If you are curious about the process to make CBD oil, we have the guide you need to understand. Ever wonder where your CBD oil comes from? Men’s Health goes behind the scenes with Charlotte’s Web, the most famous CBD company around today. Charlotte's Web Original Formula is our flagship product that played a pivotal role in launching the CBD industry in the United States. Learn about its benefits and history here!
How to Make CBD Oil
Take a moment and think about your approach to health: would you consider yourself proactive? Curious? Dedicated? Especially in an age where information is readily available, and more people are conscious of their daily choices—from diet to exercise and the environment—you likely care more deeply than you realize. More than ever, mindful shoppers like yourself are looking into the nitty-gritty of everything: grocery store buys, beauty products, household cleaners, and the list goes on.
If you want to go a step further in your burgeoning investigative skills, take a moment to consider not only what is in your everyday goods but rather how they were created. At Charlotte’s Web, we aim to be transparent about our products—and the methods we use to create them. If you have ever wondered how to make CBD oil, you’re in luck. We have spoken with our trusted team of experts to better understand the process. Here, we provide an insider’s look at how we go from seed to plant to oil and give a crash course on other things you need to know about this trendy gift from Mother Nature herself.
Consider yourself schooled.
First up, what is CBD?
What is CBD? Truth be told, it is nearly impossible to miss CBD these days. Scrolling through Instagram, browsing through various online shops, or even overhearing a conversation in a coffee shop… your ears will perk up at the recognition of the term. However, you may not know exactly what it is, or why so many people are raving about its effectiveness and benefits. That’s okay—we have the history and background for you.
CBD stands for cannabidiol which is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. This compound is usually derived from hemp and is a naturally occurring substance. Here is where small details are essential: CBD is not psychoactive. This is important to note because this means it will not impair your mental state or your ability to function and perform everyday tasks. This is what sets CBD apart from another plant compound in the cannabis family, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. When you think of getting high, you are contemplating the effects of THC, not CBD.
The reason many people are wondering how to make CBD oil is based on its versatility and the ways it can be used throughout daily routines. Surprisingly, CBD has been part of cultures for hundreds of years, even if it is only now becoming viral among bigger populations. Indigenous communities handled hemp throughout their lives for various solutions: to control weeds, to sanitize water, to make clothing, and other uses. Today, more people turn to CBD oil for some of its help in making modern living easier like supporting recovery from exercise-induced inflammation or maintaining focus for an important project, to name a few.
How to make CBD oil
The actual process of making CBD oil is one that’s been crafted and cultivated for centuries. At Charlotte’s Web, it is a journey we have perfected since 2011 when a family of seven brothers—Joel, Jesse, Jon, Jordan, Jared, Josh, and Austin Stanley—developed a high-quality blend of CBD that features other beneficial phytocompounds. At that time, something that set us apart was our ability to make a high-quality extract from plants we grew and harvested ourselves. Each step within our process—from seed to bottle—is still overseen by quality standards put in place by the Stanley’s and is quality-tested and assured each step of the way.
But how does it all, well, work?
Pam Baxter is the Director of Quality Engineering at Charlotte’s Web where she leads product testing, the validation, and verification of equipment, all technical writing, and document control. It’s a big job but one that Pam loves since it gives her an important hands-on role in the way our products are made. In an interview about how to make CBD oil, she explains how the team uses two different extraction methods: CO2 and alcohol extraction.
As Pam explains, carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction is excellent at isolating cannabinoids from the plant materials, which allows scientists the ability to derive a high concentration of mostly CBD, but also other compounds like cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), and cannabinoid (CBN). Like CBD, these cannabinoids are not psychoactive and won’t alter your mental state.
Another extraction technique used at Charlotte’s Web is with isopropyl alcohol to extract a wide variety of compounds, like terpenes, flavonoids, and more, each with their own beneficial properties for health and wellness. Today, the CO2 extraction method is used for most products, while the Original Formula is still created via alcohol extraction, just as it has been since the Stanley Brothers first shared it with Charlotte.
If that is all a little over your head, don’t sweat it. You probably won’t be making CBD oil at home by yourself but if you are curious, Pam says everything starts with the earth. Or more to the point: the soil!
