Vegetable Glycerin

Vegetable Glycerin

Vegetable glycerin (also known as vegetable glycerol or glycerine) is an organic substance extracted from vegetable oils (mostly palm and coconut oils). The compound is clear, colorless, sweet and has an oily consistency. Its chemical structure reveals atoms of hydrogen, three atoms of carbon and three groups of hydroxide which create hydrogen bounds with water thus leading to the thick, oily formula.

Vegetable Glycerin Properties

Vegetable glycerin  is a carbohydrate. It has a sweet taste however it does not raise blood sugar, which makes it great as a sugar replacement in low carb diets. Vegetable glycerin has a low freezing point, it is soluble in water and alcohol and can substitute alcohol in different herbal tinctures and concoctions.

Vegetable Glycerin’s Uses in Food Industry

Although a carbohydrate, vegetable glycerin is metabolized differently than other similar substances. Unlike sugar and sugar-based sweeteners, this substance can be successfully employed in low carb diets as sweetener, without raising blood sugar levels. Its low glycemic index and its high sweetening power advocated the benefits of this substance and convinced American Dietetic Association to include it on the “safe” list.

Vegetable glycerin (aka glycerol or glycerine) increases the shelf life of different food products; therefore it is largely used as a natural preservative. The substance acts as a humectant, keeping cookies fresh and the fillings soft for a long time. In liquors, vegetable glycerin is used as thickening agent.  As a food additive, it is labeled as E422. The substance used in food industry is 99.7% pure, the remaining 0.3% being water.

Uses of Vegetable Glycerin in Cosmetic Industry

The cosmetic industry uses vegetable glycerin on large scale for its humectant properties, its mild action on sensitive skin as well as due to its solubility in alcohol and water, which makes it extremely easy to handle and combine. The substance is nowadays used for soaps and washing gels, toothpastes, skin care and hair care products. Well known for drawing oxygen in the lower layers of the skin, numerous anti-aging products feature the substance on their ingredients list as an emollient or as an active ingredient.

A large variety of acne remedies and anti-acne products feature vegetable glycerin in their composition. Psoriasis and eczema creams and ointments are also rich in vegetable glycerin.

Boosting great solvent properties, the vegetable glycerin is used as a replacement for alcohol in herbal tinctures. The derived products retain all the properties of the original tincture, offering clients the same benefits without the side effects associated with alcohol. However, their lifespan is shorter than that of traditional tinctures.

Side effects of Vegetable Glycerin

Vegetable glycerin (aka glycerol or glycerine) is labeled as a safe substance by FDA, but there are still some risks associated with its use. Allergies to palm or coconut oil, as well as to any of the glycerin’s compounds, are the most frequently reported side effects. Other side effects include skin reactions after prolonged exposure to the substance, irritation of the mucus membranes, swelling tongue, upper respiratory tract infection (in case of prolonged inhalation), nausea and/or diarrhea (after ingesting large quantities of substance). These side effects are however restricted to a small group of people and the probability to experience one or more effects listed above is extremely low.