Since the dawn of time, humans have been using the bio-active compounds that are contained in plants. In the past Shamen used their knowledge to concoct potions made of leaves, roots and water. Fortunately, we have improved our ability to extract those bioactive compounds over time allowing us to get more use out of less of the organic matter.
If you have ever had a mug of coffee or tea, then you have used the process of extraction. Medicine, food flavorings, food coloring, textile dyes and scents are some other uses of the process. What is involved in the modern extraction process and what do we use it for?
What is Extraction?
Extractions are a way to separate a desired substance when it is mixed with others. The biomass is brought into contact with a solvent in which the substance of interest is soluble, but the other substances present are insoluble.
To remove those compounds, we must introduce a solvent or other chemical to pull out what we desire. Once the wanted compounds are separated from the matter containing them, we then separate out the solvent (hopefully recycling it) and get a concentrated amount of the bioactive compound we desire.
Common Uses of Extraction
The process of extraction is used in several different industries including:
- Foods and Beverages
- Perfumes and Scents
Typically, extraction done for these industries uses a rather complicated and dangerous process because many of the solvents are flammable or require high pressure equipment.
Common Methods of Extraction
The some of the most common method of extraction used today uses a process with either hexane, supercritical carbon dioxide or petroleum products. As you can imagine, the use of these chemicals, while effective, is rather dangerous since flammable mixtures of hydrocarbon and air can be created. The process is also not considered environmentally friendly if these solvents are released to the environment.
For example, the process of extracting the chemical Artemisinin that is used for the treatment of malaria worldwide is typically done with an extraction process. It is a complicated process that involves a volatile chemical (ether can explode if you are not careful) that is heated so that it can percolate out the compound. There is also a dangerous recovery phase where heat is used to recover the solvent from the biomass. This can release hydrocarbons to the environment as well.
Fortunately, there have been developments of other processes that are much more environmentally friendly and at least as effective as this process.
Alternative Extraction Techniques
One alternative uses a group of chemicals called phytosols. These are all derived from a commonly used and environmentally safe chemical called HCF-134a or 1,1,1,2 tetrafluoroethane. This chemical is commonly used as a refrigerant for car air conditioners and in nebulizers that deliver medicine to asthma patients. It is environmentally friendly and much safer.
Another method uses supercritical Carbon Dioxide (scCO2). A supercritical chemical is one that is forces a gas to stay in a liquid state with high pressure however this is performed at very high pressures.
Replace Your Old Extraction Process with Advanced Phytonic Extraction
Are you still doing your extraction with flammable chemicals? Have COSTELLO help you replace that old process with a cleaner and safer Advanced Phytonics process. Read more about advanced phytonic extraction here and look for parts II and III in our series on the topic.