Every fall, Charlotte’s Web harvests and dries its hemp plants. The dried material is then milled and stored in bins as they wait to start the testing process. To ensure we only create the highest quality products—safe for people to use on themselves and their furry best friends—every plant goes through an intense testing regimen. Pam explains that what we are mostly looking for is any sort of moisture that could create mold. As you can imagine, this would be dangerous and must be controlled. Once plants have passed these various quality assurance steps, we move on to the extraction process.
How to make CBD oil: CO2 Extraction
To implement CO2 extraction—remember, that’s carbon dioxide—Pam says we start by performing a decarboxylation step. In this step, the plant material is heated, which converts all the acid forms of the cannabinoids into active forms. In other words, this makes it useful to be put into oils, otherwise, it wouldn’t offer the same benefits. From this state, it goes into the extractor, where the compounds are brought out in oil form. The extract is fully tested and approved for use. From our hemp, we extract CBD and the other compounds.
How to make CBD oil: Alcohol Extraction
The alcohol extraction technique goes a little differently. After hemp is dried and tested, it goes straight into a container where it is soaked in isopropyl alcohol. This is when the extraction happens, Pam explains. Then, we remove all the hemp plant remnants from the alcohol and heat the solution which evaporates the alcohol off, leaving an extract of CBD and 80+ other cannabinoids. “The extract is then put under heat to decarboxylate it and then that’s what we use to make our products,” she explains.
No matter which process the plants go through, Pam says the oil doesn’t quite look like the final product you purchase. Instead, it has the consistency of molasses—very thick and dark.
Why Quality Matters
As a proactive shopper, you think carefully about what is lurking in your food. Or in your go-to beauty products. Or, well, in anything. The same should be true for any hemp extracts you use. Though many, many companies are advertising and offering CBD products, there has been little regulation to control exactly what’s inside them. This can make it difficult to really understand what you are using and how it may impact your body from the inside out. Especially with any new type of trend, it is in your best interest—and that of your family—to only select formulas you trust.
Pam explains it best: “You want to know that it’s made from trusted plants. You can buy various CBD oils, but what you want is something where extraction was done on the entire plant and there wasn’t any separation, purification, or other additions to the materials, so you get a full spectrum extract rather than having certain cannabinoids added in.”
Even though it seems like a complicated, time-consuming process to create CBD oil, not everyone is as diligent about their plants as we are. It is essential to the core values of Charlotte’s Web that we only provide the most trusted level of quality and effectiveness. To do this, we are diligent about the hemp plants we cultivate.
When you have trustworthy ingredients, you can aspire to see some of the many benefits of incorporating CBD oil into your regimen. “We all know that it’s important that you start with the genetics that you understand so that you can make a consistent product. Most companies out there buy hemp on the open market, so they don’t know much about how the hemp was grown,” Pam shares. “We know everything about how our hemp was grown, so we always start off with the best material.”
Giving it time
Charlotte’s Web also goes a step above by providing accurate, proven information to back all our products. We want to educate our customers so they can experience the benefits of CBD Oil. We always recommend giving the product time to work its magic, right around four weeks. While some people will notice a difference right away, everyone’s unique chemical system responds at various durations. To reap the benefits of CBD, your body’s endocannabinoid system takes in the CBD based on saturation. This means you need to reach a certain level of saturation before experiencing more noticeable individual effects.
The bottom line is CBD provides plenty of great benefits, but you have to select a brand dedicated to quality. Regardless if this your first time on the CBD train or you are an expert, research will allow you to truly know what you are using and how it may work for you and those you love.
To learn more about all things CBD, sign up for our email list, read our CBD 101 resource page, check out our CBD oil and gummies, or drop us a line.
Here’s Exactly How Charlotte’s Web CBD Gets From Farm to Bottle
Ever wonder where your CBD oil comes from? MensHealth.com goes behind the scenes with Charlotte’s Web, the most famous CBD brand on the market.
“What’s that noise?” Joel Stanley whispers as the group comes to a halt.
“I think it’s a mouse,” his brother Austin replies. We hear a few faint chirps coming from the ground. Within seconds, Jesse, Austin, Josh, and Joel — four of the seven brothers in the Stanley family — pick up a mischief of baby mice hiding in the grass just inside the boundary of their farm. Each brother picks up one of the tiny creatures, gives it a little “hello,” and sets it off to the side so we don’t step on it on our way through.
