“Do you buy this essential oil or do you make it yourself?” This question was asked when I posted my blog on Geranium essential oil last week. And I realized that it might be of interest to talk about how an essential oil comes into being.
My answer to the question was that I buy my essential oils. I wish I could make them but the process requires time and resources that I don’t currently have and will probably never have and hopefully you will understand why that is so by the time you finish reading this post.
Just as each EO is different, there are many different things to consider before you actually “make” an EO. Better to say collect an EO as you are not making it. The care and growing of the plant from the start needs to be thought about. What you feed a plant will reflect in its essential oil. Where in the world a plant grows makes a difference. Similar EOs will often be slightly different from year to year based on the growing conditions that season. Most plants need to be harvested at a particular time of year. Some even need to be harvested at a particular time of day! Jasmine blossoms need to be picked in the early morning sunrise as the essential oil gathers in the flower during the night. Depending on the plant and the method of extraction, different quantities are required to produce an essential oil. It takes about 30 roses to make just 1 drop of Rose EO – and there are about 20 drops in 1ml. That is a lot of rose petals! I’m already exhausted just thinking about the prep work involved in the planting and harvesting and we haven’t even gotten to the actual process of extracting the EO from a plant.
Some plants produce different essential oils from the different parts of the plant. Sweet Orange EO comes from the peel of the orange. Neroli EO comes from the blossoms of the orange tree. And Petitgrain EO comes from the leaves of the orange tree. And of course different types of plant material require different extraction methods. Steam distillation is probably the most common and I touched on this in my blog entitled “What is an essential oil?” But there are a few other extraction methods that are also used. EOs that come from the peel of a fruit like lemon or orange are generally extracted by “expression” – the peel is pressed to release the essential oil. For delicate flower blossoms like rose or jasmine, usually a solvent extraction method is used. Blossoms are placed on a thin layer of fat. The oil from the blossom is absorbed by the fat. After 24 hours the blossoms are removed and new blossoms are added. This process can continue for up to 3 months until the fat is completely saturated with the essential oil from the blossoms. The fat is then cleaned and the EO is separated from the fat after several different processes take place. Neither an easy nor a simple thing to do. There are other solvent extraction methods that exist for separating the EOs found in tree gums and resins. And even a liquid carbon dioxide extraction method is being used. The various processes involved can get quite complex.
I suspect that gives everyone a clearer idea of why I buy my essential oils. As fun as it would be, separating EOs from their plant material is a full time job and best left to professionals in that field.