CO2 (or carbon dioxide) Extracts are derived from a unique extraction process known as supercritical carbon dioxide extraction. There is no liquid form of carbon dioxide under normal conditions, carbon dioxide is found only as a gas or as a solid in the form of dry ice.
CO2 Extracts Explained
The CO2 extraction process consists of pumping pressurized carbon dioxide into a chamber filled with plant matter. When carbon dioxide is squeezed under very high pressure, it creates liquid carbon dioxide, which can be used for extraction purposes.
When the pressure is further increased (to about 1,711 times normal atmospheric pressure) along with the temperature to around 33°C, the carbon dioxide enters the ‘supercritical’ phase. This is an unusual state where carbon dioxide acts like a gas, yet is as dense as a liquid.
In this supercritical state, carbon dioxide is a very effective solvent for extracting any oily (lipophilic) compounds from the plant material and in some cases, water-soluble compounds as well.
After the pressure is released at the end of the extraction process, the carbon dioxide simply evaporates, leaving an extremely pure and efficacious plant extract behind.
VIDEO CO2 EXTRACTION TECHNOLOGY VISUAL
If like me you are a visual person, watch this quick 45-second video to understand the process:
There are two types of CO2 Extracts
- SELECT EXTRACTS – One example is Frankincense – powdered Frankincense resin is extracted for a limited period of time so that the final extract contains 90% plus of aromatic compounds, as would be found in the steam-distilled essential oil.
- TOTAL EXTRACTS – The plant material has been extracted for the time it requires to remove all oily, lipophilic compounds, including vegetable oils and waxes. One example is Calendula CO2, the total extract is desired for Calendula because the most active ingredients (faradiol and its esters – are both strongly anti-inflammatory and healing) require a longer extraction to remove and would be too heavy to extract using a steam distillation process.
ADVANTAGES OF CARBON DIOXIDE EXTRACTS
With some plants, the most active compounds are too heavy to be extracted with steam distillation. Carbon dioxide extraction will remove these compounds.
During the process, the plant material is not exposed to air (oxygen) or heat, as compared to steam distillation, none of the compounds changes or oxidize during extraction. Hence, the final extract is just the same as in the plant – the same composition and aroma.
- The lower temperature of operation – Heat-sensitive components remain intact and importantly undamaged
- Exclusion of oxygen – Oxidation-sensitive components remain intact
- Higher selectivity and higher mass transfer lead to a higher yield and a longer shelf-life
- Cleaner Process – In terms of environmental impact and yield – Carbon dioxide compared to using hexane for extraction, fully evaporates from the final extract, leaving an extremely pure extract with no solvent residues
- Longer shelf-life – Of the product compared to conventional extraction methods
- Finer flavor and scent – Compared to conventional products.
- Highly concentrated // Like essential oils, these CO2 extracts can be used at low dilutions in vegetable oils and our other base products to great benefit
- Superior Quality Lipids – With greater efficacy than cold-pressed oils.
I have chosen to incorporate a select mix of CO2 plant extracts in our first product release coming during 2019. This is for both the purity, efficacy, and wholeness of the plant compounds, in other words, the bio-availability of the plant compounds which your skin can recognize and utilize. Simply put a high dose of skin nutrition.
Until next time, be human, be kind, be you.
Much love Gabrielle
- BOOK // The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy S. Battaglia Second Edition
National Library of Australia
- WEB // What are CO2 Extracts? Mystery & Methods Explained
- VIDEO // Visit for more information