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Carrier Oils: Refined? Deodorized? Filtered?

A quick reference guide

Those of us who love blending with essential oils, know that one of the most important things we need are carrier oils.   Carrier oils, also known as vegetable oils, are what we use to dilute and blend our essential oils into a wide assortment of remedies and applications – and carry their potent molecules through our skin, and into our bodies.  

Since carrier oils on their own have a rich array of therapeutic properties, we can get really creative when choosing which oil to use for specific skin and body care products and remedies.  But often we get stuck at figuring out what to buy.

Here is a quick reference guide of some of the basic terms you will most likely come across as you research and purchase vegetable oils; Let it help you further in making the right choice of which oils to choose. The list is by alphabetical order, not by the order of how the oils are processed.

  • Bleaching & Filtering: The purpose of bleaching is to remove the color pigments from the oil.  After the oil is slightly heated it is treated with different types of clays that absorb and remove the unwanted color pigments. Once the bleaching process is completed, the oil is filtered to remove the clays and other particulate matter.
  • Cleaning & Hulling:  The nuts and seeds are thoroughly cleaned and hulled, removing dust, dirt and other particles.  This process doesn’t involve any heating.
  • Cooking & Tempering:  This is when the seeds and/or nuts are slightly heated to remove any excess moisture and bring the oil content more to the surface so the expeller process can have good yields.

Since carrier oils on their own have a rich array of therapeutic properties, we can get really creative when choosing which oil to use for specific skin and body care products and remedies.  But often we get stuck at figuring out what to buy.

  • Degumming: The main purpose of degumming is to remove the phospholipids, like lecithin from the crude vegetable oils.  This is important to ensure stability and improve quality. Degumming can use either water or phosphoric acid.
  • Deodorizing: Refined and bleached oil is heated again and a stripping agent is allowed to pass through trays, which expands the surface area for better exposure to steam which then is vacuumed out to evaporate the odor substances. 
  • Expeller Pressing: Uses a machine that presses nuts and seeds through a cavity and uses intense friction and pressure to extract the oil.  Even though no heat is  added the sheer pressure causes the temperature to rise, exposing the nuts and seeds to heat.  To yield a lot of oil, this process requires a lot of material – which is why this is often an expensive oil.
  • Refined:  A refined oil is when the oil is put through a process to “purify” it – meaning, the components that may make it less shelf stable, or have a strong odor, are removed using what are called alkaline chemicals.  These chemicals remove some of the free fatty acids and make the oil less likely to oxidize and go rancid.  This process often removes many of the nutritive rich components.
  • Solvent extracted:  Petrochemical solvents like hexane are used to pull out the oil from the seeds and nuts. This process is a much less expensive way to pull out the oils than expeller pressing.  Although companies that use this process assure that the hexane or other petrochemicals have been “flashed off,” – there is no guarantee that they are free from potentially concerning contaminants.
  • Winterized:  This is a process that removes the cloudiness that may appear in some oils that have heavier molecules.

References

https://www.goodnature.com/blog/expeller-pressed-vs-cold-pressed-oil/#:~:text=Expeller%2DPressed%20Oils,140%2D210%CB%9A%20F).

https://www.oil-refinery.com/process-solutions/degumming-process/

Kusmirek, Jan “ Liquid Sunshine,” Glastonbury, England, Floramicus, 2002

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