Tag Archives: distillation

EXTRACTION METHODS FOR ESSENTIAL OILS, what is the difference?

There are different ways of extracting the essential oils, or scents, from plant matter and I will explain the methods in this post. Some oils can be extracted through different methods and give EO’s  different in scent: Rose, for example, is both distilled; Rose Otto, and solvent extracted; Rose absolute, giving very different scents. Jasmine can be both solvent extracted; Jasmine absolute, and extracted through enfleurage; Jasmine enfleurage, but it can’t be steam distilled.

SteamdistillationSTEAMDISTILLATION:  The most commonly used method.  Steam is passed through the plant matter, “popping” the essential oil cells in the plant, carrying the light-weight EO with it into a cooler where the steam returns to water and the essential oil separates from the water. This is then collected in a vessel where water and essential oil will  separate since EO’s don’t mix with water. Depending on the density of the EO, it will either sink to the bottom or stay on top of the water. The EO is then taken out and bottled while the water is either used again or bottled as a hydrolat. The steam will only carry molecules that are light-weight enough, leaving behind waxes and other heavier plant-matter. Other light-weight molecules that are water-soluble will be carried by the steam and stay in the resulting water, hydrolat, which also contains tiny amounts of EO.

SOLVENT EXTRACTION (absolute, concrete, resinoid):This method is used mainly for very fragile materials such as flowers (jasmine, tuberose), or to extract scents for perfumery, as absolutes tend to be more true in scent to the real thing. The plant matter is mixed with a solvent, usually hexane, in which essential oil, waxes and colour is extracted from the plant matter. The solvent is then distilled off, leaving a waxy, semi-solid substance called concréte which consists of essential oil and other plant substances such as natural waxes. The concréte is then mixed with alcohol and filtered from all substances but the aromatic material. After evaporating the alcohol, there is an absolute.

COLD EXPRESSION: This method is used for all citrus oils, where the essential oil is found in the rind of the fruit. There are two different methods: The sponge method: The rind and pith is removed from the fruit and soaked in warm water to become more pliable. It was then inverted to break the cells that hold the essential oil. The EO is collected by sponges which are then squeezed to release the liquid. Water and EO separates. Écuelle à picquer: The citrus is placed in a rotating device with needles that break the EO cells, the oil and water-based material run off through a funnel, the oil is separated from the water and bottled.

CO2 EXTRACTION: Hypercritical carbon dioxide gas extraction. CO2 is the gas we breath out and the gas that plants thrive on. Carbon dioxide becomes hypercritical when a certain amount of pressure is applied, which means that the gas is turned into a liquid. This liquid can be used as a safe solvent for extracting EO’s from plant matter. CO2 is inert and doesn’t interact with the essence that is being extracted, furthermore there is no thermal degradation of the essence, since heat is not being applied. To remove the CO2, all that is needed is to remove the pressure, turning the liquid into gas, which can be used again, leaving only the EO. To obtain EO’s, relatively low atmospheric pressure is needed, extracting only the volatile parts of the plant. When higher atmospheric pressure is used, “heavier” plant materials are extracted as well (waxes, resins), leaving a substance much like the absolutes but without any traces of solvents.

enfleurageENFLEURAGE: A very old, time-consuming method which is hardly ever used today. The only oil I have come across that is extracted this way is a lovely Jasmine. There is not much of it around and it is very costly. Cold enfleurage: Odorless fat that is solid at room-temperature  (usually deodorized tallow or lard) is smeared onto framed glass-plates, called “chassis“, upon which the flower petals are spread in a single layer. The scent is then absorbed by the fat. Once the petals are depleted, they are removed and new petals are spread onto the fat. This is repeated until the fat is saturated with scent, it is then called a pomade. The pomade is mixed with alcohol, drawing the scent into the alcohol. The fat and alcohol is then separated and when the alcohol evaporates it leaves the absolute. Hot enfleurage:Petals are stirred into deodorized fat and heated. Again, depleted petals are strained and new added until the saturation is complete. The rest of the process is the same as in cold enfleurage. The remaining fat is used for soap as it is still scented. If you have read or seen “The Perfumer”, this is the method he used to extract the scent of woman 🙂

RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ESSENTIAL OIL

Picture from: http://www.sustainablescoop.com

Quite often people comment on the price of essential oils, they find them expensive. The size of the bottles may be small, but what is in there is an astonishing amount when considering below facts. When they are pure, unadulterated and therapeutic grade essential oils, they most definitely are a gift from nature. Then consider that some oils are from wild plants; they are not grown in perfect, easily accessible rows, but scattered over a large area – more often than not making cutting by hand obligatory. Some oils, such as Melissa and Rose require huge amounts of plant-matter, further explaining the high prices of these oils. You get what you pay for.

