Make Essential Oils At Home
The Art Of Distilling Essential Oils At Home
If you want to make essential oils at home, the simplest way to do it is to buy an essential oil distilling kit.
They aren't difficult to use; in fact they make it surprisingly easy, and the essential oil and hydrosol produced is as good as anything you can buy. A bonus is the fact that you know where your plant material came from, and the conditions under which it is made.
Distilling used to be commonplace; something that many households did as a matter course, although mostly to make alcohol. In earlier centuries many homes had a 'still room' where herbs and alcohol were distilled, home remedies prepared, and all sorts of useful household products made.
Maybe prohibition played a part in it becoming less popular, and maybe it's just the world we live in now where we buy things instead of making them, but we do seem to be losing this valuable skill. I love rediscovering and promoting these old traditions, so here's my very simple, everyman guide to distilling.
I like to make essential oils at home because I'm fascinated by making things for myself, and also because I like aromatic plants and essential oils. I use essential oils at home for loads of things; and if you're interested you can find links at the end of this page to various related articles.
We take it for granted that others make most of the things we need and buy, and It was only recently that it occurred to me that it would be wonderful to make essential oils at home. The plants you need are growing in the garden. Build a still, or start off with one of the distilling kits here and see how you go. Happy distilling!
A woodcut of a still by By John French [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons of an old still.
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Understanding How Distilling Works - The principles of distilling are really easy to understand
I chose this picture because it is so self explanatory.
When water is heated, steam is given off. If this steam is passed through plant material, the steam collects oils from the material. To extract the oil from the steam, you need to make the steam turn back into water again, at which point the oils in the steam will now float on the surface of the water, ready to be collected.
Getting the steam to turn back into water in an accessible container, rather than on the walls of your kitchen is the tricky bit, and is the reason why stills are always closed units.
Steam turns back to water when it comes into contact with something colder than itself. This is what condensation is, and to help steam to condense in a still, there always needs to be some sort of cooling system to aid condensation. In the basic still in this woodcut, that cooling is provided by simply running cold water over the glass containing the steam.
What You Can Expect From A Home Distilling Kit
It's important to explain here that you will only get a very small amount of oil from each batch processed with these stills because the flask capacity is small.
Large stills are really expensive, so if you get to the point where you want to make large quantities of oil, you will best consider building your own.
Considering that a little goes a long way, and you only ever use a few drops at a time, making small batches is not a problem.
Also, along-side the drops of oil, you will also be making really lovely hydrosols, or plant infused waters as a by product. These waters contain the same fragrance, flavour, and many of the same compounds found in the oils.
Rose Water, Lavender Water and Orange Water are justly famous and loved; they can be used in the same ways as the oils as well as in face washes and cookery. Please note that not all plants and their derivatives are suitable for internal use, so do check the plant and essential oil safety lists to see which are safe to use.
Is There A Difference Between Distilling Essential Oils And Distilling Water?
Water distillers and oil distillers are quite different
Essential oil distillers have two compartments, one for the water and one for the plant material, whereas water distillers only have one internal compartment
You get much better quality essential oil if your material is steamed rather than boiled during the distilling process.
This means that to distill essential oils properly, you need two receptacles: one for the boiling water, and one for the plant material.
One More Thing You Will Need To Make Essential Oils At Home - A temperature controlled hot plate.
Although you can use any source of heat already available in your kitchen, many people find that an independent hot plate like this allows the distiller to be set up exactly where you want.
It's convenient, fuss free, and means you can distill wherever you have an elecric supply. This extends your options for working to places like the garage, and also means that if you have the space you can leave it all set up as a permanent unit ready for action.
Making Essential Oils At Home : Essential Oil Of Geranium
What Can I Distill At Home? - Herbs and flowers to distill at home
It's amazing how many fruits, flowers and leaves we have around us that can be distilled.
Some will yield much more oil than others, and yields will also alter depending upon various factors including the weather during the months leading up to collection, and the size and efficiency of your still.
It's worth checking round the garden to see what you have growing; the following list contains some of the plants that I have in my garden, plus fruits that I can buy.
- Petals and whole flowers: Fragrant flowers such as rose and lavender. (Jasmine doesn't come out well at all.)
- Leaves, particularly those that are thick or strong smelling: Rose Geranium, Rosemary, Sage and Bay. (I haven't managed to extract much oil from the mints.)
- Some fruit skins: the oils reside in the outer coloured skin of the citrus fruits. Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit. ( these are really easy and very satisfying to make.)
DieudonnÃ© Auguste Lancelot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
How To Collect Plant Material To Extract Essential Oils - How you collect plants affects how much oil you get.
Choose plant material that is healthy and disease and bug free.
Ensure that the plant has not been sprayed with pesticides or insecticides
Pick early in the day, but after the dew has dried.
Collect when the plant contains it's highest level of volatile oils...this will be after a period of warm sunshine.
Collect on the day you intend to distill.
Do not leave plant material in the sun, or anywhere damp, as the oils will begin to be lost.
Lavender Flowers Being Distilled - This is a really clear demonstration of a working still
Make Lavender Oil At Home
Lavender is not the easiest oil to extract, but it is so useful in general, that if I were able to distill only one essential oil, it would be Lavender oil.
Even if you only manage to extract a very small amount, you will also have the lavender scented water or hydrosol from the process also. This by-product carries some of the properties of the essential oil and can be used in cosmetics and cooking.
Make Rose Oil At Home
Making your own rose oil is irresistible, but be warned; you get only a tiny amount of rose oil for your labours. As it is expensive to buy, and you only need a drop in a carrier oil, it seems worth the effort to me. Besides, it feels such an achievement to distill your own Attar of Roses. There is also the added bonus of the beautiful rose water that you will create during the process.
Make Lemon Verbena Oil At Home
Although not totally hardy, I manage to grow Lemon Verbena successfully by keeping it in large pots and taking it into my greenhouse over winter. I love the deep, fruity smell of the leaves; Lemon Verbena oil is...incredibly lemony! This is a great herb to try your distilling out on. It gives a fresh clean fragrance to the house, and is very useful in cooking.
Other People Discussing How To Distill Essential Oils
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- How to Make Essential Oils
WikiHow article on making essential oils
- Distillation of Essential Oils
How to Distill Essential Oils: Reports, Books and Reviews
- esoteric oils
Over view of distilling methods
- How To Distill Essential Oils
Illuutrated guide to steam distilling
- Home Distiller
Essential Oil Distillation
Hobbyist site with good forums and articles
Collecting Essential Oil Once It's Distilled - Cobalt Blue Storage Bottles
Once you have distilled a beaker of fragrant water, and you have some essential oil floating on the surface, you need to separate the oil from the water and store it safely.
You will need some bottles to store your essential oil. It's much better to keep essential oils in dark coloured glass bottles to prevent light damage.
I like the clour of these 1/2 oz blue glass bottles with dropper ...they come in a pack of 12 Per Package.
Once You Have Collected Your Essential Oil, You Will Need To Learn About Quantities And Blending.
Measurements and Quantities For Blending Essential Oils
Once you have understood some basic quantity ratios, and know the standard ways in which essential oils are measured, creating essential oils blends is easy.
I've put all the drops per bottle and drops to millilitre in one place, and arranged it in as simple a way as possible, so that you can just get on with the recipes, and get the quantities right first time.
Distilling Essential Oils Is An Ancient Art; Keep The Skill Alive And Start Making Your Own!
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Check Out The Using Essential Oils Safely Page
Before you start using any oils, it's worth understanding some basic safety measures.
Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts from plants, and contain powerful chemical compounds. You need to treat them with respect and use them with care and caution.
You are strongly advised to aquaint yourself with the various limitations and side effects of certain oils, as well as have a basic understanding of safe practice when using essential oils..