Supercritical CO2 extracts or supercritical fluid CO2 extracts, are extremely pure plant extracts produced from a relatively new and highly efficient extraction process. CO2 extraction produces superior herbal extracts that find wide use in the flavoring and herbal medicine industries. CO2 extracts are oils similar to distilled essential oils that can be used in aromatherapy and natural perfumery to great benefit. Essential oils have traditionally been derived using either steam or hydro distillation, or extracted using chemical solvents such as hexane, heptane or ethanol. The supercritical CO2 extract and its process have many benefits over the traditional distillation processes, which should be taken into consideration when choosing a natural aromatic oil for use in body care products, aroma therapeutic blend, natural perfume or similar product.
The CO2 extraction process consists of pumping pressurized carbon dioxide into a chamber filled with plant matter. When carbon dioxide is subjected to pressure it becomes “supercritical” and has liquid properties while remaining in a gaseous state. Because of the liquid properties of the gas, the CO2 functions as a solvent, pulling the oils and other substances such as pigment and resin from the plant matter. Thus, the difference between CO2, or supercritical, extraction and traditional distillation is that CO2 is used as a solvent instead of heated water or steam.