There are some 500,000 species of higher plants around the world, of which around 70,000 serve as a basis for plant-based drugs. Much as applications for vegetable active ingredients vary, they all share one common feature: they are extremely sensitive substances which have to be treated correspondingly gently by the biotechnical process used to obtain them. Extraction decanters and polishing separators from GEA are perfectly designed for this purpose. Plant extraction is a process that aims to extract certain components present in plants. It is a solid/liquid separation operation: a solid object (the plant) is placed in contact with a fluid (the solvent). The plant components of interest are then solubilised and contained within the solvent. The solution thus obtained is the desired extract.
The solvent will eventually be eliminated to isolate the plant extract. If it is for the food industry, it is not necessary to separate it from the extract. If not, a second separation operation makes it possible to obtain a dry extract.
Nowadays, the term “extract” is frequently used incorrectly. In fact, only solid/liquid extraction is capable of producing them, but sometimes simple crushed plant powders are marketed as “extracts”.
The origin of the extraction of active plant ingredients has been lost to time. It was in fact very early on that mankind discovered the benefits of plants and the first techniques for separating out what we now refer to as “extracts”.
The first extracts were essentially obtained through aqueous extraction or alcoholic fermentation, and according to procedures such as infusion, maceration, decoction and hydrodistillation. The simplicity of these procedures, as well as the tools, materials and heating methods of the time, meant that the extractor was a man of the arts rather than a scientist.
Today, this activity calls upon the use of precise automatons and adapted materials. It has benefited from advances in process engineering, phytochemistry and analytics. Moreover, new technologies to assist extraction (high-pressure, microwaves, ultrasound, etc.) are being developed.
However, the notion of expertise in plant extraction remains to this day a balanced combination of the mastery of technical parameters, and tradition.
Precise Adaptation to Process Parameters
The structure and biological activity of the substances mean that very specific medium conditions have to be used. The extraction process is particularly suitable for this, but has to be precisely adapted to suit process parameters such as pH, temperature, concentration and the delicate structure of the valuable substances. The efficacy of a phytopharmaceutical product also depends on adequate and consistent dosage of the plant extract, so industrial standardization is of huge significance.
Maceration or Percolation?
Plant extracts are defined as concentrated preparations of liquid, solid or viscous consistency. As a rule they are obtained by maceration (extraction to equilibrium with water or alcohol) or percolation (extraction to exhaustion with water or alcohol). A key factor in production is selection of the extraction agent. Water-soluble (hydrophilic) constituents can be extracted with water, whilst fat-soluble (lipophilic) constituents are extracted from a particular part of the plant with alcohol or other solvents.
The health costs of sugar
Sugar sweetens, preserves, and enhances the flavor of food. This makes it hard to avoid and resist, but the health benefits of reducing your sugar intake are clear.
A diet high in sugar has been associated with a wide range of health conditions, either directly through its effect on the body or indirectly due to complications from obesity. Excessive sugar consumption may lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Poor nutrition absorption, high triglyceride levels, and tooth decay are all related to high sugar intake. It has also been linked to poor cognitive function, affecting memory and increasing the risk of dementia.
Healthy sugar alternatives and how to choose the right sugar replacement for you
It may be difficult to sort through all the sugar alternatives on the market to decide which one is right for you. Consider the following when making your decision:
Understand the four categories of sugar alternatives.
There are four common types of sugar substitutes: artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, novel sweeteners, and natural sweeteners. Each has potential benefits and drawbacks depending on your goals.
Think about why you want to cut down on sugar.
If you have diabetes, for instance, artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols, like xylitol, could be a better choice when consumed in moderation. Natural sweeteners, like honey, can still raise blood sugar. Always consult with a doctor or dietitian if you’re not sure of your best option.