 

Obtaining 1kg of its essential oil requires:
– 7 kg of dried buds of cloves (Eugenia caryophyllus)
– 50 kg of lavandin (Lavandula burnati)
– 150 kg of true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
– 1 ton of immortelle (Helichrysum italicum)
– 4 tons of petal of Damascus rose (Rosa damascena)
– 5 to 10 tons of Melissa (Melissa officinalis)

CHAMOMILE

There are mainly 2 different chamomiles used in aromatherapy: German or “blue” chamomile and Roman chamomile.

German chamomile (Matricaria recutita): An annual aromatic plant, up to 60 cm high. It has a branching stem, feathery leaves and simple white flowers with a yellow center. It is native to Europe, but is now naturalized in North America and Australia. It is mainly cultivated in Hungary and eastern Europe where most of the oil is produced. All over Europe it can be found growing along fields and road-sides. The name “German” comes from earlier days when Germany was its main producer. It is often called Blue chamomile thanks to its deep blue-green color due to the chemical chamazulen. Chamazulen is not present in the fresh flower, it is only produced during the distillation process. The oil comes from steam-distillation of the flower heads.

It has a long tradition as a medicinal herb for all kinds of tension and for its anti-inflammatory properties. Usually it has been used in the form of tea or infusion. The scent is herbaceous with a fruity tinge.

USES:

  • SKIN: All kinds of inflammation; Acne, boils, dermatitis, eczema, inflammations, insect bites.
  • MUSCLE: Anti-inflammatory; rheumatism, inflamed joints, aches and pains, neuralgia, fibromyalgia.
  • EMOTION: Calming and relaxing to the nervous system; Headaches, insomnia, nervous tension, stress.
  • STOMACH: Anti-inflammatory and calming; Colic, indigestion and nausea. (Massage, tea & infusion)

This is a safe oil to use for children, elderly and weak individuals. Remember to keep the dosage down. The oil will stain both skin and materials.

Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile): A small perennial plant, up to 25 cm high with a branched hairy stem, feathery leaves and white flowers with yellow centers, the flowers are larger than those of German chamomile. The whole plant spreads in a creeping manner and has an apple-like scent. It is native to southern and western Europe, now naturalized in North America. It is cultivated in England, Belgium, Hungary, USA, Italy and France. The oil comes from steam-distillation of the flower heads, the scent is warm, sweet and herbaceous.

It has been used as a medicinal plant for at least 2000 years, especially in the Mediterranean area. The ancient Egyptians made note of it, as did the Romans. The ancient Greeks called it earth-apple (kamai – earth +melon – apple) which later turned into chamameleum.

USES:

It is used much in the same way as German chamomile, being calming, anti-inflammatory, hypnotic and a nerve sedative. The roman chamomile has a different, more profound calming action than the German C. According to Dr’s Franchomme & Penoel, Roman chamomile is useful as a calming agent before operations.

This oil is safe to use for children, elderly and weak individuals. Remember; lower dosage. Excellent oil for babies suffering from colic.

Experience: I have had great use of Roman chamomile for my children when they have suffered from stomach-ache or anxiety. Colic: Blend 1 drop in 5ml vegetable oil, rub on tummy (clockwise) cover with a warming pad, lay against shoulder and rock baby gently. The oil, soothing motion and the massage that is given by the rubbing against the shoulder usually helps baby to calm down.

German chamomile is brilliant as an anti-inflammatory for most skin-problems, even eczema. Just pay attention to dosage. I find the scent reviving though calming. I have used it with great success for horses; both emotionally and as a healing agent for wounds.

