If you have entered the world of essential oils, then you have probably wondered at one time or another how the oils you use and find so beneficial have actually come to be. Essential oils aren’t necessarily made; rather, they are extracted.
Essential oils are extracted from plant materials instead of being synthetically created in a lab. The extraction method of each oil will vary depending on what methods are best suited for the plant part that has the oils.
Some of the more popular extraction methods include steam distillation, solvent extraction, CO2 extraction, cold press extraction, and water distillation. We will take a closer look at some of these extraction methods below to give you a better idea of where your essential oils come from.
This is the most popular extraction method that is used. During this process, steam vaporizes the volatile compounds of the plant’s material. It then goes through a condensation and collection process. Once this is done, it is siphoned. Essential oils are heavier than water and can be found at the bottom of the separator following the process.
This method is often also called Expression or Scarification. This method is best suited for citrus peels. The fruit is placed in a device that pierces the essential oil sacs underneath the rind of the fruit. The oils then enter the collection area, and the fruit is squeezed. The oil and juice still have parts of the fruit and have to be centrifuged to filter it. The oil is then separated from the juice and then siphoned.
Through this process, one can achieve a more highly concentrated and aromatic oil after being extracted from the plant. Solvent extraction is used, and food-grade solvents are used to isolate the essential oils from the plant material. The material is treated with the solvent to produce what is known as concrete. This is then mixed with alcohol to release the oil particles. The chemicals used during the process remain in the oil. These oils are often used in perfumes and for aromatherapy.
When this method is used, the oils are similar to those that went through distillation. They are often used in aromatherapy and for perfumes. CO2 extraction uses pressurized carbon dioxide, and it becomes a liquid and remains in the gaseous state. It is then pumped into the plant material. The CO2 is like a solvent and pulls the oils from the plant. The essential oils that were pulled then dissolve in the liquid CO2. It is brought back to pressure, evaporates again, and whatever is left is the essential oil.
As you can see, the many different extraction methods yield different results depending on the essential oils you are looking to produce.
Meta: Many methods are used to extract the oils from the plants they come from to create the essential oils we love and use today.