There is more than one way to extract essential oils from plants. Traditionally, essential oils have been extracted using steam or solvents. The CO2 extraction process is superior to other processes because it produces an extremely pure, clean, and complete extract with less degradation. Compared to the steam process, the CO2 process is more complete because no aromatic components are lost in the distillate water, since no water is used, and there is less degradation of the oil due to heat, since the CO2 process does not use much heat. Compared to extracts produced using solvents, CO2 extracts are extremely clean and purified. They are totally free of the chemical solvents that are used to produce floral Absolutes. They are also completely free of agricultural chemical fertilizers and pesticides, heavy metals, inorganic salts and other unwanted substances, since these are totally suppressed from the final product during the CO2 extraction process.
There are actually two CO2 extraction processes, select and total, which differ by the amount of pressure that is used. Lower pressures extract the volatile oils (select CO2 extracts), and higher pressures also yield the fatty oils, waxes and pigments (total CO2 extracts). Select extracts are more like essential oils, except the super-rich CO2 fragrances are much closer to the true natural fragrance of the original plant material. Paradoxically, since most consumers are used to the odor of steam or hydro-distilled essential oils, they may find that select CO2 extracts smell off, because they are different from what they previously encountered. Select CO2 extracts are preferred where the objective is to scent a product with a pure, aromatic bouquet.
On the other hand, total CO2 extracts often have a much reduced olfactory impact, but in addition to the volatile oils they contain the equally precious fatty oils, waxes and pigments that play an important role in the overall healing virtue of the plant. Total CO2 extracts are therefore used where the intention is to add healing properties to the product, such as adding antioxidants.
Carbon dioxide extraction process
CO2 extraction process
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