Methods of Extraction

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Which Gives the Highest Quality Oil?

neem flower

Methods of extraction...There are three methods of extraction: the mechanical press, steam and high pressure extraction, and solvent extraction.

The method that has been used from antiquity is the mechanical press. The kernels are squeezed by a screw or some kind of press forming pressure until oil is pressed out and collected.

In the steam and high pressure method the kernels are heated with steam to increase the oil flow then they are squeezed under high pressure. With this method most of oil is extracted, but it’s dark and smells unpleasant. The high temperatures may destroy many of the beneficial active compounds.

In solvent extraction the kernels are finely ground and put into a container with a petroleum solvent, usually white gasoline or hexane. The hexane captures the neem oil and pulls it out. The solvent is then recovered leaving relatively clear oil. Many of the oils active compounds are left behind because they are not soluble in the hexane. Many of these compounds are pungent smelling so the oil is more usable in health and beauty aids. Most seed processors use this method.

Once the oil is extracted it is placed in metal drums for storage and shipment. If the drums are used drums they may have chemical residue that could contaminate the neem oil.

The best of the three methods of extraction for obtaining an oil with all the active compounds is by the cold press method. This also eliminates the possibility of residual solvents contaminating the oil. The down side to using this method is that it is a more expensive method resulting in a more expensive product. A lot of processors won’t use this method because oil is left behind, whereas with the chemical solvent method all of the oil is extracted.

If the seed kernels are old and rancid this will make the oil dark in color and smell bad, like strong sulfur. The seeds need to be light green in color. This means a fresh seed resulting in oils that are light in color with only a slight odor and a tolerable bitter taste. The fruit must be picked from the tree rather than gathered from the ground in order to get high quality neem oil.

The fresh neem fruit is taken to air conditioned facilities where they are washed to remove the fruit from the seeds. They are air dried in a cool room with low humidity. The seeds are de-husked and then cold pressed only once to obtain super virgin cold-pressed oil. The oil is placed in new drums, rather than used ones, for the storage step.

The oil from a second pressing can be used to obtain oil for soap making and insect repellents.

So of the three methods of extraction cold press gives the best oil with all the active components.

Detail of Painted Building, Pushkar, Rajasthan State, India
Detail of Painted Building, Pushkar, Rajasthan State, India

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Simoni, Marco
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