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Home Page > Aromatherapy Articles & Guides > Aromatic Ingredients > What are CO2 Extracts?

What are CO2 Extracts (CO2s)?

CO2 Supercritical Extracts

Oils extracted by the CO2 (carbon dioxide) method are commonly referred to as CO2 Extracts, CO2 Supercritical Extracts or CO2s for short.

CO2 Extracts are produced by using the supercritical carbon dioxide extraction method.

In its normal state, carbon dioxide is a gas that we breathe continually. Carbon dioxide can be pressurized until it becomes a liquid. The liquid carbon dioxide then acts as a solvent that can dissolve the natural components present in botanical material that is exposed to the liquefied CO2.

Afterwards, the CO2 is brought back to natural pressurization, and the CO2 returns to its normal gaseous state. What remains is the resulting CO2 Extract.

Absolutes are typically solvent extracted using hexane as the solvent. Trace amounts of the hexane may remain in the final absolute. However, with the CO2 method of extraction, CO2 is used as the solvent, and all of the CO2 returns to its normal gaseous state after the extraction is completed.

CO2 Extracts have a potential advantage over essential oils because none of the constituents risk damage due to heat incurred during the steam distillation of essential oils.

CO2 Extracts are becoming increasingly available through retailers and wholesalers that supply essential oils. Two types of CO2 Supercritical Extracts are generally available:

CO2 Selects

To create a CO2 Select, low pressure is used to liquefy the CO2. CO2 Selects generally contain the volatile (aromatic) components of the botanical that are soluble in liquefied CO2. Aromatic molecules each have their own molecular weight. Some aromatic molecules are too heavy to be present in a steam distilled essential oil. However, some of the heavier aromatic molecules are present in CO2 Selects. Therefore, CO2 Selects often smell closer to the aroma of the natural herb than do some steam distilled essential oils.

CO2 Totals

To create a CO2 Total, much greater pressure is used. CO2 Totals contain all (or most all) of the molecules that are soluble in the liquefied CO2. CO2 Totals tend to be much thicker than CO2 Selects as they not only contain the volatile aromatic CO2 soluble constituents, but they also contain the natural lipids, waxes, and other CO2 soluble molecules present in the botanical.

CO2 Supercritical Extract Suppliers

AromaWeb's Gobal Aromatherapy Business Directory provides a wonderful categorical directory of sellers of CO2 Extracts and other aromatherapy products.


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Wendy Robbins (Cert. Aroma ACHS), Founder of AromaWeb, is a Professional Level Member of the Alliance of International Aromatherapists and the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.

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