cbd steam distillation

CBD Extraction and Refinement

How Cannabis Compounds Are Isolated to Create Distillates

In order to isolate compounds such as CBD and THC into a pure and viscous oil, there are multiple layers of refinement that must first occur. Given that THC as well as other cannabinoids and terpenes are volatile and have varying boiling points, they must first be separated from the cannabis plant via CO2 solvent-based extraction .

This process removes the valuable and volatile compounds from the plant itself, while many fats, lipids, and other compounds remain. This necessitates further refinement through a process called winterization, whereby a solvent is used in order to remove these undesirable compounds.

Apart from winterization, isolated cannabinoids must also undergo decarboxylation, by which the compounds are heated enough to activate their potential. Finally, the material is run through a short path steam distillation or rational distillation chamber in a series of multiple passes to purify the desirable compound (typically THC or CBD ) to its isolated state.

Molecules such as THC and CBD have higher varying boiling points. Short path distillation uses vacuum pressure, steam, and heat to manipulate boiling points so that compounds are subjected to much cooler temperatures when they pass through. Depending on the distillation process, these volatile compounds can either be fractioned individually or simultaneously for collection.

Through this process, volatile compounds are separated by their molecular weight and individual boiling point, leaving less volatile and undesirable compounds behind. A distillate may be passed through this process multiple times to create an even more pure substance. What remains in a THC/CBD distillation is a clear and translucent viscous sap that resembles ultra-refined honey in consistency and hue.


At Secret Nature we utilize Super Critical CO2 extraction methods in order to produce the highest quality hemp flower and CBD products. Our goal is to create cannabidiol extracts which are 100% pure and free of any foreign contaminants. All hemp plant material used in our extracts is grown 100% organically and pesticide free.

For our high-end vape pen products, we re-introduce real cannabis terpene profiles into our final product. We source our terpenes from the best cannabis growers in recreational markets across the USA.

Terpene re-introduction increases the aroma and taste, while giving a similar experience to using recreational marijuana flowers and oils.

Our cannabis terpene extracts are 100% pure terpenes and contain absolutely NO THC.


A mature cannabis plant is known to contain hundreds of identifiable cannabinoids , terpenes, and flavonoids, each responsible for playing a role in interacting with our endocannabinoid systems.

Through what is widely referred to as “the entourage effect ,” these compounds interact with one another to give us the unique experiences we desire. When it comes to creating cannabis concentrates, cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are pulled from the vegetative material of the cannabis plant together though various extraction processes. In order to distill these compounds into their purest form, additional layers of refinement must be executed.

This process is known as “fractional” or “short path distillation,” and it is known to produce single compound oils that can reach upwards of 99% purity.

Fractionation and short path distillation in and of themselves are nothing new. In fact, these methods have been used for many years, both in the early days of cannabis distillation research as well as in other commercial industries alike.

For example, the fragrance and essential oil industries can be credited for piloting many of the same fundamental refinement principles that we see overlapping in today’s cannabis distillate manufacturing scene.

Steam distillation as well as fractionation are two common techniques that have been adopted from the botanical oil extraction markets by cannabis processors to make various oil distillates. These techniques work specifically for cannabis in the same ways they would for other botanical refinement systems ranging from fragrances to cooking oils.

1. What Is Steam Distillation Extraction?

There are a few different ways to remove cannabinoids from hemp during extraction. For years, the dominant method in the cannabis, essential oil, and fragrance industries was using butane as a solvent. As a petrochemical, however, butane has inherent issues, and butane-extracted oil (BHO) may contain toxic impurities .

CO2 extraction is significantly better, which is why we’ve adopted this method at Secret Nature. While there’s an ongoing debate regarding whether CO2 extraction is truly “solventless,” this substance is certainly safer than BHO.

Unlike BHO or CO2, steam distillation only involves water molecules, which means that it is entirely solventless and residue-free. CO2 still plays a critical role in the Secret Nature extraction process, but we try to rely on steam distillation as much as possible once we extract raw cannabis oils from our plants.

Used for decades in the essential oil industry, steam distillation is finally making an impact within cannabis circles. Pressurized steam is used to “volatilize” compounds in cannabis and condense them in a receiver.