That compassion is just what you’d expect from guys who produce whole hemp extracts containing Cannabidiol, or CBD, the buzzy cannabis-derived compound believed to gently help with pain, stress, and a host of other health conditions. Unlike its chemical friend Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — the other major compound found in cannabis — CBD doesn’t get you high.
On their idyllic farm in Colorado, a little dot on the radar near the Nebraska border, the Stanleys grow their proprietary hemp plant called Charlotte’s Web, a cannabis plant with extremely high CBD content. They use that CBD to make oils, capsules, creams, and balms — even CBD for dogs — and it’s all available online to be shipped anywhere in the country.
The company got the name “Charlotte’s Web” not from the children’s book, but rather from Charlotte Figi, a young girl with a rare, severe form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. Charlotte used to suffer dozens of seizures a day, until her mom, Paige, approached the Stanley brothers about using their product — then known as “Hippie’s Disappointment” — to help manage her daughter’s symptoms. Charlotte started taking the CBD oil, and in her first week, went from having 300 seizures to none.
While you’ve probably heard the hype around CBD, you might be a little less sure of where, exactly, it comes from. For as far as the eye can see on the Stanleys’ farm, the hemp plants grow sturdy and strong in well-aligned rows. Sunflowers dot the borders, and a bright red farmhouse sits off in the distance. The air is Colorado fresh, and the ground smells of sweet earth. The plant itself is a shade of green that is best experienced in person, but can only be described as a mix of green and gold. Fitting, when you consider the CBD industry is poised to be a $2 billion business by 2022.
The Stanleys and their team of scientists walked MensHealth.com through the process of growing the Charlotte’s Web hemp plants, extracting the CBD, and selling their range of products.
Where does Charlotte’s Web CBD come from?
CBD is one of more than 100 chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, which includes both marijuana and hemp strains. While CBD can be extracted from marijuana plants, the Stanley brothers’ products come from “industrial” hemp, which contains less than 0.3 percent naturally-occurring THC. An estimated 50 percent of hemp plants in America are currently being grown for CBD extraction, according to the Associated Press.
One important note: The Stanleys’ CBD products are not the same as hemp oil. Hemp oil comes directly from hemp seeds, which contain negligible amounts of CBD. The Charlotte’s Web products come from the leaves and flowers of the hemp plant, which do carry the good stuff you’re looking for.
From Planting to CBD Extraction
Just as marijuana plants can be bred for their THC content, hemp plants can be specially bred for their CBD content. The exact composition of Charlotte’s Web is a closely-guarded secret, but the Stanleys says it’s grown with no unnatural pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. Instead, they use natural predators like ladybugs — yes, they have what they call “an army of vicious ladybugs” — to protect their crop.
The seedlings start out in a greenhouse. Depending on the season, some are transplanted to the 120-acre outdoor fields, while others continue their life cycle indoors. The Stanleys’ lead farmer, Ray Sitorious, oversees this whole process. He came to the farm with more than three decades of agricultural experience growing crops like corn, beans, and watching over cattle.
“What better job could you get than to get up every day and go to work and know you’re going to help thousands of people?” Sitorious, a brusque man in his mid-50s, said in his pickup truck as we drove down to the farm’s hemp fields. “Give them a higher quality of life. You know, that’s, that’s something that not very many people get to do.”
When the plants are grown, the farm team picks them and hangs them to dry in the barn. It takes about eight months for the plants to be primed for CBD extraction.
Extracting the CBD From the Charlotte’s Web Plants
Once the dried plants arrive from the farm, the real magic happens at the Charlotte’s Web lab. (This process mirrors what happens at other CBD production facilities, but certain elements are unique to this facility.)
Here’s a very simplified look at how the team extracts CBD from the plants.
Before the plants even leave the farm, the team tests them to ensure there are no biological contaminants.
The dried plants are shipped from the farm to the lab, where a machine pulls the leaves and flower from the stalks.
Those leaves and flowers are placed in a special device, which uses carbon dioxide to extract the CBD and other useful chemicals. The device contains five chambers: two hold the plant material, and three collect the output of oil.
This process is known as CO2 extraction. It’s one of various methods of CBD extraction you’ll see across the cannabis industry, and one of two techniques used at Charlotte’s Web.
