Making Plant Extracts - How to Choose the Right Solvent
Pictured: organic freeze dried strawberry 'chips' with no additives. I picked these up in the health section of my local supermarket.
But we're not going to be cooking or snacking. We're going to use these to make an extract.
Which solvent is best?
There are numerous choices:
- a mix of some of the above
Which would you choose? Here's a little spoiler alert: there is more than one right answer.
The Answer: It DependsDepending on what you want to make, you could in truth use any of the above. Mind you, an oil infusion is not going to smell like strawberries, because the fragrance molecules in strawberries are not oil-soluble.
Does this mean it would be wrong to use oil? Well, only if you specifically want the scent and color of strawberries, then you would in all likelihood be disappointed if you chose oil.
To capture the scent and color of strawberries, you could choose glycerine, water, ethanol or vinegar.
For any plant you want to use in an extract, you're probably going to get the best results if you start by doing a bit of research on the plant, its constituents, and the solubility of the parts you want to extract. This doesn't have to take weeks and weeks of study, but even if it does (sometimes researching something can be a path to all kinds of happy and enlightening discoveries), you'll be better equipped to move forward.
Want to jump in and just go for it? That's OK too, but if I may be so bold as to suggest doing a few side by side comparative batches in different solvents so you can get hands on experience at what works best for your purposes.
Even if you 'get it wrong' and end up with a batch or 2 that has to be binned, you'll have learned some cool stuff.
Strawberry VinegarI chose vinegar for the freeze dried strawberries you see above. I was curious to see if the strawberries could overpower (or at least decide to become good friends with) the vinegar scent.
A double charge was done (that's when the strained liquid is reused in a second infusion).
Strawberry and vinegar really seem to like each other! The strawberry fragrance is 'boosted' by the vinegar and has a really strong and sweet fragrance with only a slight vinegary undertone.
I'm super pleased with the color as well. Check the pic below for the end result.
This tincture has been tested in a few different products and is performing quite well. Initial impressions: this is definitely not the last batch of strawberry vinegar I will be making.
Now of course, I can't help wondering if the result would have been the same with fresh strawberries.
This can only be answered by doing more batches.
Guess what just made my ever-growing to-do list?
You Can Do This TooIf you're interested in an overview of different extract making possibilities and want to try a couple of different methods, check this bundle offer in the shop.
Do TellHave you ever tried infusing dried strawberries in oil? How did it turn out? Please leave a comment below.
More Stuff About Strawberries and Their ConstituentsStrawberry constituents, Medical News Today
Flavinoids Overview, Journal of Nutritional Science
More Stuff about Vinegar for Skincare on this BlogWhich Vinegar is best for tinctures
How to Make a Pomegranate Vinegar Tincture
Quality checking vinegar tinctures: the meaning of cloudiness
What Vinegar has to do with Cosmetics