Essential oils are obtained through extraction from some specific plants materials like leaves and stems. There are several ways in which one can extract these natural medications. When extracting essential oils, it’s imperative to remember that these essences mix with fats, oils, and alcohol but not with water. The method of extraction largely depends on the availability of equipment and the composition of the chemicals within the plant in question. The following are some of the most common ways of making essential oils.
Distillation is perhaps the oldest and commonest method of obtaining essential oils from plants. Freshly cut plant materials are placed into boiling water. As the water boils, it evaporates together with the essential oil in the plant material. As the vapor rises, it is captured using a vessel and directed into a tubing. Subsequently, the steam is cooled to make it condense and regain its liquid state before being pushed back into the water.
Since essential oils are not soluble in water, the two liquids form separate layers, making it easy for one to collect the essence. The remaining water doesn’t, however, go to waste; it is regarded as a useful by-product. This is because some plants containing essential oils also boast other properties that are soluble in water. Also known as a hydrosol, the water left after distillation is extremely fragrant and highly valuable for aromatherapists. It is also used for cosmetics purposes especially to moisturize the skin.
This is a more direct method of obtaining essential oils from plant materials. It involves pressing the oils from the plants’ fresh skins, seeds, and flesh, a procedure that is a whole lot similar to the one used to acquire olive oil. This method is suitable and exclusively used for citrus plants such as lime, lemon, orange bergamot, grapefruit, and mandarin. The reason being, the oil produced by citrus plants can get easily damaged by the heat used for distilling essential oils.
Essential oils from citrus fruits are found in the colored, outer layer of the peel known as flavedo. The expression method is also known as cold-pressing because the essential oils are literally pressed from the peel using a machine or hands at ambient temperatures. Using hands as a method of extracting essential oils from citrus plants can be fun, particularly at home. However, a machine is often used for largescale extraction. The two processes are fundamentally the same as they both involve the use of force to produce an essence that smells precisely like the fruit from which it’s obtained.
Use Of Solvents
Solvents such as methanol, ethanol, hexane, and petroleum ether will come in handy when looking to extract essential oils. This process involves dissolving the plant’s fresh materials in a solvent with a lower boiling point. The solvent is subsequently evaporated with the aid of a machine that employs centrifugal force to help separate the essential oils from the solvent.
This solvent will also extract some plant tissues such as chlorophyll, creating a viscous product. The extract is then mixed with alcohol to produce an absolute. These absolutes are usually thick, highly aromatic and darker when compared to the essential oils obtained through steam distillation and expression.
This process is however very costly thus it’s reserved for the essences that cannot be distilled such as vanilla and jasmine. Owing to the expenses associated with producing these essences, making them at home might not be practical. Such essential oils can be purchased via visiting Veranda Interiors. Aromatherapists are often apprehensive of using essential oils extracted through the use of solvents, fearing that there might be traces of the utilized solvent in the final product. However, the solvents are completely removed through evaporation.
Enfleurage has been used for many decades to extract essential oils, a method that involves the use of fat. In ancient times, only lard or animal fats were used, but in recent days, vegetable fat has also been integrated into this method. Blossoms from the plants containing essential oil are placed on sheets of warm fat. The fat consequently absorbs the essential oils from the flowers. At this point, the deflated flowers are handpicked and replaced with other fleshly cut floras.
This process should be repeated several times, but in the end, the fat will be infused with essential oils. The two products are, therefore, separated using solvents. This extraction method is especially ideal for plants that keep producing aroma post harvestings such as tuberose and jasmine.
In conclusion, essential oils are not manufactured in laboratories; they are extracted from specific plant materials through extraction. The methods discussed above are suitable for particular types of plants, and some techniques might adversely affect the oil quality when applied to some other herbs. A good example manifests where distillation will do more harm than good when used on citrus plants, in which case expression should be employed.