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Make Essential Oils At Home

Updated on August 10, 2014

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.

The photographs on this lens are generously gifted for use under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please respect the terms of their use if you share any of the images. Product images are from


Understanding How Distilling Works - The principles of distilling are really easy to understand

Woodcut of an old still via wikimedia

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.)

Dieudonné 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.

  1. Choose plant material that is healthy and disease and bug free.

  2. Ensure that the plant has not been sprayed with pesticides or insecticides

  3. Pick early in the day, but after the dew has dried.

  4. Collect when the plant contains it's highest level of volatile oils...this will be after a period of warm sunshine.

  5. Collect on the day you intend to distill.

  6. 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.

By A. Barra (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ideally you need to use the Damask rose to be completely authentic, but any strongly perfumed rose will work.

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.

By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Other People Discussing How To Distill Essential Oils

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Cobalt Blue Dropper Bottles 1/2 Oz - 12 Per Package
Cobalt Blue Dropper Bottles 1/2 Oz - 12 Per Package

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.

Click through here for Quantities and measurements when using essential oils

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!

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.

Click through here for How To Use Essential Oils Safely

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..

Comments - I hope you've enjoyed this page about distilling essential oils: member or visitor, you are very welcome to say hallo in my guestbook.

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    • paulahite profile image

      Paula Hite 

      4 years ago from Virginia

      We make herbed vinegar at our house, so this would be an excellent addition to our cooking. I shared your lens on our G+ page today!

    • greenspirit profile imageAUTHOR

      poppy mercer 

      5 years ago from London

      @M Teubert: Thank you for your kind comments!

    • M Teubert profile image

      M Teubert 

      5 years ago

      I love your lens! Very insightful and informative. I am going to add you to my recommended lenses list.

    • Tasha North profile image

      Tasha North 

      5 years ago

      lavender oil-definetely my favourite,thanks for the great lens

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 

      5 years ago from Michigan

      I am very tempted to buy one of those distilling kits for use in making, not essential oils, but home brandy. Seriously tempted. :)

    • katiecolette profile image


      5 years ago

      Don't think I am ready to take on the project, but I am sure your guide will be very helpful to anyone who would like to try making essential oils on their own.

    • blestman lm profile image

      blestman lm 

      5 years ago

      Great lens. Thorough in your research. I have just starting to use essential oils so this lens is timely for me.

    • hovirag profile image


      5 years ago

      Wow, I learnt so much about distilling essential oils! - I use essential oils on a regular basis and sometimes find it quite difficult to buy a really pure one :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Yes, it would be nice to be able to make some essential oils with someone. A lot more to it than I thought. Great lens.

    • takkhisa profile image


      6 years ago

      There is so many things to learn from this lens! Good job :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow, interesting. It looks a little bit complicated, but I would love to try making essential oils by myself. Fantastic lens!

    • drmork profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens! I really enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing!

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 

      6 years ago from Alabama USA

      This is a great DIY, thanks for sharing. Congrats on the purple star, Blessed by Squid Angel flinnie.

    • MrsNagrom profile image


      6 years ago

      Love this lens! Great for my massage therapy practice. :)

    • greenspirit profile imageAUTHOR

      poppy mercer 

      6 years ago from London

      @MrsNagrom: Using oils distilled by your own fair hand for massage feels very rewarding. I do hope you try this out.

    • greenspirit profile imageAUTHOR

      poppy mercer 

      6 years ago from London

      @poldepc lm: Thanks; I'm thrilled to get it.

    • greenspirit profile imageAUTHOR

      poppy mercer 

      6 years ago from London

      @ItayaLightbourne: Thank you so much Itayas!

    • greenspirit profile imageAUTHOR

      poppy mercer 

      6 years ago from London

      @Fran Tollett: Some essential oils can be very useful in aiding concentration and focus. Others are very earthing and calming, so all in all, you might find that distilling oils is helpful in more ways than one!

    • greenspirit profile imageAUTHOR

      poppy mercer 

      6 years ago from London

      @Rosetta Slone: You are so right; the quality of home distilled oils is wonderful. For one thing they are so fresh. And also you can be sure of their provenance.

    • poldepc lm profile image

      poldepc lm 

      6 years ago

      thanks for sharing this lens; an congrats on the winning of the purple star...

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 

      6 years ago from Topeka, KS

      This is on my list of things to make! Wonderful article. Angel Blessings! :)

    • Fran Tollett profile image

      Fran Tollett 

      6 years ago

      Excellent lens! I really enjoyed learning about the distillation process. It doesn't look hard. It just seems like there is a lot of waiting and watching involved. A lot of gathering and smashing with a lot of patience involved. :-)

      I have adhd so patience is something I work on LOL Great lens <3

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I love lavender and rose oil. This would be great to do. The whole house would smell good while doing it.

