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The process of extracting the essential oils from plant matter is far more complex than the average person may think. It does not simply involve applying mechanical pressure to leaves and extracting the oils, as it would for extracting olive oil. It involves a series of highly involved chemical processes.
More surprising to some is the fact that one of the primary chemicals involved is ethyl alcohol or ethanol. The idea leads many to ask the question, “Is ethanol safe to use during botanical extractions?”
Ethyl alcohol is another name for the chemical compound C₂H₆O that is made through the fermentation of corn. It is a clear, highly flammable liquid that has a wide variety of purposes domestically and commercially, such as:
Additive for car gasoline
An ingredient in paints and hand sanitizers
A component in antifreeze
Additionally, its chemical nature allows it to extract essential oils from various plants.
There are several steps involved in using ethanol for botanical extractions. The first is to allow the plant matter to soak in the ethanol between -20 degrees and -40 degrees Fahrenheit. After 24 hours, a solution made up of ethanol and oils remains. From here, you will filter out the oils from the ethanol.
There is no ethanol remaining in the oil once filtration is finished. Even so, the idea of soaking the essential oils they will use on their skin or in the air often gives users pause. However, there is plenty that makes ethanol safe to use for this purpose.
While it is toxic to drink pure ethyl alcohol, ethanol is still considered food-grade by the Food and Drug Administration. That’s because when it’s used correctly, it poses very little threat of toxicity to people. It leaves behind no trace of toxic compounds in the essential oil, allowing you to make high-quality extracts.
One of the other major safety concerns people have with ethanol is the fact that it is flammable. However, almost all solvents used in botanical extractions are flammable. When you compare ethanol to other common extraction solvents like butane and propane, ethanol is the least flammable option.
So is ethanol safe to use during botanical extractions? Not only is ethanol safe for extractions, but it is often recommended, especially when you’re learning how to make oil for edibles and tinctures. That’s why ExtractCraft provides powerful ethanol extraction machines that allow you to extract oils at home.
Contact us today to learn more about extraction processes and machines, and get started making your own essential oils!