Types of CO2 extraction (supercritical & subcritical explained)

CO2 extraction is a process that uses pressurized carbon dioxide to pull the desired phytochemicals (such as hemp) from a plant. CO2 at certain temperatures and pressures acts like a solvent, without the dangers of actually being one. It is the most expensive extraction method, and is widely considered the most effective and safest plant extraction method in the world.

CO2 extraction is already a standard extraction method for the food and herbal supplement industries. CO2 is a common food additive as well.

In fact, CO2 is used to produce carbonated soft drinks, in the removal of caffeine from coffee beans in order to make decaffeinated coffee, and as an extraction solvent when producing essential oils.

Most often we hear about supercritical CO2 extractions, but that’s actually only one method of CO2 extraction. You can also perform subcritical CO2 extractions, and ‘mid-critical’ extractions, a general range between subcritical and supercritical.


Subcritical (low temp, low pressure) CO2 extractions take more time and produce much smaller yields than supercritical, but they retain the essential oils, terpenes, and other sensitive chemicals within the plant. Supercritical, on the other hand, is a high pressure and high temperature process that damages most terpenes and heat sensitive chemicals, but can extract much larger molecules such as lipids (omega 3 and 6), chlorophyll, and waxes.

Truly full-spectrum CO2 hemp extracts (exclusively used by Canna-Pet®) include first performing a subcritical extraction, separating the extracted oil, then extracting the same plant material using supercritical pressure, and finally homogenizing both oil extracts into one.

In the essential oil industry, an extract made using this specific process is referred to as a CO2 Total Extract.

Our exclusive use of whole-plant, full-spectrum CO2 total extracts enhances the Canna-Pet® Entourage Effect.




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