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What is CBD Isolate and what equipment is needed to produce it?

CBD Isolate

Over the past few years, CBD has become one of the most popular healthcare ingredients that you can use on your own.  CBD can be used to treat a variety of different ailments and there are several different options for how you can buy and use it depending on what you’re looking to get from CDB.  Out of all the ways you can buy it, CBD isolate is one of the most sought after, in addition to being one of the strongest forms of CBD. 

For those who are new to the world of CBD, understanding the different types can be overwhelming. Here, you can learn a little more about what CBD isolates entails and what’s needed to produce it.

Hydrocarbon Recrystallization

The majority of CBD isolate is produced with a hydrocarbon recrystallization technology. There are many tweaks and variations to this method but here is the outline of the basic method.

Before we get started, it’s important to recognize that this process utilizes highly flammable explosive solvents and should only be performed by professionals in a laboratory setting with appropriate safety precautions and procedures in place.

The process starts with winterized and distilled CBD oil, sometimes referred to as distillate. The oil must be clear before the isolate process starts. If the oil is cloudy that means there are still undesirable contaminants like water, lipids, and waxes in the mix. To fix this issue, the oil will need to be winterized again until it’s clear.

The higher the CBD content in the distillate, the more pure the final isolate will be.

First, the distillate is dissolved into a hydrocarbon solution with pentane or heptane at warm temperatures. These non-polar solvents dissolve non-polar molecules like fats, oils, waxes, and lipids while repelling water. This makes them excellent for separating out the desirable components in cannabis and hemp extraction.

After the distillate is dissolved, the cannabinoids in the solution will naturally begin to crystallize over time. This process can be accelerated by exposing the solution to cold temperatures. The cold temperatures change the solubility profile of the solvents, and cause the CBD crystals to spontaneously form, called “crashing out.”

After the CBD crystals have stopped forming it’s time to filter them out of the remaining liquid or “mother liquor.” The mother liquor can be processed again later to extract even more CBD out of it.

At this point, the crystals can be washed with cold pentane to achieve a whiter color and remove impurities. The washing process can be repeated multiple times to achieve a better appearance but this will result in lower yields. An alternative option is to dissolve the isolate and recrystallize it again to achieve a higher purity.

Chromatography

Chromatography is another method that can be used to produce CBD isolate. Chromatography uses separation science to remove all the other molecules besides CBD. 

This process starts with clear hemp distillate just like the hydrocarbon recrystallization method, except this method, uses ethanol instead of heptane or pentane. Ethanol is a polar solvent but the ethyl group in ethanol is non-polar. This makes it a versatile solvent that can dissolve both polar and non-polar molecules. It is also considered slightly less dangerous to work with but still requires appropriate safety procedures and precautions. 

First, the distillate is mixed with ethanol. The mixture is injected into a column filled with specialized silica that has fats bound to it. The silica is developed to hold onto different cannabinoids at different strengths so that when the mixture is injected into the column, the cannabinoids precipitate out at different rates. Because the cannabinoids are coming out of the mixture at different times, each of these “fractions” can be captured separately.

Isolate can be made with normal phase or reverse phase chromatography. The basic difference between these processes is whether the non-polar molecules (cannabinoids) come out first or last. In normal phase chromatography, the non-polar molecules come out first. In reverse-phase chromatography, the cannabinoids come out after all the polar molecules.

Both extraction methods offer benefits and can be scaled up for different production runs. At Phytofamily we have chosen to offer isolate made with techniques that do not involve washing with heptane at the end of the process. The heptane wash creates a more crystalline appearance but can result in traces of residual solvents in the end product. Our isolate is made with only ethanol and water.

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