Plant Extraction 101

Plant extractions are typically done with plants used for medicinal purposes. An essential oil contains the essence and characteristics of the plant it is extracted from, but in a much more concentrated form than the plant material itself.

Solvents

They are typically extracted using solvents such as alcohol, CO2 or butane. Extracts from butane are called concretes which are a mixture of essential oil, waxes, resins, and other plant material. Although highly fragrant and quite concentrated, concretes contain quantities of material unnecessary for their usage. Often times another solvent such as ethyl alcohol is used to extract these unnecessary by-products of initial extract. The process known as winterization When the alcohol solution is chilled to 0 F˚ for more than 48 hours causing excess waxes and lipids to precipitate out, this is called winterization. The precipitates are then filtered and then ethanol is removed by evaporating, vacuum purging, or both, leaving behind material called an absolute. The amount of material lost during this secondary extraction is proportionate to the increase in concentration. This production method may leave trace amounts of solvents in the absolute. Therefore testing should be done in order to determine if all solvents have been sufficiently removed.

Creating an Absolute

The process known as winterization is applied by chilling the alcohol solution to 0 F˚ for more than 48 hours. This chill causes excess wax and lipids to precipitate out. The precipitates are then filtered, and ethanol is removed by evaporating, vacuum purging, or both. The material left behind material is called an absolute. The amount of material lost during this secondary extraction is proportionate to the increase in concentration. This production method may leave trace amounts of solvents in the absolute. Therefore testing should be done in order to determine if all solvents have been sufficiently removed.

What’s with All the Hype Over Extracts?

Essential oil extractions are highly regarded because of the low quantity dosage, and their ability to maintain a high level of consistency throughout the production process. They are also very convenient and easy to transport. They are quickly becoming the norm in terms of medicinal plant usage.

Safety First

In order to properly perform essential oil extractions, many safety precautions must be followed. Recapturing butane or CO2 devices are a must have, and laboratory grade vacuums and ovens should be used. Cascade-Tek, a leader in vacuum purging technology has entered the growing industry under the name Cascade Botanicals and has been providing their world-class ovens for some time. The resulting improvement in technology helps to ensure that quality and consistency will only continue to improve.