How to extract essential oil plants can be daunting. Some of the most common methods scientist use are through steam distillation and cold pressing. There are other methods, like soaking plant parts in boiling water, hot pressing 0r soaking plants parts in alcohol, but we haven’t studied up on those methods.
We find this whole process just fascinating as we love gardening. We hope you will too!
First of all, for great quality essential oils you need to have healthy plants. Like any plant you are growing, the soil conditions need to be optimal to ensure a healthy plant. For a therapeutic grade oil no chemicals should be used on the plants themselves during the growing season. This is another reason we love oils. They are organic! So once the plant is healthy and ready for harvest it is cultivated at its peak.
The plant type depends on how to extract essential oil plants.
Steam Distillation: Any plant that has flowers, leaves, or even bark (from a tree) can be processed through steam distillation. A steam distillery is a machine in which steams travels upward and saturates the plant material. This causes the plant membranes containing oil to break open and release the oil. Once that happens, the oil becomes a vapor that travels with the steam into the condenser. This is where it returns to liquid form and is separated from the water. The essential oil is then collected into amber bottles for long term storage. Plants such as lavender, basil, celery seed, and even cedarwood are all extracted using the steam distillation method. And did you know a plant can be distilled more than once? Neither did we. And the 2nd or 3rd distillation produces different properties that may only be obtained through more than one distillation.
Cold Pressed: This method to extract essential oil plants is particularly used with fruit. Typically citrus types, like lemon, lime, and grapefruit. Cold pressing is when a heavy weight is used to press the rind of the fruit. You might think essential oil comes from the insides of these fruits, but they don’t. It comes from the rinds. Cold pressing relies solely on the pressure to gain the essential oil from the fruit. Once the heavy weight presses the rind, oils seep out and are collected in dark amber jars for storage. Cold pressing generally produces a higher quality of oil (compared to hot pressing). Did you know it takes the rind of 3000 lemons to produce 1 kilo of oil? Crazy right?
Who knew to extract essential oil plants took so many plants, fruit, and effort?
Every time we use our lemon essential oil we just remember how many lemons it took to fill our small 15 ml bottle. We are having a hard time figuring out how many tomato plants we need to feed a family of 4! We can’t imagine producing on this type of scale.
As we get further into learning about essential oils and how to use them on our homestead we will next walk through a process of oil safety. It’s extremely important to use them safely and carefully, so stay tuned for more info on essential oils.
~Until next time!
Question: Would you have the stamina to grow as many plants and fruits needed for extracting essential oils?
Essential Oils Pocket Referency by Life Science Publishing, Copyright November 2016, Page 5-6