CBD: Alcohol vs. CO2

CBD Oil Extract w/ Ethanol

Which extraction is better?

There are many different methods of extracting the active compounds from the cannabis hemp plant. Primarily the industry is using food grade ethanol or CO2 in these processes, and each produce different results


Alcohol is a solvent that is made via the fermentation of plant matter and is a byproduct of the plants themselves. A solvent made by, and is ideally suited towards extracting the essence of plants. Alcohol is the only solvent which retains the original phytonutrient ratios contained within the plant. This is the result of alcohol extracting both the water and oil soluble components

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide is a liquid gas. While it is a quick and easy process, it only extracts the non-polar compounds within a plant. This results in a limited extraction of the plant which is not water soluble. This plays a roll in bio-availability because oils must be digested prior to incorporation with the body – while this may be preferable in some cases due to the principle of first-pass metabolism, usually a water soluble extract will be more readily used by the body.

Other Solvents

Other solvents have been used in extractions, however their use is waning because they provide the same capabilities of CO2, but offer increased chances of contaminants and unknown health effects. Some of the commonly used solvents to avoid are:

  • Butane
  • Propane
  • Isopropyl
  • Dimethyl Ether / DME

Other CBD extraction methods

  • Distillates produce pure extracts based on evaporation temperature of the various compounds and can be customized and recombined as the formulator sees fit.
  • Isolates involve chemical processes that result in pure CBD crystals. yields tend to be low.

The Bottom Line

Since alcohol is both non-polar and polar, it can dissolve a much wider range of molecules that include almost all of the plants medicinal oils, polysaccharides, carboxylic acids and many other beneficial compounds.

In other words, alcohol dissolves both water and oil soluble compounds while other compounds are extracting only the non-polar, oil soluble components. In terms of keeping the plant whole and complete in your extracts, alcohol is the only solvent to consider.

Wrapping up

Not all extracts are created equal and it’s important to know what you’re taking into your body. In order to have a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t for you, a knowledgeable CBD advocate can steer you towards the right product that has the most potential to give you a positive benefit. If these points aren’t addressed by your vendor, you’ll need to do your own research. Reputable vendors are proud to disclose their manufacturing techniques so you can make the best choice.

Learn more here.

Questions? We love them! Fire away!