Monday, January 15, 2007

How to Make Essential Oils

Essential oils can be quite expensive to buy so I though I would cover how you can make many of them at home.

Firstly, what is an essential oil? The formal definition for essential oil is that it is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid that contains volatile aromatic compounds from flowers and plants. In pure layman's terms it's the concentrated smelly stuff from flowers!

Most essential oils are made commercially by distillation. In this process the raw plant material, which can be in the form of flowers, bark, leaves, stems, roots or seeds, is placed on a rack above the water in a still. When the water is heated, the steam passes through the flowers vaporizing the complex volatile compounds. These vapors then pass through a cooling coil and condense back into liquid form. The essential oil itself then forms a film on the top of the liquid. It is then separated by skimming. The remaining water underneath the oil is a product known as a hydrosol and is often sold in this form as rose water or lavender water.

Unless you live in West Virginia and have a cousin with a still this probably isn't a practical method to use at home. Luckily distillation is a fairly modern method of producing essential oils so we have some more traditional alternatives for making our own fragrance oils.

Enfleurage is the process of placing flower petals or similar plant material onto trays of odourless vegetable oils which will absorb the flower's volatile essential oils. You can use a variation of the technique to make your own essential oils. Although this doesn't produce oils as concentrated as you can purchase, this is fairly easy to do at home given the raw materials.

You can use a variety of vegetable oils in this process including olive oil, sweet almond oil or refined jojoba oil.

How to make essential oils:

You will need:

Half a cup of oil
Four cups of tightly packed flowers (see instructions)
A wide-mouth jar such as a mason jar
A wooden mallet or similar
A zipping plastic bag
Some cheesecloth for filtering

You will need four cups of flowers picked over the course of a week for the best results.

Put one cup of the flowers into the plastic bag and expel as much of the air as you can before sealing. Bruise the flowers in the bag with a wooden mallet. The idea behind putting them in a plastic bag first to cut down on the mess and to avoid losing any of the material. Don't bash them to a pulp, this isn't necessary, just hit the bag a dozen times gently.

Mix the flower material with the oil well and place it into the jar. Seal the jar and put it into a warm place for about 48 hours. A sunny window ledge or a warm spot in the kitchen is fine. The warmer the spot, the less time they need to be left but don't overdo the warming or you may damage the oils.

Filter the mixture through the cheesecloth and return the oil to the jar. Discard the filtered flower material.

Take the next cup of flowers and repeat the bruising process. Mix this batch with the oil from step one and leave in a warm place for another 48 hours or so.

Repeat twice more with the next two cups of flowers.

After the final straining, transfer the oil to a storage bottle and keep in a cool, dark place. Colored bottles are ideal for storage. This will keep for up to a year.

This whole process to make your own essential oil will take a week or so so isn't as quick as the distillation process but of course doesn't involve the expense of building or buying a still.


Cheryl said...

Thank you for this great tutorial! Exactly what I was looking for!

mimirachel said...

Hi in Winnipeg Canada. very good explanations of these two extraction methods. I can see how the distillation would be more concentrated and am not ruling out making my own perfume still but I like the oil layer method alot because a week is not a long time to wait when the actual prep time is not that bad. am trying with lilac of which there are trees everywhere where I live in prairie Canada.
kindest regards!!
michelle in winnipeg

Chef Patat said...

Since nobody commented, I have no idea if it works. Nevertheless it sounds very interesting and I am definitely going to try it ... immediately. thanks for sharing the knowledge

Farhan said...

hey! great post but i was wonderin something
what if you brush the e.oil and alcohol mixture on a screen and leave it in the air, so that the moistue from the air is absorbed in tht mixture, and hence the perfume is completed in tht specific place
Do u think this idea will work??? or am i just imagining far too ahead? :P :D
thnxy :)

randomannyomous143 said...

can you do this step with apples as well and still have the same affect?

AnarchyArtStudios said...

Do you only use the flower part or do you use the whole thing. For example, if I were to pick marigolds, would I only use the flowered head part or the whole stem like I would use to put it in a vase?

Soughtout said...

Thanks for providing this useful and for me, important, information.

Soughtout said...

Thanks for providing such useful and, for me, important information.

Revista Teen Life said...

I've looked all over the internet searching for a way to make essential oils, and yours is definitly the best!! congratulations and keep posting !

LouiseDiamondLace said...

Johoba oil will work great for this as well!