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Wisconsin Hemp Scientific

Where does the CBD in CBD products come from?

From schedule 1 drug to pop-culture phenomenon, CBD may win the world’s most improved molecule award in the 21st century. I can’t even count the number of times people have approached us with ideas about manufacturing existing products to include CBD. All too often these people are so satisfied with the rush of excitement from their idea that they never pursue its execution. In this regard, most great ideas are like one-night stands. They bring people a rush of enthusiasm and joy for a short period of time, but then their magic is gone and they wonder what would’ve happened if they pursued the opportunity further. If people can overcome their short attention span, they may wonder about the steps they’ll have to take to execute their ideas. If someone wants to create a CBD product, she may wonder where the CBD in a CBD product actually comes from. Some obvious questions she may ask are:


  • What are the basic steps taken to convert hemp plants into a form that can be used to make CBD products?
  • What do these forms of processed hemp look like? What are they called?
  • How can someone get her hands on these forms of processed hemp to use as ingredients in the products she is trying to make?

This blog post is meant to provide the answers to these basic questions.

The Hemp Plant

CBD is one of many molecules found in hemp. It steals the limelight, but there are many other valuable components in a hemp plant. In fact, many of the benefits people attribute to CBD are actually the result of many molecules in the hemp plant working together in the body. Anyone who has done research on the CBD industry has probably encountered the buzzword “full-spectrum.” A product is said to be full-spectrum if it contains all/most of the constituents of the hemp plant itself. These other constituents, such as chlorophyll, terpenes, or other cannabinoids (such as THC, CBG, and CBC), work with CBD to generate the effects commonly attributed to CBD products. A helpful way to think about CBD is to view it as the quarterback of a team. It may play the star role, but it sure helps to have a supporting cast.

CBD Crude Oil, CBD Distillate, and CBD Isolate

The key to creating a full-spectrum product is to start with hemp biomass that contains these other components in addition to having respectable amounts of CBD. The CBD, terpenes, and other cannabinoids must then be extracted from the biomass so that they can be used to create a product. There are various methods for doing this, but the two most common are ethanol and CO2  extractions (we will cover extraction techniques in a different blog post). We call the product of ethanol and CO2  extractions ‘crude CBD oil’ because it has only gone through one step of processing. This crude oil can be refined further into CBD distillate or CBD isolate.


Figure 1. Process diagram for making isolate from hemp biomass.

CBD products are made by mixing crude CBD oil, CBD distillate, or CBD isolate with other ingredients needed to make the desired product. We manufacture crude, distillate, and isolate at our facility in Sussex, WI. CBD distillate is produced by separating the components of crude oil based on differences in their boiling points. The CBD distillate can then be made into CBD isolate by undergoing a crystallization process. During this process, pure CBD quite literally crystallizes out of the distillate. Crude, distillate, and isolate each have different amounts of CBD in them (known as purities). Table 1 shows these purities.

Table 1. Approximate Purity Ranges for crude, distillate, and isolate.


  Purity Range (weight % CBD)
Crude CBD Oil 40-55%
CBD Distillate 55-80%
CBD Isolate Close to 100%

A common misconception about CBD is that using the purest form of it translates into better results. As discussed earlier, CBD is the quarterback and it needs the help of its supporting cast. As crude oil is refined into distillate and isolate, it loses its other components that work synergistically with CBD in your body. That’s not to say that there aren’t advantages to using isolate. One advantage is that CBD isolate (by definition) doesn’t have any THC, so people don’t have to worry about failing drug tests. Products made with crude and distillate do have trace amounts of THC, and therefore it is possible that people consuming these products often enough fail their drug test. Additionally, isolate is easier to mix into a wider variety of bases (e.g. honey, bath bombs, etc.).  Pictures of crude, distillate, and isolate from our facility in Sussex, WI are shown in Figure 2.


Crude, Distillate, Isolate

Figure 2. Crude, Distillate, and Isolate from left to right.

Where to find Crude, Distillate, and Isolate

All CBD products that you see are made using one of the three forms of processed hemp biomass above. If you are interested in purchasing crude, distillate, or isolate to make your CBD products, or if you have any questions about this post, please email us at We will go into more detail on crude, distillate, and isolate in a future post. Not only do short attention spans prevent people from acting on their million-dollar ideas, but they also prevent them from reading long blog posts!


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