ROCK ROSE

Cistus, Labdanum (Cistus ladaniferus)

A perennial shrub up to 3 metres high which grows wild in warm sheltered places on some mountainous Mediterranean islands and in the Middle East. The leaves are lance-shaped with white furry undersides, and the flowers are yellow with purple splashes at the center. The parts used for extraction are leaves and twigs.

Cistus produces 5 products:

  1. Crude gum of Labdanum: Dried leaves and twigs are boilde in water. The gum is skimmed off the surface of the water and dried. This is used as a herbal substitute for ambergris.
  2. Resinoid of Labdanum: The crude gum is mixed with alcohol and filtered.
  3. Oil of Labdanum: Essential oil by steam-distilling the crude gum. This oil is used by aromatherapists. It is also a highly valued raw material for perfumers.
  4. Concrète & Absolute of Labdanum: The dried leaves and twigs are extracted with the help of a solvent. This is widely used in cosmetics, perfumes and soaps as a warm balsamic scent with excellent fixative properties.
  5. Oil of Labdnum: Essential oil by steam-distilling dried and fresh leaves and twigs. This is of little use for either perfumery or aromatherapy.

The oil has been used since the middle ages for infected wounds, skin ulcers, skin and soft tissue disturbances. The gum was used for catarrh and diarrhoea.

The scent is warm, deep, musky, soothing and dry. Yang.

In aromatherapy its used for:

  • Lymph drainage: When added to a massage oil for a full body massage. Or locally as warm compresses on swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Menstrual pain: In combination with Marjoram (origanum majorana) as a massage oil or warm compresses over the abdomen.
  • Skin: Mature, wrinkled skin, rough, scarred and hard skin. Use for healing of wounds and scars; with Lavender (lavandula augustifolia), Imortelle (helichrysum italicum) or Frankincense (boswellia carterii). It might be helpful for eczema, inflamed skin and psoriasis. Remember to use lower doses on sensitive/inflamed skin.
  • Respiratory: As an inhalant for coughs and bronchitis.
  • Emotionally: After shock or trauma when the emotional system is cold or empty. Also to sooth and heal past or buried memories. It fills the individual with warmth and strength.

Do not use during pregnancy.

HYDROSOLS

A hydrosol (also called hydrolate) is the condensate water produced during steam-distillation of plant material for aromatherapeutic purposes. In distillation of plant material for essential oil, water-steam is pressed through the plant material which releases all chemical molecules light enough to travel with the steam. From there it goes to a condenser where the steam is cooled down to form water and essential oil that separate upon cooling, with the EO usually floating on top of the water. The resulting water is an unique product as it contains all light-weight water-soluble substances + tiny amounts of essential oil (approximately 0.2%), but none of the heavier water-soluble substances. This is quite different from an infusion where all the water-soluble substances stay in the water, including some plant material and other heavier substances.

Hydrosol means “water solution” and comes from the Latin hydro (“water”) and sol (“solution”). Hydrolate means hydro (“water”) and late from the French lait, meaning milk.  Supposedly this name stems from the fact that often the hydrosols are slightly milky when they first come out of the stills.

Sometimes the word Floral Water is used which I find misleading; hydrosols come from all aromatic plants, not only flowers. Very often a floral water is water scented with essential oil or synthetic fragrance in which case it is something entirely different. Therefor I prefer to stick with the word hydrosol.

A Hydrosol has a life-span of 1-3 years, depending on the original plant and storage. Hydrosols need to be stored in cool and dark places – the fridge is perfect. They should be distilled from organically grown plants and bottled without preservatives. The label should clearly state the name of the plant from which it was distilled, including the latin name, when it was distilled and if it is organic. A Hydrosol is primarily acidic, with a pH of 3.6-6.0,  making it ideal for skin & personal care. It is mild enough to be used safely by most anybody –  aged, sick and weak individuals as well as babies and children. Use it as a tonic for your skin, taste-enhancer in cooking and baking, to wash wounds, sooth burns and inflammations…The possibilities are endless.