Inside the device, the CO2 is chilled to the point of entering a “supercritical” state, which means it’s in between a liquid and a gas. That CO2 interacts with the plant material in such a way that it pushes the CBD out, leaving it to collect in the chambers at the bottom of the device.
The final product is filtered several times to ensure any plant material is left out of the final product.
The batches are sent through a number of different tests to make sure they contain no pesticides, heavy metals, residual solvents, or microbial contamination.
It’s then sent to a clean room packaging area, bottled, and shipped to customers. Customers can check in on what’s in their bottle by looking up their batch number here.
“We’re under constant scrutiny so we have no choice but to produce the highest quality level product,” Vijay Bachus, Director of Production Operations at Charlotte’s Web, explained while sitting outside the company’s lab in Boulder. “We do it all by the book, because we can’t have any discrepancy in our process whatsoever. We have to do everything 100 percent correctly and holding ourselves to that level.”
That thorough production process is the mark of a superior CBD product, according to Joel Stanley. When you’re figuring out what to buy, “Look at the company and try to determine how much they care about the process from the beginning to end,” he said. Are they controlling the genetics and soil, and are they screening for quality? “When they control from seed to shelf, you’re gonna have a consistent product.”
What Happens When the CBD Gets To You?
Here’s where things get tricky. We don’t really know what happens when CBD hits your bloodstream. There’s not a lot of data out there about what CBD can do for you, and that’s because cannabis — which, remember, includes both marijuana and hemp — has been on the list of schedule 1 drugs for decades, making it difficult for scientists to get funding to study its effects.
What we do know is that in small-scale animal and human studies, CBD has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and inflammation in the body. It’s also anecdotally been shown to help stave off seizures in epileptic children, just as it did for Charlotte’s Web’s namesake. In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an epilepsy medication containing a purified form of CBD oil — the agency’s first endorsement in history of a marijuana-derived drug.
Even the Stanley brothers themselves can’t actually say out loud what they think it can and can’t do for a person’s health. In fact, on the bottom of every bottle, you’ll still find the tiny little disclaimer stating the product has not been evaluated by the FDA, and that it’s “not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”
As far as proving CBD’s efficacy goes, we’re just at the beginning. As the sun went down over their vast hemp field, Josh — the eldest Stanley brother — said he’s confident that plenty more CBD research is on the horizon. After all, he pointed out, “human interest is on our side.”
The Science of Charlotte’s Web™ Original Formula
If you’ve shopped our CBD oils, you know that Charlotte’s Web offer tinctures with both 50mg and 60mg of CBD. Why would we have two products that are so similar? Because they are very, very different.
Both are full spectrum hemp extracts featuring a range of cannabinoids, plus terpenes, flavonoids, phytosterols, essential fatty acids and many other beneficial plant compounds. But it’s how the hemp is extracted that creates two dynamically different products. Something that sets Charlotte’s Web apart within the CBD industry is that we offer full spectrum hemp extracts created by two different extraction methods: supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) and isopropyl alcohol (IPA). We’ll explain both so you can understand the science of Original Formula more, and better decide which products are best for you.
Snapshot of 60 mg CBD Oil: As our highest concentration of CBD per mL, this extract is ideal when the goal is to go the next step with a CBD routine for those who are already familiar with Charlotte’s Web products. The 60mg oil is a full-spectrum hemp extract, robust in phytocannabinoids, but it is not as high in terpenes as Original Formula because it is extracted via a CO2 extraction process.
Snapshot of Original Formula: Original Formula is created in a small batch, labor-intensive, alcohol extraction process. The result is a darker extract with a very earthy flavor. Original Formula is a full spectrum hemp extract that provides 50mg of CBD per 1mL serving. The IPA extraction method results in a rich combination of synergistic compounds that are significantly higher in terpenes when compared to the 60mg CBD oil.
Hemp Extraction Methods: What’s the Difference?
We use a supercritical Carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction process for all Charlotte’s Web products, except Original Formula. Supercritical CO2 technology allows for a more targeted extraction of cannabinoids and is ecologically friendly, highly efficient, and suitable for large quantity extractions. This is how we create our Charlotte’s Web 60mg per mL CBD oil, as well as our 17mg tinctures, capsules, and gummies available at a variety of concentrations. All Charlotte’s Web tinctures created using CO2 extraction are currently certified organic.
