What is Plant Extraction?

What is Plant Extraction?

What is Plant Extraction?

Plant extraction is a process used to separate the desired natural products from the raw plant materials. The desired products can be secondary metabolites. Some of these metabolites are things like flavonoids, alkaloids, steroids, terpenes, and glycosides. The use of a solvent is the most popular method for plant extraction. Plant extraction also has various stages: the solvent infiltrates the solid matrix, a solute dissolves the solvents, the solute is diffused out of the matrix, and finally, the extracted solutes are collected.

Facts About Plant Extraction

When it comes to the extraction of plants, the process involves separating desired substances from inactive material there are multiple options.


  • Coarse powdered material like leaves, stembark, or root bark has a solvent poured over it until is completely covered. The container the mixture is in is then left to sit for a time, sometimes 1 to 3 days. During this time, it can be stirred or shaken to ensure complete extraction. When using plant material that is thermolabile, this method is suitable.


  • The material is ground into a fine powder and the extraction solvent is poured over it and allowed to soak for a brief time. This method is similar to maceration and is a good choice when extracting bioactive components that are easily soluble.


  • Dried, ground and powdered plant material has water poured over it and is then stirred. Throughout the extraction process heat is constantly applied. The solvent used here is strictly water.


  • Is an involved extraction process. Dry well-powdered plant material is wetted with the solvent and gradually more solvent is added. After around 4 hours, the solvent and plant material is transferred to a percolator and made to sit for a whole day. The extraction solvent is poured from the top until the plant material is saturated. The lower part of the percolator is opened and the liquid is allowed to drip slowly. Some solvent is added continuously and eventually, gravitation force pushes the solvent through the material downward.

Microwave-assisted extraction

  • This method uses mechanisms of ionic transfer and dipole rotation. Microwave radiation is used on an object which can absorb the energy and convert it into heat. The heat makes the solvent move into the matrix. This method is particularly good at flavonoid extraction but is not as effective if a nonpolar solvent is used. This method minimizes solvent and extraction time while increasing yield. A drawback it has is that tannins may be degraded by the high temperatures.

When choosing an extraction method, it is vital to consider the type of plant material the extraction is coming from, the type of solvent and its pH, and temperature. The use of the final extracted products will also change what kind of method is used.

Plants that possess high amounts of phenolic compounds and flavonoids possess antioxidant qualities. Because of those qualities, they’re used to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s, anxiety, and depression. This makes the extraction of desired flavonoids and other compounds from plants of interest to the scientific community.

What is Removed During Plant Extraction?

There are many compounds that can be removed during plant extraction. Below are just a few of many.


  • A group of metabolites believed to have various health benefits and antioxidant capabilities. They’ve been reported to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory among other benefits. They help regulate cell activity and help the body function efficiently.


  • Are a group of chemicals that possess nitrogen and are produced by plants. Some common alkaloids are quinine, nicotine, morphine, and caffeine. They are usually concentrated in the bark, roots or leaves of a plant. One plant that contains many alkaloids is the poppy plant. Certain alkaloids are used medicinally, for example, morphine is well known as a pain reliever.


  • Hormones or lipids have a molecular structure with four rings of carbon atoms. They can occur naturally in plants instead of being synthesized in a lab. Certain steroidal structures have shown promise in being anti-inflammatory.


  • Aromatic compounds are present in many different types of plants. However, due to the high concentration of them in cannabis, they are often associated with it. They create the scents of plants including those of pine, basil, rose, lemongrass, and lavender. They are used in essential oils and aromatherapy but they also have other specific applications.


  • A compound formed from simple sugar and a separate compound. Many drugs and even some poisons are derived from plants containing these compounds. Specifically, cardiac glycosides are used in the treatment of heart issues including irregular heartbeats and heart failure.

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