Using CO₂ to Extract Essential Oils

Essential oils have been sourced for thousands of years. They are full of benefits , used for everything from home-made cleaners to beaut...

Essential oils have been sourced for thousands of years. They are full of benefits, used for everything from home-made cleaners to beauty remedies, so it’s no wonder they are still as popular as ever. CO₂ (carbon dioxide) extraction is becoming increasingly popular with companies when extracting essential oils. From aroma therapists to pharmacists - CO₂ extraction is a great way for making the most of essential oils. But what is CO₂ extraction and why should you be using it? 

What is CO₂ Extraction?
CO₂ is an atmospheric gas humans and plants breathe every day, and it is the gas that plants thrive on. CO₂ extraction is a process used to extract essential oils from plant material. If enough pressure is applied to CO₂, the gas will convert into a liquid state. The liquid CO₂ can then be used as “liquid solvent”. As the CO₂ functions like a solvent, it will pull the essential oils from the plant material. The difference between CO₂ extraction and steam extraction is simply that CO₂ is used as the solvent instead of steam. The temperature difference varies greatly between the two with CO₂ extraction usually taking place in temperatures of 95-100 °F (degrees Fahrenheit) whilst steam extraction can take place in temperatures up to 212 °F. 

Uses
Typically, essential oil extracts are used for beauty products such as skin care products, bath salts and even everyday cosmetic products like lipstick. Essential oils can also be used in a lot of pharmaceutical products for those looking for an organic medicine rather than a drug based medicine. Essential oils are also being used for food and beverages. Companies such as Extractz use CO2 extraction to produce orange oil extract that can be used to flavor cocktails or sweets. 

Benefits of CO₂ extraction
There are many benefits of using CO₂ extraction, one being the process is clean therefore it can be certified as organic. With consumers increasingly looking for organic products on the market, using CO₂ extraction is a way of ensuring your merchandise is as organic as possible. The CO₂ extraction process also uses a lot less heat than the steam process, meaning those plants and oils that cannot reach such high temperatures can still be extracted. It is also environmentally friendly - CO₂ used in the extraction process can be recycled and used again for the next process. The CO₂ used in extraction also doesn’t contribute to the atmospheric CO₂ levels. Lastly, using CO₂ extraction is proven to be more efficient. Although it might seem costlier to extract using CO₂, the process allows for extra essential oils to be derived from the plant material. 

As you can see, CO₂ extraction can be beneficial for both the manufacturer and the customer. There are many things to know when using CO₂ to extract essential oils from knowing how to handle CO₂ canisters, to knowing what temperature and pressure ranges should be used in order to extract the essential oils appropriately. If done correctly, CO₂ extraction is by far the best choice when working essential oils.

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