Food Grade Glycerin
Vegetable glycerin otherwise known as glycerol is a clear and odorless liquid made from certain plant oils such as palm, soy and coconut oil. Food grade vegetable glycerin has a variety of applications including its use in food, as an alcohol substitute in herbal tinctures and in some cosmetic products.
The Production Process
Food grade vegetable glycerin is produced through an extraction process known as hydrolysis. During this process, the vegetable oils are put under a combination of forces from pressure, water and temperature.
When this is done, the ester bonds are broken causing the glycerin to separate from the fatty acids and to be absorbed by the water. At this time, the resultant product gets isolated further by distillation in order to improve its level of purity.
In its purified state, vegetable glycerin has a similar texture to syrup or oil because of its molecular makeup.
What is the difference between Glycerin USP and Food Grade Glycerin?
When a product is labeled as Glycerin USP, it means that it has been approved for use in food and beverages. There is some confusion over the terminology since Glycerin USP and food grade are often used interchangeably.
However, you should always look for a product labeled as USP. If the product is labeled as ‘food grade’ but not USP, you should not use it in your food. This is especially true if it was bought online so be sure to do your research before using the glycerin in your food or herbal preparations.
Food Grade Glycerin Uses
Food grade vegetable glycerin has a USP grade of at least 99% pure, has a sweet flavor and can safely be used in food applications for consumption. It helps keep food moist and is often used to sweeten low carb food products.
Despite having more calories than sugar, vegetable glycerin does not damage the teeth and also has a low GI making it option suitable for diabetics. Besides being used in food, vegetable glycerin is also used in various household products like soaps, shampoo, lotion and toothpaste.
It is a valuable ingredient in skin products because of its humectant properties which basically means that it can attract moisture to your skin.
Food grade glycerin is also an excellent replacement for alcohol for those wanting to make their own herbal and floral tinctures. It is especially useful for people who would prefer to avoid exposure to the alcohol which is commonly used in such tinctures and extracts.
Because of its excellent abilities to hydrate the skin, glycerin is also an ideal remedy that can be applied topically to burns. Food grade vegetable glycerin is suitable for vegans but not all glycerin is food grade. You should keep an eye out for USP grade, kosher certified glycerin.
As a food additive, vegetable glycerin is often seen as an ingredient in candies, fudge, pasta, cereal, condiments, soup, sauce and egg products. It is used because of its ability to retain moisture and add sweetness. In the US, it is considered to be generally safe according to the FDA although there may be some side effects when it is consumed in very large amounts.
Fortunately, the very small amounts that are used in food products are not likely to cause any adverse side effects.
Benefits of Food Grade Glycerin
There is certainly no long list of benefits when it comes to food grade glycerin but it does provide certain benefits that are worth mentioning.
1) In Food
Despite being a carbohydrate, vegetable glycerin does not have a large impact on blood sugar levels and is considered perfectly safe for diabetics using insulin.
It has excellent moistening properties as well as being a good sugar substitute to sweeten many different types of food. Food grade vegetable glycerin is also used because it is a natural preservative.
2) In Herbal Preparations
Food grade vegetable glycerin is also an excellent solvent which can be used when preparing herbal tinctures as an alternative to alcohol. Because of its sweet taste, it can actually make your herbal preparations more palatable and is an excellent alternative for people trying to avoid alcohol.
3) For General Skin Health
Good quality vegetable glycerin also has a variety of excellent uses on the skin. Its powerful moisturizing properties make it suitable for general skin care by keeping your skin looking young and feeling moist.
Food grade glycerin helps keep the skin moist which is essential for healthy skin. It also helps to draw oxygen into your skin which can help keep the skin looking younger. Our skin is constantly bombarded with free radicals that damage the appearance of the skin and age us prematurely.
Vegetable glycerin works well to protect against these effects and even to reverse them. You can safely use food grade glycerin in a face wash or moisturizer. In fact one of the biggest uses of vegetable glycerin is in the soap making process.
4) For Eczema and other skin complaints
Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis are characterized by itching, irritation and infection. Many commercial moisturizers and skin care products can aggravate the condition.
Food grade glycerin is purer and also contains antibacterial properties that can ease discomfort and protect against infection. However, you should not use glycerin on open or weeping and infected skin.
Glycerin, Honey and Green tea Face Cleanser recipe
This recipe is easy to make and will leave your skin feeling soft, healthy and hydrated.
What you will need
- 2 tablespoons of food grade glycerin
- 3-4 tablespoons of good quality honey
- half a cup of green tea.
- a few drops of your favorite essential oils such as lavender or geranium.
Mix all the ingredients well in a blender and store in a sealed container for future use. Use it whenever you like…you will live the fragrance and the feeling.
5) For the Hair
It goes without saying that if vegetable glycerin can encourage skin moisture, then it can have exactly the same positive effect on the scalp. If you are planning to use it in your hair, it is much better to combine it with other types of oil because when undiluted, glycerin may actually reduce moisture in the hair and cause it to break.
When combined with other oils however, it can moisturize the scalp and the hair. You get more out of the glycerin if it is used as a leave in conditioner as opposed to one that you simply rinse out.
Here is a simple recipe for a leave in conditioner using food grade vegetable glycerin….
What you will need:
- 2 tablespoon of food grade vegetable glycerin
- a cup of virgin coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons of sun flower seed oil
- 1 tablespoon of aloe vera gel
- 6 drops of lavender oil
- Simply put all of your ingredients into a blender and mix them up well.
- Put into a sealed container.
- Store in a cool place for use in the future.
- Use the conditioner on your hair when wet and leave in.
Food Grade Glycerin Side Effects
In the small amounts that vegetable glycerin is usually used, it is unlikely to cause any serious side effects. However, in larger doses it does have the potential to cause some harm.
- Laxative effect: When glycerin is consumed in very large quantities, it can cause a laxative type effect. This means that it could cause diarrhea, dehydration and excess urination. Glycerin suppositories are sometimes used as a remedy for constipation because of its laxative properties.
- Nausea, headaches and vomiting: Are all potential side effects of consuming too much glycerin. In medicinal doses, glycerin should always be taken under a doctor’s supervision.
- Rare side effects: Include irregular heartbeat, dizziness and confusion. If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical advice immediately.