By Jhoane Robinson, Traditional Herbalist, Co-Founder Cedar Bear Naturales
Ever heard of nitroglycerin? In the late 1800’s, dynamite was made with crude glycerin and made things go ka-boom! The invention of dynamite was actually the beginning of the worldwide boom in the use of glycerin.
One definition for glycerin out there in the internet world is that glycerin is a “thick clear liquid made from fat that is used for making many things including soap and bombs.” Oh my! That sounds a bit scary! No wonder we still get asked now and again if glycerin is safe to consume!
Since glycerin is used widely in the food, beverage, confections, cosmetics, and medical industry throughout the world, (it’s probably even in your toothpaste). The same thing used in dynamite and soap for foods and cosmetics? That certainly can’t be right!
So, what is glycerin? Glycerin, also spelled glycerine, is a clear viscous liquid that tastes almost as sweet as sugar. The word “glycerin” is derived from the Greek word “glykys” which means “sweet.”
Glycerin itself is a strange creature. While glycerin, also known as glycerol, is a sugar alcohol, it has absolutely no alcoholic content and is far more stable than alcohol. And while it is categorized as a carbohydrate, it doesn’t act like one and has a low glycemic index, and unlike alcohol, also has a low glycemic load, so it does not raise blood sugars, and is even good for those with blood sugar issues.
The glycerin used in the health industry is often derived from palm, coconut, or soybean oils (not animal fat!). It is completely non-toxic and has antimicrobial properties via its bacteriostatic action. It has had GRAS status (Generally Recognized As Safe) in the U.S. by the FDA since 1959.
Glycerin by itself benefits overall health. It helps hydrate the body and supports digestive and gut health. When used as an extractive solvent in the right methodology, it can be so much more effective than other extractive solvents, that while it won’t blow up the mountainside, it can certainly blow your mind as to its versatility and extractive potential.
Glycerin is hygroscopic in nature, which means that it attracts and holds water molecules. When used as the extractive solvent in liquid herbal supplements, it actually microencapsulates the extracted constituents of the herbs and holds them in suspension until they are released in the body. This microencapsulation quality actually helps an herbal supplement self-preserve when the right water-to-glycerin ratio is used.
Glycerin is in all living cells. It is so natural to our bodies, that when it is used as the extractive solvent and carrier for a liquid herbal supplement, our bodies naturally are open to absorbing it, as opposed to alcohol-based extracts, which initially cause tissues to contract.
Now that you know a bit more about glycerin, it’s time you looked at how a totally alcohol-free glycerin-based liquid herbal product could benefit both your business and your health needs. The possibilities are so big, it’ll blow your mind!
When used as a primary "true" alcohol-free botanical extraction solvent in non-tincture based methodologies, glycerol has been shown to possess a high degree of extractive versatility for botanicals including removal of numerous constituents and complex compounds, with an extractive power that can rival that of alcohol and water–alcohol solutions. That glycerol possesses such high extractive power assumes it is utilized with dynamic methodologies as opposed to standard passive "tincturing" methodologies that are better suited to alcohol. Glycerol possesses the intrinsic property of not denaturing or rendering a botanical's constituents inert (as alcohols – i.e. ethyl (grain) alcohol, methyl (wood) alcohol, etc., do). Glycerol is a stable preserving agent for botanical extracts that, when utilized in proper concentrations in an extraction solvent base, does not allow inverting or reduction-oxidation of a finished extract's constituents, even over several years. Both glycerol and ethanol are viable preserving agents. Glycerol is bacteriostatic in its action, and ethanol is bactericidal in its action.