Every plant and herb carries with it a distinguished aroma and flavor, and it is all the work of organic chemicals called terpenes. To date, there are around 20,000 different types of strains discovered in nature that range in characteristics and applications.
For instance, the limonene profile brings antibacterial, mood elevation, and stress relief benefits under citrusy and sweet tones that make it a crowd favorite in the market. On the other hand, the linalool variant possesses a floral, rosy, and woody scent while giving the body an anti-anxiety and sedative effect.
Aside from these features and benefits, terpenes may vary in quality too. Many factors can alter product concentration, but one of the key variables is how the terpenes are extracted.
While several extraction methods are practiced in the market today, a technique that has started to reach public attention for terpene concentrates is carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction.
What is CO2 Extraction?
As its name suggests, this extraction approach uses CO2, known as a tunable solvent, allowing for a versatile creation of a multitude of products. Terpene extraction utilizes CO2 in its supercritical state, which is a result when it is stored at cool temperatures and pressurized for the supercritical conversion.
This process creates a CO2 form that carries the characteristics of both a gas and a liquid. Furthermore, supercritical CO2 is odorless, non-toxic, and colorless, making it safe to use to produce high-quality extracts.
With its dual-property solvent, the supercritical CO2 process is undoubtedly one of the most advanced extraction methods in practice. Typically, it is conducted using a three-chamber setup. The first chamber holds the pressurized CO2, the second contains the dried plant material, and the third fits the finished product.
During production, supercritical CO2 is diffused from the first chamber into the second, absorbing the terpenes in the plant material. The CO2 is then separated from the extract in the third chamber, where the final product sits for collection.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of CO2 Extraction
As with the other terpene extraction methods in the market, the supercritical CO2 technique also has its list of positives and negatives. Now that you know how it works, here are some of the key factors to consider when considering CO2 extraction:
CO2 Extraction Pros
It is highly versatile.
Since supercritical CO2 is a very tunable solvent, expect a very flexible extraction process. In this regard, the operator has complete control over the procedure. They can manage the temperature and pressure according to the desired product in the batch, even isolating specific cannabinoids to achieve a certain level of quality in the result. This method allows for a wider selection of concentrations that can cater to more applications.
It is eco-friendly.
Apart from the fact that CO2 is an affordable solvent, it is recyclable. Because of this, supercritical CO2 extraction has a low impact on the environment, making it the more environmentally friendly pick among the other methods in the terpene industry.
It is safe.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes supercritical CO2 as safe for industrial use. This technique involves a non-flammable and non-combustible gas, unlike hydrocarbon extraction’s butane and propane solvents. CO2 also acts as a cleansing agent, killing microbial bacteria, molds, and mildews during the entire extraction process.
It leaves no residual contaminants.
CO2-extracted products are more appealing to the food and beverage and medical industries. This is because the supercritical CO2 method assures no residue on the extract at all. As CO2 is a gas at room temperature, any excess in the solution will evaporate immediately. With this, the end product will come out more concentrated in aroma and taste. Furthermore, this lowers the risk of consuming harmful toxins, which ultimately highlights its incredible safety feature.
CO2 Extraction Cons
It is pricey.
A huge initial investment is necessary to obtain a reliable supercritical CO2 system compared to the other extraction methods. Its higher upfront cost makes it one of the most, if not the most, expensive extracting equipment in the business.
It has a longer run time.
While the supercritical CO2 extraction technique is automated, the process can still take longer, unlike the other methods. This is due to the constant fluctuations in temperature and pressure per batch. For instance, an extraction for a 20-pound plant material can take up to four to six hours, depending on the concentration set for its final product.
It is vulnerable to operation errors.
The supercritical CO2 system can be complex. For it to perform smoothly, a skilled technician needs to run the machine. Since the CO2 extraction method requires continual shifts in temperature and pressure, it makes it more susceptible to inaccuracies in production. An aggressive process may alter the plant’s original profile or call for winterization, which can degrade the authenticity of the extract altogether.
Scoring Quality Terpenes the CO2 Way
Maintaining terpenes’ level of quality during extraction is a challenge in and of itself, which is why choosing the method to do it plays an important role in getting the job done and getting it right.
The supercritical CO2 method allows for a safe and versatile way of collecting terpenes, with its non-toxic and highly tunable solvent. This technique also makes a sound option, as it offers a range of quality products that can accommodate the varying preferences of the public.
For top-quality terpenes, visit Medical Terpenes and find the best profile to suit your needs from its wide selection of products.