A variety of methods of cannabis steam distillation have emerged so far, and they vary in levels of complexity. Rest assured that Secret Nature uses the most advanced, safest steam distillation equipment and processes ever devised.

Growing the best organic hemp in the world would all be for nothing if we didn’t treat our crops right in the processing stage, which is why Secret Nature has invested so highly into top-of-the-line equipment in every aspect of our operation. Our CO2 and steam distillation extraction processes preserve the quality of the cannabinoids we produce to the benefit of the end customer.

How Does It Work?

Since the various cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in cannabis all have different boiling points , it’s necessary to separate these compounds from each other during the extraction process. Afterward, cannabinoids like CBD, CBN, or CBG may be added back together to create a non-intoxicating hemp extract medley, and additional cannabis terpenes (that have been isolated the same way) may be added as well.

Steam distillation makes this possible by removing individual volatile cannabis compounds at their particular boiling points. Offering greater purity than other forms of hemp extract, steam distillation is the most natural method ever devised for refining cannabis oil into distillate.

2. What Is Steam Distillation Cannabis Terpenes Extraction?

Each cannabinoid, terpene, and flavonoid in cannabis has a different boiling temperature. As long as you determine the boiling point of the terpene you want to isolate, therefore, it’s possible to perform the same steam distillation process that is used with cannabinoids. In fact, it appears that terpene steam distillation predates cannabinoid steam distillation to the extent that some people still don’t even know it’s possible to use steam distillation with cannabinoids.

List of commonly added cannabis terpenes

So far, scientists have discovered dozens of different terpenes in cannabis, and each of these aromatic compounds has different uses and scent profiles. In the following section, we’ll provide you with some background on a few of the most popular cannabis terpenes and explain why you want them in your CBD products.


What do thyme, mango, lemongrass, and most strains of cannabis all have in common? Myrcene, the most common cannabinoid found in hemp. While some cannabis strains might not express myrcene, these phenotypes are in the vast minority. In addition to its unmistakably dank aroma, myrcene may also have potent neuroprotective properties .


Caryophyllene is one of the most well researched terpenes outside of cannabis, and it’s possible that this compound has both analgesic and anti-addictive qualities . Also found in black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves, caryophyllene certainly doesn’t smell fruity or dank. This terpene’s aroma is much more herbal, and in fact, it’s responsible for earthy, herbal smells in cannabis.


Limonene is only present in cannabis in small concentrations, but a little goes a long way. If you’ve ever sunk your nose into an orange peel or enjoyed the brightness of lemon spritz, you’re already familiar with the citrusy smell of this common cannabis terpene. Like other terpenes, limone appears to exert various health benefits via its antioxidant qualities, but this cannabis compound has also been heavily researched for its anti-cancer potential.


Humulene is mostly earthy and woody, and unsurprisingly, this terpene is found in the wood of many trees. Also present in ginseng tea, Eastern medicine has incorporated humulene as a natural remedy for thousands of years. Like other terpenes, humulene appears to exert powerful antioxidant and even potential anti-cancer effects.


Have you ever gotten pine sap stuck on your fingers? Then you’re already familiar with pinene, the dominant terpene in pine trees and certain phenotypes of cannabis. Expectedly, pinene smells very “piney,” and scientists believe this terpene can help with inflammation, pain, and anxiety. Interestingly, pinene also appears to help open your airways, and it may even prevent the memory loss commonly associated with THC use.


Terpinolene is the dominant cannabinoid in Dutch Treat and its subsidiary strains even if it’s much less common in other cannabis phenotypes. This terpene was simply named “terpinolene” because its aroma doesn’t match any single type of plant on Earth. Instead, terpinolene smells like pine, flowers, herbs, and citrus all at once.


Found in lavender, birch bark, and some strains of cannabis, linalool is the aromatic compound responsible for lavender’s unique scent. This unique aroma, however, isn’t all that linalool has to offer. Like most (if not all) terpenes, linalool is a potent antioxidant, and this cannabis compound may also have antimicrobial properties .

