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Lab techs use state of the art equipment to create phase changes in carbon dioxide by utilizing temperature and pressure. The carbon dioxide is cooled and compressed to upwards of 10,000 psi – by comparison your car tire is pressurized to about 300 psi. When compressed to these extremes, CO2 becomes ‘supercritical’, which simply means that it converts to liquid when placed under extreme pressure.
Extracts of CBD—either from marijuana or hemp (a cannabis variant that is essentially free of THC)—are sold as an oil or in tinctures. You can also get CBD via a transdermal patch, capsule, sublingual spray, gel, cream, or vapor. Some contain pure CBD extract (or so they say); others—particularly if you’re in a state where recreational marijuana is not legal—will contain hemp extract, which includes CBD as part of its makeup. As of this reporting, recreational marijuana is legal in nine U.S. states and medical marijuana in 29. Don’t miss these 50 weird things that are banned in the United States.
Buying online is less reliable still because there’s no regulation or standardization. What you see on the label may not be what you are getting. A 2017 study in JAMA found that of the 84 CBD products researchers bought online, 43% had more CBD than indicated, while 26% had less, and some had unexpected THC. “There’s a 75% chance of getting a product where the CBD is mislabeled,” says Marcu, one of the study’s coauthors.
CBD isolate is pure CBD, extracted and purified until none of the plant’s other constituent compounds remain. It has been isolated down to just the CBD molecule. This purity and potency is why it’s the preferred treatment for patients needing unadulterated doses of CBD and nothing else. It has no other active ingredients and its purpose is simply to deliver therapeutic doses of CBD. CBD isolate products often come as a white powder or a mix with a oil.
Lisa Hamilton, a jeweler and doula in Brooklyn, NY, knows about the side effects. She recently tried CBD for the shoulder pain that plagued her five years after an accident. Her doctor certified that she was in chronic pain, which under New York State law allowed her to buy from a state dispensary. One Friday, she swallowed two 10-mg capsules, the amount recommended at the dispensary, then took another two on Saturday. “By Sunday, it felt like I’d gotten hit by a truck. Every muscle and joint ached,” Hamilton says. She cut back to one pill a day the following week, but still felt hungover. She stopped after that.
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Since it is non-toxic and non-flammable, supercritical CO2 is preferable over chemical solvents like butane, hexane, and acetone, which can linger in the extracted oil if not purged correctly, rendering the oil toxic. It has also been noted that botanical essential oils extracted using supercritical CO2 are truer to the scent of the original plants than in other forms of extraction, meaning more of the plant’s chemical structure is retained in the oil with the use of CO2.
Because the FDA considers CO2 extraction to be GRAS or “generally regarded as safe” for commercial extraction, this method is popular in the food industry. The stability of supercritical CO2 also allows most compounds to be extracted with little damage. In the coffee industry, supercritical CO2 is already widely accepted as safer than traditional solvents to extract the caffeine from decaffeinated coffee beans.
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CBD and THC interact with our bodies in a variety of ways. One of the main ways they impact us is by mimicking and augmenting the effects of the compounds in our bodies called “endogenous cannabinoids” - so named because of their similarity to the compounds found in the cannabis plant. These “endocannabinoids” are part of a regulatory system called the “endocannabinoid system”.
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