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7 Cool Facts About Using Ethanol for Essential Oil Extraction

Posted by Extractohol on 10/14/2019

Using essential oils for medicinal purposes dates back past the ancient Egyptians. The oils carry compounds that connect to important receptors via everything from aromatherapy to ingestion.

As research continues, more manufacturers choose to produce and sell CBD oil products. Without a doubt, this cannabinoid sells as people swear by the positive effects, making it a hot item.

Though all CBD derives from Cannabis flowers, not all CBD products are created equal. The quality of any essential oil differs greatly based on the essential oil extraction process used.

If you choose to produce or dispense CBD or any other essential oil, then you want to ensure that you carry the best. Learn more about methods of oil extraction and why you want to choose ethanol.

Essential Oil Extraction

Many plants carry benefits hidden within their parts. For instance, hemp plants contain high amounts of cannabidiol. However, you cannot simply pick the hemp and utilize it.

Creating essential oils requires an entire process that begins with extracting the compound from the plant. The process you choose will significantly affect the quality of your product.

Let's look at different options and discuss why you should choose ethanol for the extraction of essential oils.

Solvent Extraction

Solvent extraction works to separate compounds into two immiscible liquids based on their solubility. The solvent will hold onto the oils to separate them from everything else, and then burn off, leaving only the essential oil.

Due to cost-effectiveness, many manufacturers choose to use the solvent extraction method. Note, some solvents cost you less time and money, but will not give you a sound product.

Some popular cheap choices include hexane and butane. Both work at a little financial cost but create great risk.

Both solvents work as neurotoxins in the body. People use essential oils to help with healing. However, they will counteract any good your specific product offers.

These solvents often leave a potentially harmful residue. This can slow healing and cause nervous system damage over the long run.

Ethyl alcohol provides a much safer option for extraction. Alcohol dissipates readily with heat, burning out any bioactive potential of the solvent during the extraction process. This leaves your oil pure, with little to no residue, making it a top choice for extracting essential oils.

The FDA allows for food-grade ethanol to be used for consumption in many products. They find zero concerns with this ingredient. If it is safe for common food consumption, then you know that it will keep the integrity of your product intact when used for extraction.


Distillation uses heat to separate the oils from other substances. The lighter compounds will turn to steam and travel through the tubing into a separate container.

This process works well for creating a pure product. Ethanol washes ensure a safe product.

Supercritical CO2 Fluid Extraction (SCFE)

The CO2 extraction method allows for superior control over pressure and temperature to extract products efficiently. However, this may be the most costly method of extraction in both terms of time and capital. If you do choose this method, still choose an ethanol solvent for optimum results.

What is Ethanol Exactly?

Before choosing ethanol for your essential oil extraction, you may want to know a little more about it. Ethanol, like essential oils, comes from plants.

It is an alcohol that comes from distilling materials such as corn. It is a sugar-based compound with the formula C2H6O.

Ethanol provides us with a variety of uses as it is safe and cost-efficient. Aside from extraction, people use it for food additives, beauty products, and fuel.

How to Extract Essential Oils Using Ethanol

Now that you know a little more about the different options for extraction, let's look at exactly how you can extract and produce essential oils using alcohol.

Step 1: Choose the Best Plant

Know that your grower is not just a show-er. Choose a grower who grows the best genetic strains and who grows the plants in optimal conditions. The best growers focus on all conditions including soil, temperature, light exposure, and hydration.

Step 2: Extraction

As explained above, choose an extraction method that gives you the highest quality product while costing you less time and money. The Soxhlet technique helps you quickly extract your desired compound with little to none leftover solvent.

The steps of the ethanol Soxhlet extraction technique include:

  • Boiling the ethanol in a flask
  • condensing the alcohol on a cool coil
  • Allowing the cooling ethanol to drip through the coil onto the packed flower material
  • Collecting the bioactive compounds stripped during this process

Other ethanol extraction processes simply require soaking the flowers in the solvent and then filtering it out. As discussed above, you can safely do this without causing harm to the consumer.

Step 3: Eliminating the Solvent

Again, this portion of the process highlights why you should use ethanol as opposed to other solvents. High temperatures easily burn the alcohol off, leaving little to no solvent in your essential oil.

Step 4: Winterization

Winterizing the solution removes the lipids and waxes. It does so by freezing the crude oil in subzero freezers and pushing fatty compounds to the surface for easy retrieval. 

Rotary evaporators help to reduce terpene loss during CBD extraction during the solvent purging following winterization. It leaves you with about a 50-60% bioactive solution.

Some manufacturers simply skip winterization to save time and money. Doing so will not cause harm, but the product will leave you with a greasy residue on the tongue.

This compromises the smell, color, and taste, of your essential oil. This happens because waxes and lipids get left behind when you skip winterization.

When extracting compounds like CBD, you cannot stop at this point in the process. Bioactive substances, like cannabinoids, need to be activated.

Step 5: Decarbing

This step activates the compounds. By heating the crude oil, you remove the carboxyl group and release the carbon dioxide in the compound. This allows for a stronger bioactive effect.

Provide Quality Essential Oils

When you put your name on something, you always want it to uphold your standards. Ensure quality products to your consumers by choosing ethanol for essential oil extraction! 

At Extractohol, we want to help! Check out our products for creating the highest quality essential oils.