3. What Is The Best Extraction Method For CBD?

Just as there’s enormous variation in CBD products, there are also a lot of different ways to extract this cannabinoid. Let’s explore some of the most common methods in this section and explain why Secret Nature extraction is better:

BHO Extraction

The only reason to extract CBD with butane is that it’s cheaper. This extraction method is clearly obsolete, and it has the potential to leave behind dangerous petroleum-based residue.

It costs more to build a CO2 extraction chamber, however, than it costs to extract cannabinoids with butane. Hemp concentrate extracted with butane is always less safe than CO2-extracted concentrate, and only low-tier CBD companies use butane to extract their cannabinoids.

CO2 Extraction

Due to the disappointments and dangers of butane extraction, hemp producers and companies in other industries have long sought an alternative. Until the last few decades, CO2 extraction was too complicated and expensive to be practical at the small business level. These days, however, setting yourself up to extract with CO2 simply demands a slightly larger initial investment.

The payoffs are enormous. Not only is CO2-extracted oil clearly cleaner than the alternatives, but the process of extracting cannabis oil with CO2 is also safer and more repeatable. It’s an obvious fact, but it bears mentioning—butane is an incredibly volatile substance, which means any time you extract with this petroleum derivative, you risk blowing yourself and all your employees up in the process. While it should still be treated with care, CO2 is far less volatile even if extracting with this substance requires significantly more production infrastructure.

Steam Distillation

Using steam offers the best CBD distillation results available. Cannabis distillation has long posed a serious problem to producers, but by taking a leaf from the essential oil industry, certain forward-thinking CBD entrepreneurs learned how to transform their “crude” hemp extract into clear, viscous distillate using nothing more than steam.

You can’t perform the entire extraction process with steam alone, however. Steam distillation is only used to purify existing cannabis extract. Regardless, incorporating this extraction method into your production process is a big part of figuring out how to distill CBD.

Live Resin Extraction

Secret Nature CBD cartridges pens contain full-spectrum live resin distillate, which is slightly different from other forms of distillate. Like most purified CBD extracts, live resin has been highly processed for purity, but the cannabis it was extracted from was never decarboxylated. Let’s explain.

Cannabis flower naturally contains various plant substances that break down and dissipate under the right conditions. That’s why hemp producers usually dry and cure their flower before using it to make products, and rest assured that every Secret Nature hemp flower product is fully decarboxylated before packaging.

With our cartridges, however, we decided to do something different. In recent years, cannabis producers have suddenly learned that there’s no real reason to dry and cure their bud before making it into oil. Rather, processing hemp flower straight off the vine preserves the initial terpene richness that gives flowering hemp such an incredible aroma.

Now, with Secret Nature live resin cartridges, you can experience hemp extract the way that nature intended. Keep in mind that CBD isn’t the only non-intoxicating cannabinoid we offer in live resin cartridge form—you’ll need take a look through this product section for yourself to understand just how far the hemp industry has come due to our pioneering efforts in “fringe” cannabinoids.

( “Cannabis Oil Distillate: A Different Kind of Concentrate”PATRICK BENNETT, May 30, 2017)

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At Secret Nature we utilize Super Critical CO2 extraction methods in order to produce the highest quality hemp flower and CBD products.

Cannabidiol Distillation : How Is CBD Oil Extracted From Hemp?

CBD Distillation is the process of distilling CBD oil to produce a highly potent CBD distillate. Distillation is an important step in producing medicinal hemp products such as CBD oil tinctures, CBD oil capsules and other CBD products.

What is CBD Oil?

CBD oil is, in its simplest terms, oil that is extracted from the cannabis plant. Cannabis is also commonly called hemp. Hemp is a versatile plant that is related to the marijuana plant but is different in several important ways. CBD oil is most specifically termed “cannabidiol,” which is one of 85 cannabinoids identified in the cannabis plant.

CBD oil only contains tiny amounts of THC, the primary active ingredient in marijuana. This lack of THC means that CBD oil is non-psychotropic and non-psychoactive. So, to answer an often-wondered question: no, CBD will not make you feel “high.” CBD oil allows the user to dose cannabidiol and other cannabinoids, amino acids and terpenes that are found in medical marijuana — without the high associated with marijuana. CBD’s general effects are currently the subject of excitement and scrutiny in the scientific and medical worlds, as research on cannabidiol continues to evolve.

