Infuse It or Lose It: Why Essential Oil Infusion is Right for Pets
Most folks reading this right now understand the benefits of essential oils. But if you’ve been browsing around the essential oil internet space, you’ve come across different definitions for essential oils and many types of extraction methods. We’re here to sort truth from fiction and explain a little bit about each.
Simply put, infusion is a method of extraction involving heat, time, and a carrier substance. The essential ingredient (like ginger in our Slim blend) is carefully prepared and immersed in a healthy carrier oil (like MCT oil in our Calm blend). Then it is carefully heated and kept at a particular temperature unique to each oil.
Over hours (or days in some cases) the oils from the essential ingredient are infused into the carrier oil. This creates a potent extraction that is still gentle and palatable to small creatures.
In our Pet-Friendly post, we discuss why this extraction method is necessary to make essential oils which are safe for pets. Other extraction methods can cause severe side effects in our furry friends.
Steam distillation is the most common method of extracting oils from essential ingredients. At the most basic level, this involves blasting extremely hot steam through lots and lots of the ingredient. The essential aroma turns into vapor and rises up with the steam, moving to a separate place to cool and separate. When the steam cools and becomes liquid again, you’re left with some water and some essential oil.
Of course that’s a very simplified explanation, but more or less the process. When we say lots and lots of the base ingredients, we mean a lot. Sometimes it can take many pounds of one herb or flower to make a single 5ml bottle of oil. As you could imagine, this leads to sustainability problems, among other things. But we’ll talk more about that later.
In recent years, solvent extraction has been gaining traction. This process is just about as complicated as steam distillation, but uses pressure rather than heat to extract the essential oils.
In a sealed chamber, you can put a bunch of one essential ingredient, then raise the temperature just a little so it’s between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit – or between 26 and 32 degrees Celsius. Then you add a gas like CO2. Then you apply a lot of pressure. We’re talking like up to 200 times the pressure of gravity, so imagine being about 200 times heavier than you are right now. That’s a lot (no offense).
Something cool happens to the CO2 under that crazy pressure. The CO2 gas becomes supercritical at this point – a fancy science term meaning it’s a liquid and a gas at the same time. Pretty cool huh?
At this point the supercritical CO2 extracts the aromatic compounds from the essential ingredient. Then, when the pressure is returned to normal, the CO2 turns back into a gas and leaves the liquid essential oil behind.
While very neat and fancy, this method is often only used for ingredients that can’t tolerate the super hot steam used in steam distillation. It’s very complex and expensive.
Expression / Cold-Pressing
Most often used for citrus essential oils, expression (also called cold-pressing) is relatively simple compared to steam distillation or solvent extraction. It isn’t quite as simple or gentle as infusion though.
Using a container with graters or lots of small sharp spikes inside, ingredients are tossed in and shaken. This scrapes or punctures them, which damages the cells and “expresses” the essential aroma. From there they are pressed into pulp and juice and plopped into a centrifuge which separates the expressed essential oils and pulpy bits.
So Why Infusion?
PawsiVibes chose infusion as the method of extraction for our essential oil products for two main reasons: health benefits and sustainability.
Health benefits we cover more in depth in our Beyond Essential and Pet-Friendly articles. But in short: you can’t give your pet most extractions of essential oils. They are too concentrated for their delicate little respiratory and digestive systems. Even applying them topically can lead to allergic reactions.
Infusions don’t have these limitations. Because of the slow, gentle infusion process, essential oils are extracted and blended with carrier oils. This infuses the benefits of the essential oils into the carrier, doubling your benefits and cutting out harmful effects.
Second and equally important: sustainability. The most common extraction method of steam distillation can be extremely harmful to our planet. Many essential oil companies will get ingredients from the lowest cost suppliers, many of whom clear cut forests to plant an incredible amount of herbs or flowers.
Remember when we talked about how many pounds of ingredients it takes to make one tiny bottle? That’s another factor at play here. When you need many pounds of a base ingredient to create such a small amount, you can imagine this would lead to crazy high prices and unsustainable growing practices that leach nutrients from the soil.
In Conclusion . . .
The industry standard extraction methods for essential oils are great for humans, but not for pets. Infusion provides all the benefits of pure essential oils in a pet-friendly package.
For more reading, check out this blog post by Michelson Found Animals. The good folks over at foundanimals.org know a thing or two about a thing or two. You can also explore our other blog topics here to learn more about essential oils and pets too.
Questions or comments? Email us at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you!
Pet pics? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org - we’d love to see them. With your permission, we may even showcase your pet on our Instagram or Pinterest board! Catch them posing around some PawsiVibes merch or products and we’ll absolutely feature them in a post, and get you 20% off your next order. How cool is that?