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What are Supercritical Extracts?

Extracts are substances made by separating raw plant material into concentrated form. Depending upon the plant material used, extracts can be made by a number of processes, including:

  • Cold-pressing plant material (typically citrus)
  • Steam distillation
  • “Supercritical” liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) distillation
  • Other chemical solvent extraction (i.e. alcohol distillation, etc.)

Steam distillation is one of the most common processes used. However, supercritical extracts are becoming more common. They are considered to be potentially superior to traditional steam distillations because the plant material is extracted at much lower temperatures, which may help preserve a fuller range of constituents from the original plant.

That’s because the high temperatures required to create steam from water (100 degrees C / 212 degrees F) can potentially damage or destroy some of the constituents in the plant material—thereby altering the material from its original form. Supercritical extraction uses CO2 instead, bringing it to its liquid “supercritical” state at much lower temperatures (90-100 degrees F). That lower processing temperature helps ensure that the final extract contains a fuller spectrum of constituents than are typically derived from steam distillations. CO2 extracts are believed to be closer to the original source material than stream extracts.

How supercritical extracts are made

  1. Liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) is pumped into an extractor tank containing plant material.
  2. Particles of the plant material are suspended in the liquid CO2.
  3. The particles are separated from the CO2. The CO2 is returned to the tank.
  4. Then the final extract is collected for use.

Supercritical extracts are very concentrated. It takes approximately 250 pounds of plant material to create 1 pound of supercritical Neem extract, for example.

CO2 extracts are additionally free from organic solvents like hexane, acetone and toluene.

The original plant material we use for our supercritical Neem extracts is also organic to help ensure the final extract does not contain chemical pesticide residue, either.