CO2-Extracted Oils: Why They’re So Awesome, How They’re Different than Steam Distillates, and Making The Best Choices for Your Uses

Calendula Flowers

Pure Calendula extract, an extremely useful therapeutic oil for the skin, is available only through CO2 distillation.

Our wildcrafted and organic ‘CO2 extracts’ are some of the very finest oils  at Ananda, oils which are not commonly available at the ‘major’ essential oil companies. Here’s a little tutorial on how they’re made, and why they have profound therapeutic potential…

What the Heck Is CO2 and SCO2 Distillation???

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and ‘Supercritical’ Carbon Dioxide (SCO2) extractions are the most advanced methods for producing plant oils at low temperatures. Both  involve using carbon dioxide as the ‘solvent’ (rather than water, as in steam-distillation) to draw essential oils and additional, important ‘heavier’ therapeutic oils from the raw plant material. These processes produce a number of products in our certified organic lineup.

Frankincense Tree

The Boswellia tree, source of Frankincense resin. The CO2-distilled oil from this was the first of the oils recognized by aromatherapy professionals as potentially more valuable than the steam distillate for some therapeutic applications.

CO2 extraction involves cooling carbon dioxide to between 35 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and pressurizing the cool gas to 1000 psi. The carbon dioxide in this condition is condensed to a liquid. Supercritical CO2 extraction (SCO2) involves carbon dioxide heated to 87 degrees F and pumped through the plant material at around 8,000 psi – under these conditions, the carbon dioxide is likened to a ‘dense fog’ or vapor (neither a liquid nor a gas!). Supercritical distillation has become the more common of the CO2 methods, though these oils are stilled labeled CO2-distiled or CO2 extracted.

With release of the pressure, the carbon dioxide then escapes in its natural gaseous form, leaving ONLY the pure oils behind.

What Are the Advantages of CO2 Distillation?

  • Like steam distillation, there are no solvent residues left behind, and the resultant product is perfectly pure.

  • Like cold pressing, there is no heat applied to the plant material or essential oil to alter it in any way. The oil produced is very accurate with respect to the original state of the plant.
  • CO2 distillation produces the most therapeutic essential oil for some plants. This is because the CO2 process can produce an oil with a greater diversity of molecular constituents. Sometimes it’s just a different set of molecular (and therapeutic) constituents – not better, just different.

Ginger Essential Oil Source

Ginger CO2-distilled and steam distilled oils are both wonderful - and each has unique therapeutic properties.

Why Should You Use Some Oils as CO2′s and Others as Steam Distillates?

  • The CO2 process is highly beneficial for extracting oil from plant resins such as Frankincense and Myrrh, as more of the larger molecules - considered to have important healing properties – are brought into the final oil.

  • ‘Spice’ oils like Ginger, Black Pepper and Clove seem to have a ‘more complete’ aromatic profile when produced by CO2 distillation. However, in the case of these oils, we offer BOTH the steam distilled and CO2 varieties, as the oils are quite different therapeutically.

    The steam-distilled Ginger oil is used for digestive issues, whereas the CO2 is used for its anti-inflammatory properties - great for blends for topical application.

  • Rosemary CO2 is one of the MOST POTENT antioxidants available for preserving carrier oils and blends with carrier oils. The CO2 has little aroma, and one or two drops added per ounce of carrier oil (or blend with carrier oil) is a much better preservative than the same amount of vitamin E.

Rosehips

Rosehip oil is only available as a CO2 extract - though we also have the carrier oil pressed only from the seeds as well.

Some Oils ONLY Available by One Process Or The Other!

  • Of course, it’s important to also note that many common oils are still best steam distilled. Lavender oil is more of a curiosity when produced by CO2, and not widely used. All scientific research noting the anti-stress action of Lavender has been done using the steam distilled essential oil.

  • Many oils are ONLY available through CO2 distillation, as the plant material breaks down if steam distilled. Examples are Sea Buckthorn, Calendula, Rosehip, and Arnica oils.

Through research and experience, we select the best distillation method of each oil to offer you the greatest therapeutic effects. Many oils are offered as both CO2 AND steam distillates, so you can choose the best for your needs. In ALL cases, we’re really thrilled that we’ve been able to find what we think is the World’s best oil available today.

We hope you enjoyed the article, and learned a little bit! We appreciate your comments, and please share it if you find it valuable. Thank you!

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