How is CBD Extracted From Cannabis?

Efficiently extracting CBD oil from cannabis or hemp requires the use of specialized techniques to ensure that the cannabinoids are not damaged by heat or solvents. To really understand the newest techniques of CBD extraction, it’s important to get a good background on the older approaches to extract just about every other type of essential oil as well. If you are buying CBD oil, it’s important to know which CBD oil extraction process is used to make your oil, and ensure that it’s the highest quality possible.

What Is Steam Distillation?

Steam distillation is a technique that has been used for centuries to extract essential oil from plant material. It’s a very simple concept that uses heat in the form of steam to break the essential oil free from the plant material. Industrial steam distillation setups can be large and very mechanical, but simple distillation setups can resemble a simple chemistry glassware set.

Basically, a container with water is put on a burner. It will have an outlet that feeds into a plant material flask. The plant material flask will have an inlet and an outlet. As the steam rises from the container through the plant material, essential oil vapors are released. These essential oil vapors are collected in a condenser tube that condenses the vapors into a hydrosol. This hydrosol is a mixture of water and essential oil. Further work is done to separate the oil from the hydrosol.

The biggest advantage of steam distillation is that it’s simple and just about anyone can do it. All they need is a simple chemical glassware set. The process is fairly straightforward and with a little practice, anyone with access to sufficient plant material can make their own CBD oil. Unfortunately, there are downsides and this can make it cost prohibitive.

Steam Distillation has two very important downsides:

  • It’s notoriously inefficient. Important oils are left behind in the extraction process. Steam distillation only collects a portion of the essential oils. This means that you need a lot more plant material to get the same amount of oil.
  • The steam heat is known to kill or damage some essential oils. This can affect the chemical and physical properties of the cannabinoids.

What is Solvent Extraction?

Solvent extraction is a step above steam distillation both in efficiency and complexity. Instead of using steam to extract the essential oils from the plant material, solvents are used. The solvents react with the plant material causing the essential oils to be removed from the plants and mix with the solvent.

Alcohol has been traditionally used to extract essential oils from plant materials. One example is Vanilla extract. Vanilla beans are put in an alcohol mixture and allowed to extract over a period of several months. The result is a vanilla extract that can be made into a vanilla oil by evaporating the alcohol.

Unfortunately, alcohol can be expensive as a solvent and often times other solvents are used that are either cheaper or more effective at separating essential oils from the plant material. These solvents may or may not be safe for human consumption and could be dangerous to consume. This is why there are food grade essential oils and essential oils that are not designed to be consumed internally.

It’s important to make sure that you know the process used when buying an essential oil, including CBD oil. The quality of the final product is directly related to the quality of the plant material and the quality of the extraction process.

Nevertheless, solvent extraction is a popular way to extraction many heat-sensitive oils that would be damaged by the excessive heat of steam distillation. The use of the right mix of solvents and mechanical processes can lead to higher quality essential oils and more efficient use of plant material.

What Is CO2 Extraction?

CO2 extraction also known as (Supercritical Fluid Extraction) is the leading extraction process for essential oils and has been researched extensively in universities using Lavender and other essential oil crops. Think of this as your complete guide to CO2 CBD oil extraction.

CO2 is a gas that we all know. Remember The Police’s 1980’s hit, “Every Breath You Take?” Well, every breath you exhale has CO2. That’s carbon dioxide and is a natural byproduct of your use of oxygen. Plants convert CO2 to oxygen through their process of photosynthesis. It’s about as natural as you can get.

CO2 has been shown to be a very effective solvent for removing essential oils from plant material when under high pressure and utilizing a very little amount of heat. It works in a similar way to solvent process, but it’s a much better process since it is more effective than alcohol as a solvent and is completely safe for human consumption. It’s a gas we breathe in and out.

