Essential Oil Extraction: How It Works

Essential Oil Extraction: How It Works
Essential Oil Extraction: How It Works

Distilling your own essential oils may seem like an ideal way to create pure essential oils that you know of a high quality. However, learning this process takes considerable time and effort. It will likely take a lot of practice before you can produce your own therapeutic grade oils. It is a science and requires considerable dedication, knowledge and refinement to master.

Steam And Hydro Distillation For Essential Oil Extraction

Hydro-distillation and steam distillation are the most common method of essential oil extraction. Both methods are quite similar and involve steam flowing into a chamber where the raw plant material is. While there the small sacs that contain the essential oil to burst. This oil is then carried by the steam out of the chamber and into a chilled condenser, where the steam becomes water once again. From there the oil and water have to be separated. This water is then what the essential oil is that you purchase.

The Right Temperature For Essential Oil Extraction

You cannot have the temperature of the extraction chamber too high or you will either destroy or alter some parts of the oil. For instance, you cannot process lavender at over 245 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise you will get a ‘harsh’ aroma wherein there is more chemical than floral scent and the oil’s therapeutic effects will be lessened. Of course, this temperature has to be held for a specific amount of time so that ALL of the oil’s components are flushed out of the plant. It is important to understand that some of these components will be released quicker than others.

The End Product In Essential Oil Extraction

There are numerous factors that determine the final quality of essential oil extraction. Apart from the plant material itself, time, temperature and pressure are also important, as is the quality of the distillation equipment. Essential oils are very complex being made up of hundreds of distinct molecules that come together to form the aroma and therapeutic properties. Some of these molecules are delicate and can be either altered or destroyed by adverse environmental conditions. Therefore, making these essential oils is a long, slow process.


Sometimes oils are “overcooked” in the essential oil extraction process. Usually these oils can be used in cosmetics and processed food manufacturing. However, sometimes they are sold to consumers as essential oils for use in aromatherapy. These are the less expensive oils that are available. You should know that these have limited therapeutic value. So, this process has to be mastered in order to have these high quality essential oils available.

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