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Essential oils are Extracted by these Methods

by Penny Keay

Do you wonder how we get those precious essential oils out of the plant parts?

Well, they are several methods they can be extracted. First and most common method is by Steam Distillation. Other methods include Cold pressing, Hydro distillation, solvent (CO2) extraction and infusion.

Steam distillation

Steam distillation is done by placing the plant parts – such as whole flowers, small twigs, stems or in the case of bark (chopped or ground into smaller pieces first) into a vat typically these parts are resting on a type of screen.

Next these large vats have steam forced from beneath through the plant parts. Essential oils are released into the steam which continues to rise as the steam cools through the cooling tubes the essential oils float on top of the cooler water component that collect in the ‘collection tank’. The oils are removed and readied for sale. The distillation water is recovered too and is known as a hydrosol or floral water.

Cold pressing

Cold pressing is typically done to peels or skins of the essential oils citrus fruits. The oils are then filtered to remove other residues or waxes and then prepared for sale. Some citrus oils are steam distilled also. Some are distilled using the actual peels while others have the cold pressed obtained oils go through a distillation process.

There are those that are processed one step further to make them better and safer. As is the case of Bergamot, they have the furocoumarins removed so they can be used safely on the skin. If the label of Bergamot is followed with FCF it means it has had the furocoumarins removed.

General precaution: it is considered best not to use any cold pressed citrus oils on your skin if it will be exposed to sunlight or other UV light. This is because a phototoxic reaction could and most likely will occur in any person.

Hydro Distillation

Hydro Distillation is similar to Steam distillation, except the plant parts are submersed into a hot water bath, and the resulting steam is cooled and the same procedure as steam distillation follows.

Solvent Extraction

Solvent Extraction When plants are extracted using solvents such as CO2 (Carbon dioxide) they are exposed to the CO2 and then the CO2 (or other solvent) is recovered to be used again. This actually produces what is called a concrete.

The concrete is then processed further to get what is called an absolute . Because the essential oils are not exposed to outside sources of water etc, these extracts often contain the highest amount of minute constituents available from the plant. Concretes and absolutes are sometimes further processed by distillation.

Infused oils

Infused oils are not very reliable sources of essential oils and can contain many contaminates. Infused oils are made by placing the fragrant plant material in a fixed oil such as almond, olive or any of the many available oils.

The plant material is left to sit in the fixed oil for several days, then the old plant material is removed and new is added. Repeating this for several cycles or as desired. Again, this method is not recommended as you can easily get oils contaminated with bacteria, molds and other debris.

Now you know how we get those Precious Essential oils . Some methods are quite costly and along with the small amounts of oils available from the plant material all play into the costs associated with the final product available.

When purchasing essential oils and absolutes the label of the bottle should list the method of extraction. This information is helpful for those looking for specific types of products as each method of extraction will produce a slightly different product.

© 2011, 2015, 2017 Penny Keay All rights reserved Worldwide.
Please do not use my information without my permission.


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