Tips:

  • Tonifying water for skin: Wipe your skin with hydrosol on cotton balls after cleansing: dry, mature skin: Hydrosol of lavender or rose. Oily  blemished skin: Hydrosol of orange water, witch hazel, Rosemary. Use Hydrosol in a spray for a guick freshen-up during the day (brilliant when traveling). Just spray a fine mist onto skin and let dry. You can even do this when wearing make-up.
  • Sun-burn: Spray the area with Hydrosol of Lavender (soothing) or Mint (cooling). Apply Aloe Vera Gel. Works also for itchy skin and hot flashes.
  • Disinfectant for air and hands while traveling; spray in the air, on your hands, on tissue.
  • Drinks; add 5 ml of hydrosol to 200 ml of water for a refreshing drink. A dash of Rose hydrosol in some champagne – very luxurious – or white wine as an aperitif.
  • Use as a scent to spray on linen, hair, clothes, curtains…
  • Add to bath. (Even for babies and small children; lavender, rose)
  • Use when baking cakes, cookies and pastries. (Do not mistake Hydrosol for the “floral waters” you can buy in asian markets. These “waters” are usually synthetically enhanced water.) Always check the label.

If you want to know more about hydrosols and their uses, this is an excellent read: “Hydrosols, the next aromatherapy” by Suzanne Catty.

THE MYSTICAL SCENT OF OUD

Oud is an oil that has fascinated me for the last 18 years. Its scent is mystical, mythical and magical, this is why I want to present this profile to you.

Oud or Agarwood or Aloeswood (Aquilaria agollocha, A. malaccensis, A. crassna) is an evergreen tree native to the forests of Northeast India, Bhutan and Southeast Asia; Viet Nam, Kambodja, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea. The tree reaches a height of about 40m with a diameter of about 60cm. It bears sweetly-scented snow-white flowers. For the oil to exist, the tree needs to be infected with a fungi; Phialophora parasitica. The tree produces this oleoresin to protect itself against the fungi by saturating the heartwood. The longer time a tree is infected, the deeper and darker the oleoresin gets. This can take up to a 100 years and inevitably ends with the tree dying. By this time the heartwood is almost black, deeply saturated and scented by the oleoresin. The heartwood of an uninfected tree is light and pale-colored.

Extraction methods:

  • Water extraction: The wood is immersed in water for about 3 months, after which it is put into stills (huge burners) where it is cooked for many hours until the resin dissolves and floats to the top of the water; Indian distillation method.
  • Steam distillation of the wood-chips; Mostly used by East Asian countries.
  • CO2 extraction: When a certain amount of pressure is applied to CO2 (carbon dioxide) this gas turns into liquid. This liquid CO2 can be used as a very inert, safe, “liquid solvent.” CO2 is the gas we all breathe out of our lungs. It is also the gas that plants themselves thrive on.

Because of the immense popularity of this plant-matter for oil, perfume and incense, the trees are now endangered species  protected world-wide under the CITES-convention (http://www.cites.org/) and by laws in the different countries. Even so a large number of trees are illegally cut down to obtain this hugely expensive material.

There are many grades of Oud; First-grade (the highest quality) is one of the most expensive natural products in the world. The pricing lies around 13 000 dollars/pound of oil. (0,453kg) The oils from wild trees (illegal) catch an even higher price, more than 27 000 dollars/pound. The whole-sale price for a decent quality oil is around 1000-1400 dollars/ounce. (30ml)

In Assam, India a few families have started plantations with Aquilaria agollocha, ensuring the survival of this precious tree and its hidden gifts. Most reputed Oud-traders today, trade with plantation-grown oils and wood. Due to the success of the plantations in Assam other countries are following suit; Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam and other areas in Southeast Asia.

History

Oud has a long history of use in the eastern parts of the world; Buddhist monks use ut for meditation, saying it aids in the transmutation of ignorance. Tibetan monks use it to calm the mind and spirit. Sufis use it for esoteric ceremonies and in China it is considered to have psychoactive properties. Oud has been used as incense, aromatic oil and medicine for thousands of years. It is mentioned in the Bible (under the name of Aloewood): “Nicodemus used pounded aloewood to embalm the body of Christ”. The Prophet Muhammed of Islam mentions in the Koran 1400 years ago; “Treat with Indian Oud, for it has healing for seven diseases”. In Egypt Oud was used by the Pharaos for embalming. Buddha called it the “Scent of Nirvana“.

