Vegetable glycerin, or glycerol, is a clear, odorless liquid produced from plant oils, typically palm oil or soy. It is a colorless, odorless, viscous liquid that is sweet-tasting and non-toxic. It easily dissolves in water.
Uses and Benefits
It is widely used in the food industry as a sweetener and humectant and in pharmaceutical formulations.
In food and beverages, glycerin serves as a humectant, solvent, and sweetener, and may help preserve foods. It is also used as filler in commercially prepared low-fat foods (e.g., cookies). As a food additive, glycerin is labeled as E number E422. It is added to icing (frosting) to prevent it from setting too hard. Glycerin has a caloric density similar to table sugar, but a lower glycemic index and different metabolic pathway within the body, so some dietary advocates accept glycerin as a sweetener compatible with low-carbohydrate diets.
Pharmaceutical and personal care applications
Glycerin is used in medical, pharmaceutical and personal care preparations, mainly as a means of improving smoothness, providing lubrication, and as a humectant. It is found in allergen immunotherapies, cough syrups, elixirs and expectorants, toothpaste, mouthwashes, skin care products, shaving cream, hair care products, soaps, and water-based personal lubricants. In solid dosage forms like tablets, glycerin is used as a tablet holding agent. For human consumption, glycerin is classified by the U.S. FDA among the sugar alcohols as a caloric macronutrient.
Glycerin is a component of glycerin soap. Essential oils are added for fragrance. This kind of soap is used by people with sensitive, easily irritated skin because it prevents skin dryness with its moisturizing properties. It draws moisture up through skin layers and slows or prevents excessive drying and evaporation.
Glycerin, along with propylene glycol, is a common component of e-liquid, a solution used with electronic vaporizers (electronic cigarettes).