When sourcing CBD or CBG, be sure to choose whole-plant tinctures in order to get the most for your money.  Ethanol extractions are more natural, more gentle, and more effective. Give your body the best chance for healing!