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 

      6 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      My husband and I distill our own essential oils using plants, trees & flowers from our farm. We use a distiller set over a wooden fire. It's a lot of hard work for very little oil, but the quality is far above anything I can buy.

    • kimark421 profile image


      6 years ago

      Cool lens. Great info. Thanks!

    • giovi64 lm profile image

      giovi64 lm 

      6 years ago

      Good info.

      Beautiful and interesting lens!

    • greenspirit profile imageAUTHOR

      poppy mercer 

      6 years ago from London

      @giovi64 lm: Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • greenspirit profile imageAUTHOR

      poppy mercer 

      6 years ago from London

      @LisaAuch1: It really is simple Lisa. When you make small batches, the equipment is user friendly and simple to run.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 

      6 years ago from Scotland

      I do love lavander oil! and it costs a small fortune! but you make it sound so simple to make your own!

    • greenspirit profile imageAUTHOR

      poppy mercer 

      6 years ago from London

      @ismeedee: Weirdest thing isn't it? folk have been distilling for over a thousand years, but after all the early 20th century prohibition business, setting up a still has become an almost taboo thing to do.

    • ismeedee profile image


      6 years ago

      I'd love to do this. And I can imagine what people would think I was getting up to if I had one of those jobbies in my kitchen- tehe!

    • greenspirit profile imageAUTHOR

      poppy mercer 

      6 years ago from London

      @remowill: These essential oil stills are definitely for the home, so that you can make essential oil for personal use, rather than for bulk production. If it takes 550 pounds/ 250 kilos of lavender flowers to make one pint of lavender oil; that's a lot of Lavender, and a pretty big still to consider.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I've been buying essential oils for resale , but never even thought of distilling my own. This would be a great way to get going. But I don't know if I'm ready to do 500 lbs of plant material.

    • greenspirit profile imageAUTHOR

      poppy mercer 

      6 years ago from London

      @choosehappy: Distilling essential oils is just magic. Well it's alchemy, which used to be thought of as magic! When you see that fine layer of oil start to float on the water you feel part of an amazing heritage.

    • choosehappy profile image


      6 years ago from US

      Wow. Impressive! I may have to try this soon.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I've thought about distilling my own oils but wasn't brave enough. I think I might give it a try after reading this.

    • greenspirit profile imageAUTHOR

      poppy mercer 

      6 years ago from London

      @Soapmarked: The Norfolk Lavender Company state that it takes from 550 pounds/ 250 kilos of lavender flowers to make a pint of oil. I've never distilled oils on a large scale, and get pretty thrilled to get 1 ml from a small batch. What I really like is the fact that I made it from my own lavender I get a really good quality lavender hydrosol free as a by-product, which has many of the healing qualities of the oil.

    • Soapmarked profile image


      6 years ago from TX

      This is great; I've been wanting to begin distilling my own essential oils as I use so much of them making bath and body products! I definitely have my eye on that kit. I have been hesitating as I know it can take quite a lot of plant matter to yield a useable amount of the essential oil. Do you have any idea how much lavender would be needed (roughly) to yield an ounce of oil?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I enjoy reading this lens, great job! Squidlike

    • microfarmproject profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting. Looks like a fun project to try.

    • stylishimo1 profile image


      6 years ago

      I don't have a still at home yet but after reading this I want one. I have bookmarked this lens for when I get around to distilling essential oil.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      We don't have a still, but we have lots of herbs and lavender and this sounds like a fun project. Excellent lens and information, love the old illustrations. Blessed.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Really great suggestions here for healthier eating!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow!!! I think I would love to do this!!! Thanks for sharing this with us! Blessed!

    • jaredsgirl profile image


      6 years ago

      I would love to distill at home, but thought it would be too hard to do. Your lens is super helpful. I'm bookmarking this for future use. Thanks a bunch!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Actually, I worked with a terpene chemicals company in Jacksonville for about 5 years ... they were distilling every day. Many of their components were for flavors and fragrances and then more industrial products, like cleaners. So, I understand distilling and would love to try it at home.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great information here, very good resource. Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • troybreimon lm profile image

      troybreimon lm 

      7 years ago

      great post on distilling

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Never distilled, but would like to learn how to.

    • M Schaut profile image

      Margaret Schaut 

      7 years ago from Detroit

      Yes, I've been thinking about this for while. Wonderful page!

    • greenspirit profile imageAUTHOR

      poppy mercer 

      7 years ago from London

      I haven't tried the Mellisa, as it grows like a weed and I make tea with it a lot; always wondered why it was so expensive. Now I know.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have a still and have tried to distill peppermint and lemon balm essential oils so far. The peppermint worked pretty well but I hardly got any from the lemon balm. Probably why it's so expensive!


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