How is CBD Oil Made from Hemp?
CBD Hemp Extract
How is CBD Oil Made from Hemp?
Lindsey Toth, MS, RD • June 23, 2020

As wellness-seekers and researchers alike tune in to the health-supporting potential of CBD hemp extract, it’s only natural for a few questions to come up. And as your CBD hemp extract experts, we’re here to cover all the bases—from an overview of the hemp plant and its many uses, to the Science of the Endocannabinoid System and beyond.

Today we’re taking a look at how CBD oil is extracted from hemp plants, and how it can be made into hemp-derived CBD oil products that are non-psychoactive. First, it starts with a specific type of plant—let’s dive in!

Shop expert formulated & 100% quality tested CBD hemp extract from Swanson

Hemp Plants are Not Marijuana Plants

They are both in the cannabis plant family, but there’s a very important distinction between the hemp plant used to make CBD oil products and the high-inducing marijuana plant. CBD oil is extracted from industrial hemp, a federally-legalized crop that’s used to make everything from cooking oil to protein powder, hemp flour, hemp milk and even textiles.

What makes this plant unique is also what allowed it to become federally-legalized—unlike its cousin marijuana, industrial hemp contains very low to undetectable levels of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).1 To be classified as hemp, a plant must contain 0.3% or less of THC by dry weight.

It may be easier to think of these two plants like lemons vs. oranges—they’re both citrus plants but bear very different fruits. It’s the non-psychoactive industrial hemp that’s used to extract CBD oil for wellness products.

What Part of the Hemp Plant is Used to Make CBD Hemp Extract?

After harvest, CBD oil can be extracted from various parts of the hemp plant, depending on the maker and the end goal for the product. Full spectrum CBD hemp oil is made by extraction from the whole hemp plant and features the naturally-occurring components of the hemp plant—including terpenes, fatty acids, antioxidant flavonoids and cannabinoids that all work together synergistically to support wellbeing.

Other CBD hemp extract products may only use parts of the plant, and in this case, before extraction, the plant is separated, usually mechanically, by its parts—flowers, leaves, stalks and seeds.

How is CBD Oil Extracted from Hemp?

Either the whole hemp plant or its parts can be used raw for extraction, or the plant materials can be gently heated before extraction. This heating process is called decarboxylation, and it helps make cannabinoids within the hemp plant more bioavailable.2

Whether used raw or gently heated, CBD oil is then extracted from hemp using a solvent like ethanol or supercritical carbon dioxide to separate the beneficial compounds within the plant from the rest of the plant matter.

The resulting extract can then be used in many products. Liquid hemp-derived CBD oil is made by combining CBD hemp extract with a carrier oil, like extra virgin olive oil or liquid coconut oil, which provides the additional benefits of essential fatty acids while serving as a delivery system. It can also be used to make hemp-derived CBD gummies, CBD snacks, and added to hemp-derived CBD capsules.

How is CBD Isolate Made?

CBD hemp extract can also be further distilled using a vaporization process or chromatography to isolate CBD molecules from the other components within the plant, like the terpenes, fatty acids and antioxidant flavonoids mentioned above.3

This isolated CBD can then be made into highly-concentrated products, and it is sometimes combined with specific terpenes that have also been isolated from the hemp plant. Using CBD isolates may cause you to miss out on the synergistic benefits of the whole plant’s compounds.

Quality Testing for CBD Hemp Extract

One of the last but most important steps in the CBD hemp extract process is quality testing. CBD hemp extract products should be batch tested both by the maker and by an unaffiliated third party to ensure pure and potent products, and to make sure the products are in compliance with regulations.

At Swanson Health, every CBD hemp extract product we carry is 100% quality tested and has undergone an extensive review by our science and regulatory teams for compliance with applicable regulations prior to being available for purchase from our website or catalog.

Want to Learn More About CBD Hemp Extract?

We’re your original #1 trusted source of CBD hemp extract products and expertise. Check out What is CBD Hemp Extract? and CBD vs THC: Everything You Need to Know to learn more about this hot new wellness trend. Also, sign up for Swanson Health emails to be the first to know about new wellness resources and our best promotions.

Lindsey Bristol, Swanson Health Products

About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health Products

Lindsey is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for pie. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food.

Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health.


1 Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

2 Wang, et al. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2016; 1(1): 262–271. Published online 2016 Dec 1. doi: 10.1089/can.2016.0020

3 Chromatography. Khan Academy.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease