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Methods Of Extraction

Steam Distillation

The majority of essential oils are obtained by steam distillation in a stainless steel alembic. This is the most common, gentle and productive method of essential oil extraction.

The plants are not directly submerged in boiling water because at high temperatures the most subtle aromas might be altered.

Step 1:

Steam is passed at a low pressure through a tank containing aromatic plants.

Step 2:

The steam causes small sacs containing essential oil to burst and will naturally capture the volatile essential oil compounds that are released into the still as a vapour.

Step 3:

This vapour it will then travel through a cold-water refrigerated pipe to condense itself into a liquid. Since water and essential oil do not mix (essential oils are usually lipophilic compounds), the essential oil will be found on the surface of the water. Occasionally an essential oil is heavier than water and is found on the bottom rather than the top, such as with clove essential oil.

Step 4:

The essential oil and the water can be then be separated by their different densities. The water, referred to as a 'hydrosol' or ‘floral water’, can be retained as it will have some of the plant essence.

Method Of Extraction
Solvent extraction

Absolutes are highly concentrated aromatic substances and are obtained from delicate flowers by either enfleurage (a very expensive process which has become almost obsolete) or solvent extraction. Absolutes will most often resemble the natural aroma of the plant and are normally more colored and viscous than essential oils. Absolutes are used extensively in the cosmetic and perfume industries due to their strong aromas.

  • The solvent will pull out the essential oil from the plant, as well as the chlorophyll and other plant tissue, which produces a highly colored or thick/viscous extract.
  • The first product made via solvent extraction is known as a concrete. A concrete is the concentrated extract that contains the waxes and/or fats as well as the odoriferous material from the plant.
  • The concrete is then mixed with alcohol, which serves to extract the aromatic principle of the material. The final product is known as an absolute.