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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Can I Make Essential Oils at Home?


Can I Make Essential Oils at Home?

Now, you may have wondered how essential oils are produced and whether or not you can make them at home.

The production of essential oils is a rather complicated process which usually requires specialized equipment and LOTS of plant materials. In the case of the production of rose otto, or rose essential oil, it takes about 2,000 pounds of roses to produce one pound of essential oil.

Although home distillation kits are now available, and you probably can find a few sources through the internet, they are fairly expensive and, for most people, making their own essential oils takes too much time, money and effort to make it worthwhile.

Processes of Extraction from Plants

There are many complex processes for extracting the oils from plants, depending on the herb. For this course, we will only discuss the primary processes of extraction. The two main methods used for extracting essential oils from plants are:

* steam, water or dry distillation or
* simple expression or pressure, (that is, the squeezing of the skin of an orange, for example)

Steam Distillation

The majority of oils such as lavender, myrrh, sandalwood and cinnamon are produced by steam distillation. This process isolates only the volatile and water-insoluble parts of a plant.

Essential oils are usually liquid, but can also be solid (orris root) or semi-solid according to temperature (rose or oakmoss). They dissolve in pure alcohol, fats and oils but not in water.

Unlike plant oils, such as olive oil, essential oils evaporate when exposed to air, leaving no oily residue behind.

I have seen where someone spilled German Chamomile, also known as Blue Chamomile, on a white shirt and within an hour or so; the stain was gone because the oil had evaporated. Other oils, such as patchouli or sandalwood may leave some slight discoloration.
Steam distillation does not leave chemical solvent residues

Cold Pressing

Simple expression or pressure is used to extract essential oils with this method. Basically, this involves squeezing of the skin of an orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit, for example.

Pick up a lemon, an orange and a grapefruit at your local grocery store. Slice the skin off of each of these fruits. Squeeze the skin
between your fingers, folding it over itself. You will see a small spurt of oil and the scent of the fruit will be magnified.

Here in essence, is the essential oil of these citrus fruits. And speaking of citrus fruits, this is a good time to consider the healing qualities of one of the freshest, and relatively inexpensive, essential oils you will find.

Take out your notebook and bottle of sweet orange essential oil. Put one drop on a tissue paper and inhale its scent. (Inhaling directly out of the bottle may be too intense.) Before you read further, consider the following questions and note your responses in your notebook. Be sure to list the full name of the essential oil as well as the day and date of your notations.

Now, consider the following: How were you feeling before you sniffed the oil? How are you feeling now that you have sniffed the oil? Do you like the scent? Why? Why not?

Once you have written down each question and your responses, continue reading.


Sweet Orange, Citrus sinensis

It’s not surprising that sweet orange essential oil is known as an antidepressant. Its fresh, bright scent is uplifting and cheering for most people. It is also helpful in relieving nervous tension and stress.

Diffused into the air, it can not only alleviate mild depression, it can help in dealing with colds and flu, bronchitis and chills
Whatever the plant and however its essential oils are extracted, aromatherapy probably has found some use for the concentrated energies of its oil.

Found in Various Plant Parts

Unlike fixed oils, essential oils are volatile. This means they evaporate rapidly at room temperature, whereas fixed oils, such as vegetable or motor oils, are more stable. Chemically, essential oils consist of a complex mixture of 30 to 100 or more compounds.
The oils themselves are found in various plant parts. Peppermint, patchouli, basil and geranium oils are derived from their leaves and stems. Clove oil comes from flower buds. Jasmine, rose and tuberose oils are derived from the open flowers. Essential oils are also derived from the seeds, wood, bark, roots, needles and skins of various plants.

The following essential oil is derived from the fresh or partially dried leaves and young twigs of a tree.

Take out your notebook and bottle of eucalyptus essential oil. Put one drop on a tissue paper and inhale its scent. (Inhaling directly out of the bottle may be too intense.) Before you read further, consider the following questions and note your responses in your notebook. Be sure to list the full name of the essential oil as well as the day and date of your notations.

Now, consider the following: How were you feeling before you sniffed the oil? How are you feeling now that you have sniffed the oil? Do you like the scent? Why? Why not?

Once you have written down each question and your responses, continue reading.

Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus spp.


The essential oil is produced by steam distillation from the fresh or partially dried leaves and young twigs. The Eucalyptus tree is tall, at times growing more than 300 feet high. Young trees have round bluish-green leaves whereas the mature trees develop long, narrow yellowish leaves, creamy-white flowers and a smooth, pale grey bark often covered with a white powder.

Generally speaking, I've used Eucalyptus globulus in cool mist humidifiers (the manufacturers will NOT recommend doing this, by the way) by putting 10 to 15 drops in the water catch. I've also put 5 to 10 drops in a candlelight diffuser or potpourri pot...where you add water, add the essential oil and then light the tea light.

Eucalyptus is an excellent expectorant. Which means that, if you are congested, you may find yourself “coughing up a lung” along with a lot of phlegm!

Known for its use as a nasal and lung decongestant for colds and flu, Eucalyptus also inhibits proliferation of the cold virus, Patricia Davis in Aromatherapy: An A-Z says, "Eucalyptus used in air sprays or any form of vaporization during epidemics, will give a good measure of protection from flu and the infectious illnesses of childhood."

1 comment:

Robin said...

Great article. I read a lot for my website and never saw a better one than yours on the subject. Thanks. If you might be interested in contributing an excerpt on aromatherapy or making a soap such as lavender soap, or any informative content for our toiletries page, I'd be most grateful.