Q.How Are Essential Oils Made?

Essential oils can be made in a variety of ways. The main method today used to extract essential oil is distillation. Essential oils have been extracted since ancient times. For over 5000 years, steam distillation has been used to make aromatic oils. Even in the fifth century A. D., there have been references to panacea and divine water and from the Middle Ages; perfumed waters and waters from flowers have been known to be distilled.

How Are Essential Oils Made?

There are various ways to extract and manufacture essential oils. Manufacturers often choose a method based on the plant’s chemical make-up. Some of the options include using carbon dioxide, chemical solvents, enfleurage, expression techniques, and distillation.

A still is used during the distillation process, wherein a grid is placed inside. Through this sealed still, water or steam removes the hazardous particles. These hazardous particles are fed into a condenser through a feeder pipe, wherein the vapors are cooled back to liquid form.  Because essential oils and water are not soluble, the essential oils will float on the surface and can be easily extracted from this blend.

There are a few distillation methods used to make essential oils. Water is the only medium used mostly with flowers as the use of steam will cause the flowers to wither away and hamper the making of essential oils. The most common method is the use of steam along with water. Normally, this method is used with leaves and herbs. In this method, the material is placed above the water on a grate and an indirect source of steam is laundered to make essential oils. In another method, only steam is passed into the still at a higher temperature and pressure than the previous two methods.

Percolation is another essential oil extraction method developed during recent times and is very akin to steam distillation. Unlike in steam distillation, the steam is injected from the top rather than the bottom and is also for a shorter period. Percolation is used to make essential oils from seeds like dill or fennel, or from tough woody materials.