Monday, 18 October 2010

revise supercritical fluid extraction - frankincense

My thanks to Madelaine Knapp-Hayes for the gift of the lovely Frankincense Co2 to fragrance our new training rooms in Hinckley UK.  Diffusing frankincense is a traditional use in the Middle East to cleanse rooms and create a positive atmosphere.  

Frankincense has always played its part in Shirley Price Essentia skincare.  Today Frankincense Co2 as an ingredient is finding increasing use in cosmetics and frankincense's top notes are of great use in aromatherapy because sesquiterpenes can cross the blood-brain barrier and stimulate the limbic brain.  By slowing the breathing frankincense assists meditation and the ability to see matters in a better and more positive perspective, as a witness to lifes dramas rather than a participant.

Madelaine's frankincense is made from Somali resin like our own hydrodistilled Frankincense.  Purists who burn frankincense like the Omani frankincense but Somali frankincense is recognised as creating the best oil.  Co2 extraction takes this to another level but I still like the balsamic aroma of the hydrodistilled frankincense as well.  

Madelaines Frankincense has a stunning aroma creating a big impact and impression on the senses like Rose Otto.  The top notes are so well preserved that you can smell it without opening the bottle due to the childproof cap.  

So how is this frankincense obtained?  Now we venture into the world of supercitical fluids.  This used to be a rather expensive and esoteric area of essential oil extraction.  Now it is becoming increasingly viable due to apparatus such as this illustrated in this slideshow.

It depends on the mild conditions at which Co2 becomes a supercitical fluid having the qualities of both a gas and a fluid it permeates the plant matter and liberates the volatile components at a temperature of only 31°C (less than body temperature).  SCF extraction is particularly effective when used with a concrete enabling a first separation in which all the plant waxes and residues are left behind.  Upon returning to an ambient state, the CO2 becomes a gas, leaving no residue and the essential oil in a pure state which is closer to the fragrance of the original resin or flower. 

I can see this being of particular application to producing a gardenia scent.  I find the gardenia absolute bears very little resemblance to the flowers but I'll be interested to try some Co2 extracted gardenia.  The flavor or fragrance is in its unadulterated state. There is no solvent taste or smell.  Steam distillation involves exposure to temperatures over 100°C destroying many of the really small molecules or “top notes”.

SCF is a green technology and may play a part in future large scale carbon capture at powerstations.  We get into an interesting debate as to whether all this takes us away from the 'life force' of the oils aromatherapists look for.  With SCF for the floral scents we certainly have come a long way from suspending a sheeps fleece over a vat of boiling water containing plant matter.  This process acted as a portable field solution and suprisingly efficient condensor long before the refinement of a coiled pipe in a jacket of cold water!  Water becomes supercritical at high temperatures and pressures found in undersea water vents.  Incidently perfectly respectable theories suggest life on earth starting in this undersea environment.

Madelaine writes about her training institute in the Netherlands
My training institute offers 2 seminar rooms, one for up to 30 people, and one for upto 12 people. The latter duals as a teaching room for massage etc with 3 tables and a hospital bed.
De Levensboom also features an educational medicinal garden of 4500 m2, laid to "chambers" around a large pond. You and students can enjoy the herb garden, medical & homeopathy garden, edible garden and aromatic garden. There is a semi open teahouse with herb bed for herbal teas, etc. The garden is open to the public in May and June and proceeds go to the Levensboom Fonds, a fund that supports palliative and end of life care.
Wernhout is in the southwest, 15 km south from the town of Breda. From De Levensboom to Calais (Fr) and Channel Tunnel is 265km. From Brussels Airport around 95km, from Rotterdam Airport 55km, from Eindhoven Airport 80km and from Amsterdam Airport 120km.

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