The CO2 extraction process starts with pure carbon dioxide being injected into a container with the plant material. As the pressure rises, the carbon dioxide turns into a nearly liquid phase. This is called supercritical CO2. Some heat is added at this point to help the liquefied carbon dioxide release the essential oils and aromatics from the plant material. As it is extracted, the vapors and aromatics are carried away to a separator phase. The separator separates the aromatics from the carbon dioxide solvent mixture. This essential oil is pure and is very high quality.

There aren’t any real drawbacks to CO2 extraction. It is a mechanical procedure and requires specialized equipment, but the CO2 is safe and the derived oil is food grade. Because the CO2 is very effective at removing aromatics and oils from the plant material, there is much less waste. Less energy is required to extract the oils which helps lower the cost. All of this clearly makes it a much more environmentally friendly way to extract CBD oil. If you care about the environment and what you put in your body, the CO2 extraction process is the only one you should be looking at.

CBD Distillation Equipment

CBD Distillation equipment is generally a type of thin film distillation apparatus.

Thin film distillation uses a very high surface area (by using a thin film of CBD oil), a high vacuum, and low temperatures to distil CBD from hemp oil extracts.

This type of equipment requires very high quality glassware (or stainless steel), excellent seals, vacuum pumps and an experienced qualified operator with a good understanding of cannabis oil chemistry.

There are several different categories of thin film distillation equipment with varying degrees of complexity. The more sophisticated systems allow higher vacuums, lower temperatures, better separation of CBD from other compounds or higher throughput, but also cost more and require more skilled operation and maintenance than simpler systems.

Types of CBD Distillation equipment

These three systems are very similar in concept. Falling film distillation is the basic version. Wiped film adds a wiper to increase surface area. Short path distillation improves performance by minimising the distance the CBD vapor travels before evaporation.

Uses of CBD Distillation Equipment

While Falling film Wiped film and short path distillation have similar mechanisms and uses, they each have benefits that make them more widely used for specific applications.

Falling film CBD distillation allows high throughput but has lower separation ability. This makes it suitable for initial screening of volatile components, such as removal of ethanol or other solvents after extraction, or removal of terpenes.

Wiped film CBD distillation is better at separating compounds, so is more often used to distil CBD to increase potency (from approximately 50% in CBD oil to 70% to 90% in CBD Distillate).

Short path CBD distillation allows more precise separation of different compounds, making it suitable to concentrate specific cannabionids such as CBD or even removing THC. Note multiple passes may be required to get complete removal.

THC Removal using distillation

Distillation is theoretically capable of removing THC from CBD oil, but the similar boiling points of THC and CBD make this process inefficient and expensive. Most commercial THC removal from CBD oil utilises chromatography to produce a THC free CBD distillate.

CBD Distillate Characteristics

CBD Distillate is generally 80-90% or more CBD content and appears as a golden amber, highly viscous liquid. It crystallises readily, so normally appears as a white waxy or crystalline solid at room temperature.

Good quality CBD distillate should have a distinctive but subtle floral aroma that is highly reminiscent of the hemp flower used for CBD oil extraction.

THC Content of CBD Distillate

When buying CBD Distillate be sure to identify the THC content in the product will enable you to legally buy, ship and utilised the product. Most CBD Distillate has very high CBD levels, but also modest THC levels.

To qualify as farm bill compliant hemp, CBD distillate should meet 0.3% total THC levels.

Because extraction and distillation of CBD oil concentrates all cannabinoids, CBD oil often contains significant amounts of THC – often well over the legal limit.

For example a good quality 10% CBD hemp flower which contains 0.3% THC will typically produce a CBD oil with 50%+ CBD and 1.5%+ THC. Distillation of this oil will produce a CBD Distillate of >80% CBD and >2% THC.

Note this can be problematic when marketing, distributing and shipping this product, so CBD distillate is often diluted with ethanol, MCT or glycerol to keep the total THC under 0.3% and ensure compliance with federal and other relevant regulatory limits.

Because of the challenges meeting this there is growing demand for THC free and farm bill compliant CBD Distillate.

CBD Distillation is the process of distilling CBD oil to produce a highly potent CBD distillate. Distillation is an important step in producing medicinal hemp