Aromatherapy and CO2s
Among the many types of aromas used in aromatherapy are CO2s. If you know anything about chemistry, you know that CO2 is the symbol for carbon dioxide. And if you know anything about carbon dioxide, you know that it is what we exhale from our bodies with every breath.
What is interesting and exciting about carbon dioxide is the way it relates to aromatherapy. Getting back to science, carbon dioxide is a gas, colorless and odorless, like that which you exhale. However, there is a way that carbon dioxide can be forced into changing its state from a gas into a liquid. To accomplish this transformation, low temperatures are combined with high pressure.
You still might be wondering what changing the state of C02 has to do with aromatherapy. CO2 in liquid form works quickly and efficiently to extract the aroma molecules from plant material. In liquid form, CO2 becomes a solvent. But unlike the chemical solvents that are used to extract absolutes and concretes, CO2 solvents are completely removed once the extraction process has been completed. The removal of the solvent becomes possible by changing the atmospheric conditions during the extraction process so that the CO2 can be returned to its gaseous state. And then once it reverts back to a gas, it simply dissipates.
Remember, with absolutes, solvents still remain after the extraction process, which is why absolutes are not commonly used in aromatherapy. They are not considered pure and as a result, they are used primarily by the fragrance industries in the manufacture of perfumes, soaps, creams, lotions and other body care products.
With CO2s, the end result of the extraction process is a very high-quality aromatic product that is totally free of solvents. Better still, the product that is extracted is a true and unchanged plant essence – in other words, CO2s smell most like the real thing. Since low temperatures are used during the extraction process, heat does not adversely affect the essential oils, so it is an even better extraction process than distillation.
CO2s are a fairly new arrival to the world of aromatherapy. The extraction technology is new, but unfortunately, the extraction equipment is expensive. So far, this type of extraction is not very widespread which is causing the price of CO2s to be quite high. Hopefully the prices will come down as this extraction process becomes more widespread.
When shopping for aromatherapy CO2s, you’ll notice that there are different categories. The differences are due to slight variations in the extraction process. CO2 Selects are created using very low temperature, but the process removes more of the plant’s soluble components. CO2 Totals are extracted using a higher temperature, and in doing so, preserves all of a plant’s solubles. Totals are more complete, but because they are thicker, they’re more difficult to work with than Selects. It’s suggested that CO2 Totals be warmed or combined with carrier oils prior to use.