Even though CO2 extraction is the most commonly used method in the industry, our Original Formula has always been made using isopropyl alcohol (IPA) extraction, and it continues to be extracted by that same method today. Charlotte’s Web scientists describe IPA extraction as a process similar to making herbal tea. It’s a very simple, artisanal approach that uses the entire plant’s material. The result is a dark, rich combination of synergistic compounds that are relatively high in terpenes. The alcohol is removed from the final Original Formula product by means of a gentle heating process, and then re-used many times to prevent waste. MCT oil or olive oil is then added as the carrier oil. The final product is tested at third-party independent laboratories for residual solvents.
The IPA extraction process is more labor-intensive than CO2 extraction, and so Original Formula is produced in small, select batches. This small-batch, slow production process is a nod to how the company began. Original Formula is the Charlotte’s Web flagship product that played a pivotal role in launching the CBD industry in the United States.
All Charlotte’s Web products are the result of 100% organic farming practices, using our proprietary genetics to create a consistent phytochemical profile. Our extremely high standards for quality and trust as well as our dedication to transparency have earned Charlotte’s Web the official stamp of approval from the U.S. Hemp Authority® Certification Program, which provides comprehensive standards for hemp growers and processors. Companies are only granted the U.S. Hemp Authority’s Certified Seal when they meet these stringent self-regulatory standards verified by independent audit.
The plants grown for Original Formula and 60mg CBD oil differ slightly in their proprietary hemp genetics, in part to adapt the plants to each specific geography and growing conditions. In fact, Original Formula uses the same proprietary phytochemical profiles produced by the now patented ‘CW1AS1’ hemp variety and is manufactured in the exact same process that were developed for Charlotte Figi, the company’s namesake.
So, what does this mean for me?
Both extraction methods result in a potent mix of synergistic compounds, but there are practical differences between them.
How the Oil Looks
Visually, 60mg CBD oil has a golden color because our CO2 extraction process does not draw chlorophyll out of the plant. By comparison, Original Formula is much darker because it draws out more of the natural plant material, including chlorophyll.
Original Formula is flavored with mint chocolate or remains natural with coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil as the carrier oils but has a much more earthy taste than our CO2-extracted products.
In addition to cannabidiol (CBD), scientists have so far identified about 113 distinct phytocannabinoids in hemp. The cannabinoids present in Charlotte’s Web hemp extracts are quantified in the COA for every batch. These other phytocannabinoids are still considered “minor” as compared to CBD and THC, but ongoing research continues to shed light on their potential effects in the body.
Additional Plant Compounds
The formulas differ by CBD concentration, appearance, and taste, but another way to choose between them is based on their respective terpene levels. In general, the IPA extraction method draws much of the natural plant compounds, ultimately resulting in a higher quantity of terpenes as compared to a CO2 extraction. The Original Formula offers a unique pairing of terpenes and cannabinoids to create specific benefits for the user.
Let’s Talk Terpenes: Why are they important?
Terpenes make up the largest (as much as 60%) and most diverse class of known natural plant substances. It is thought that plants developed terpenes to ward off predators and attract pollinators. In addition, terpenes form part of a plant’s immune and repair systems.. 1 Terpenes are responsible for the hemp plant’s characteristic aroma and flavor, not the cannabinoids, which are odorless. At least 400 terpenes have been identified so far in cannabis. 2 Terpenes are important because of their likely involvement in the entourage effect. The entourage effect describes the phenomenon whereby all compounds in the hemp plant, such as cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, phytosterols, and essential fatty acids, work best when combined in products because together they optimize each other’s effects on the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
A recent study concluded that terpenes may participate in the entourage effect by influencing endocannabinoid synthesis or metabolism. It is also possible that terpenes have biological effects in their own right through different receptor targets. 3
The body of evidence suggesting that terpenes may have beneficial properties of their own continues to grow. So far, very few terpenes have been studied at a functional level, however, and for those that have, the evidence comes from experimental or animal models.
These formulas differ by CBD concentration, appearance, and taste, but the practical reason you may choose between them and opt for Original Formula, is because of the higher terpene level and the benefits terpenes offer.
Charlotte’s Web continues to craft Original Formula and 60mg CBD oil in different ways to provide options you need to better support your personal biochemistry and wellness goals.
To learn more about all things CBD, sign up for our email list, read our CBD 101 resource page, check out our CBD oil and gummies, or drop us a line.