Types of Solvents Used in Plant Extraction
Out of the many types of solvents used in plant extraction is water, alcohols, dichloromethane, n-hexane, ether, ionic liquid, and chloroform. Water and alcohols are polar solvents while acetone and dichloromethane are intermediately polar. The non-polar solvents include things like n-hexane, ether, and chloroform. Each of these solvents has both benefits and drawbacks in their use. In this article, we’ll discuss the use of 5 particular solvents used in plant extraction: water, ether, alcohol, chloroform, and ionic liquid.
- Water: Water is very polar. It dissolves many substances and is cheap, non-toxic, and does not catch fire. Water is also quite abundant.
- Ether: Ether is adept at extracting fatty acids, alkaloids, terpenoids, and coumarins. It is also a nonpolar solvent. Ether is miscible with water, meaning it forms a uniform with water. It has a low boiling point and is tasteless. Due to its stability is also doesn’t react with metals, acids, or bases.
- Alcohol: Alcohol is a very polar solvent used in plant extraction. Like ether, alcohol is miscible with water. It is self-preserving when concentrated above 20%. At low concentrations, it is nontoxic. An added bonus is only a very small amount of heat is required for concentrating the extract.
- Chloroform: Chloroform is nonpolar. It is able to extract compounds like terpenoids, fats, oils, and flavonoids. It lacks color and is soluble in alcohol. Chloroform also smells sweet and is both absorbed and metabolized well in the body.
- Ionic Liquid: Ionic liquid is one of the green solvents used in plant extraction. It’s highly polar yet also very heat stable. It can remain liquid even at very high temperatures. It is extremely miscible with water and even other solvents. It’s well suited for the extraction of polar compounds. Better yet, it is ideal for microwave-assisted extraction and liquid-liquid extraction
Though there are many benefits to the solvents used in plant extraction, there are also some drawbacks.
- Water: Using water can result in both bacterial and mold growth, both of which can cause health concerns. Water also requires a large amount of heat to concentrate the extract, meaning it will require more energy to be used. Water also runs the risk of causing hydrolysis. That means the compound may break down as a result of reacting with water.
- Ether: Though ether has many benefits, it is highly volatile and flammable. Certain types of ether, specifically diethyl ether can irritate the nose and throat
- Alcohol: Alcohol does not dissolve fats, waxes, or gums. It is also volatile and flammable.
- Chloroform: Once chloroform was used as an inhalant to produce anesthesia and its reputation as a sedative holds up even insolvent making. Chloroform, along with having a sedative property also has a carcinogenic property.
- Ionic Liquid: While this green solvent is fantastic at many things, it does have a drawback. The ionic liquid is not preferred in the preparation of tinctures as it is not ideal.
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