The Scent

Complex, balsamic, deep woody fragrance. Tenacious basenote, it lingers longer than any other known scent. The scent is rare and powerful. Blended with other precious oils such as Rose (r.centifolia, r. damascena), Jasmin (jasminus officinalis), Sandalwood (santalum album), it enhances them and creates a blend which is deeply soulful.

Uses

A well-known aphrodisiac; use it as a perfume neat on the skin (I recommend a patch-test for sensitive skin) or diluted in Jojoba-oil or alcohol. The skin will release its scent over the course of 12-15 hours. (It is tested safe to use undiluted on skin.) The oil is viscous and in room-temperature it stays thick. To make it thinner, put the bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.

It has been used by Chinese, Tibetan, Ayurvedic and Unani physicians in practice to treat various disease and mental illness.The list of ailments that can be helped by Oud oil is vast. I will not document it here, since considering the price and rarity of this oil, it is better used for higher purposes such as meditation and personal growth. During my research I have found that every eastern culture names Oud in treatment of the respiratory and digestive systems. This is interesting because these two systems are both deeply connected to life-force, and the most outstanding feature of Oud is its magical and mystical properties when used in meditation; It connects Heaven and Earth within us, creating balance, inner peace and enlightment.

ESSENTIAL OIL & SCENT HISTORY part 4

During the 16:th to 18:th centuries the art of distilling plants had grown to become an every-day matter. Every mansion had its own distillery and the pharmacies of the time distilled essential oils for medicinal purposes. The doctor would make out a recipe, and the pharmacies would blend the medicines.

In this time herbal medicine grew immensely with the founding of the Royal Society in Britain, the plant classifications by Linnaeus and the great herbals by, amongst others, Culpeper, Gerard and Parkinson. By the end of the 18:th century, essential oils were widely used in medicine alongside herbs, essential oils being the strongest form of medicine in existence.

The late 19:th and early 20:th century saw the flourishing of chemistry as a discipline. As plant cures and essential oils could be synthesized in a laboratory – the cures both stronger and faster in action, essential oils began to lose their place in the pharmacopoeiae.

In the early 1900’s a French chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé – the father of aromatherapy, rediscovered the effectiveness of essential oils when he after a severe burn dipped his hand in pure lavender-oil and noted the speed of recovery; the pain was instantly subdued, there was no infection nor scarring. This made him devote himself to the study of esssential oils. He discovered that the oils could penetrate the skin to access the blood-stream and chemically interact with the chemistry of the body. In 1937 he published the book “L’aromathérapie” that became the first textbook on essential oils.

Dr. Jean Valnet followed in Gattefossé’s footsteps. He was an army-doctor during WW2. As antibiotics were hard to come by in wartime, he used essential oils with great success. After the war he opened a clinic where he success-fully used essential oils for both physical and psychological healing. Much of his work was based on the antiseptic properties of essential oils. In 1964 Dr Valnet published a book; “Aromathérapie se soigner par les essences de plantes”.

At this stage aromatherapy began popping up all over Europe; Italian doctors Gatti and Cojola start researching the psychological effects of essential oils in the 20:s; In the 70:s their work was followed up by Professor Paolo Rovesti at the University of Milan.

Mme Maury, an Austrian cosmetologist, introduced the idea of massage combined with essential oils in the 50:s. Not being a doctor, she was looking for other ways of administering the essential oils. By blending – or diluting – them with vegetable oil, the resulting blend was milder and could be used directly on the skin without irritating it. Most of her clients were healthy women that wanted beauty-treatments and the results of the aromatherapy was astounding; not only did it make the skin look better, it also had other effects such as relief from rheumathic pain, stronger libido, better and deeper sleep and an overall mood-enhancing effect. In the early 60:s Mme Maury opened her first clinic in London where she also held workshops and training. Some well-known names trained for her in the late 70:s; Robert Tisserand, Shirley Price and Patricia Davis are some of them.

The final break-through for aromatherapy as a valued alternative health practice came in the late 80:s and early 90:s when it finally became a recognized profession in many countries. In Britain and Sweden the training is state-supported and sometimes subsidized.