Pharmacy is a type of health science that seeks to connect chemistry and medical science to create safe and effective medications. This type of science exists with the goal of providing treatment for ailments and has existed for eons as a practice of harnessing natural substances. While many drugs in modern-day medicine involve the use of synthetic substances, many active ingredients in modern and past medicine are naturally occurring, coming from plants. You may be wondering how this is possible—you don’t see leaves or roots in your pills, after all. But through a process known as extraction, targeted compounds from plants are extracted as oils, powders, and other substances and are added into specific medications.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the intertwined history of extraction and pharmacy and how the extraction process works.
History of Extraction and Pharmacy
From early in human history, plants have been ingested for more than calories. Often, the leaves or bark of certain plants were chewed to relieve pain or provide energy. Alternatively, plant material was steeped in water to create soothing teas to calm nerves or relax stomach issues.
These habits acknowledge the important organic chemicals that exist in nature and can be harnessed for medicinal purposes. As technology advanced, the techniques used to isolate these important chemicals became more efficient, leading to the common extraction methods utilized in pharmacy today.
Basic Types of Extraction Used in Pharmacy
Removing valuable active ingredients from plant materials (roots, seeds, leaves, etc.) for pharmacy can be done using many different procedures. Some of the most common and efficient methods of extraction used in pharmaceutical settings include:
- Steam and Water Distillation
- Soxhlet (Hot Continuous)
These methods all allow for the safe isolation of medicinal ingredients and lead to drugs in powder or liquid form, which can then be ingested, or further processed, depending on the final product being made. While the steps and tools used in these extraction methods vary, the general process is the same.
In all of these methods, the extractors start with a raw material, let’s say, the flower of a cannabis plant. In this case, the target compounds the extractor wants to remove are the cannabinoids (CBD) from the cannabis flower that provide many health benefits to users, such as stress and pain relief.
Once the extractor has the flower, they must alter the flower in some way to remove the CBD. This may mean using extreme heat, extreme cold, extreme pressure, or chemicals to draw out the desirable compound until the CBD is successfully separated from the flower. Once separated, the CBD can be used as an additive in tinctures, medications, topicals, beauty products, and more!
Medicines Extracted from Natural Materials
While many medications include inorganic or synthetic materials, there are many medications that still rely on extracted compounds from plants to help the user receive benefits. Here are some examples of commonplace drugs that are still derived from natural sources:
- Aspirin (from willow tree bark)
- Morphine (from opium, a compound found in poppies)
- Digoxin (heart medication, from the Digitalis Lanata flower)
- Paclitaxel (cancer drug derived from the Pacific yew tree)
- Quinine (a malaria drug derived from cinchona bark)
All these listed medicines, commonly found in professional medical settings such as hospitals and doctor’s offices, are extracted on an industrial scale. However, the process used for extracting each plant material can vary.
Looking for Solvents for Pharmacy Extraction?
Extraction Grade Solvents is dedicated to providing companies with solvents to make extracting easier, more efficient, and more eco-friendly. For help figuring out the best method for your pharmaceutical needs, or to simply learn more about solvent extraction, reach out to our knowledgeable team!