How are Essential Oils Made?



Get your scuba gear on because we've diving right in today.


​From what these precious aromatic liquids are to how they're made—and why that matters!


Extracting the essence...

Listen, i've got a confession to make...


Essential oils are actually not "made" but extracted from different parts...of different plants. *giggle*


Remember what they were? Here's a quick refresher:

  • The leaves
  • Scrubs
  • Trees
  • Roots
  • Bushes
  • Fruit rind
  • Seeds of plants

+ flowers, twigs, branches, grasses, bark, wood, rhizomes, fruit peels, gums, and resins... Phew!


For example, rose essential oil is extracted from rose flower petals.


Bergamot essential oil (and bitter orange essential oil) are extracted from the fruit peels or rinds.


As you can probably image, since the oil can be extracted from different parts of plants, some produce A LOT more than others.


And we're not just talking about quantity but DIFFERENT essential oils.


Take the bitter orange tree (Citrus Aurantium) for example. This plant doesn't even stop with two different essential oils, but THREE ONES!

  • Neroli (comes from the flowers)
  • Bitter Orange (comes from the fruit peels)
  • And Petitgrain (comes from the leaves and twigs)

... Remember yesterday? I touched on the steam distillation method of extracting the essential oil.


Another common way is cold pressing (expression).


This method is used in the production of citrus oils such as tangerine, lemon, bergamot, sweet orange, grapefruit and lime. The term cold pressing is used as there is little to no heat used in the process.


The essential oil glands in the peel are simply crushed or broken to release the oil.

These are far from the only ones but to avoid getting too nerdy on ya, I'll just leave the different ones here if you feel like doing further research.

  • Maceration (Infusion) — This is a traditional method that produces an aromatic oil called infused oil, which is milder and less potent than essential oils. The plant material is chopped, added, and left for days with frequent agitation until the soluble matter is dissolved.
  • Enfleurage — Super labor-intensive. It's the traditional method of distillation using cold fat to extract absolutes for perfumes. Flowers were hand-picked at sunrise, throughout the day, or at sunset, depending on the flower. They were then left to macerate in oils and animal fat for days or weeks. The idea was that the fat would absorb the aroma of these difficult-to-extract flowers.
  • Solvent extraction — This method is composed of a two-stage process that uses a solvent (often hexane) to release the aroma and separate it from the plant material. Solvent extraction is often used for plants that are too delicate for steam distillation, such as Jasmine flowers.
  • CO2 extraction — The new kid on the block! It's similar to solvent extraction but the solvent here is carbon dioxide. The product of this process is called CO2 extract. It's similar but different in composition to an essential oil. CO2 extract contains both the lighter molecules of an essential oil and also the heavier molecules of an absolute. 

Okay, enough about that stuff! It's almost turning into an academic writing so let's move our butts to something that's going to be handy when buying oils in the future.


The importance of the plant's origin

Some plants grow abundantly in one part of the world but die instantly in another. This means...not all places are created equal when it comes to growing certain plants.


Some countries are known for growing certain plants better than others. Take lavender for example. Province, France is known for their beautiful fields with the highest-quality lavender you can get your hands on. 

Picture yourself right in the middle of this idyllic paradise. SO serene! 


... Pst, you! Yes you...come here I wanna tell you a secret if you promise to keep it between us... A little closer please.


*whispering in your ear*


Bulgaria is actually the world leader in production and exporting of lavender oil with as superior quality as France. But not to hurt their feelings, we just let them think they're the best!


Speaking of Bulgaria (my home country btw. Whoop whoop!), The Valley of Kazanlak is famous for producing the loveliest rose blooms because of the regions perfect rose-growing climate.

For the production of 1 kg rose oil, 

approximately 3500 kg of rose blossoms are used.


Bulgaria yields near 1 ton of rose oil yearly – 70% of the world’s rose oil is produced there. For the production of 1 kg rose water is used 1 kg rose blossoms but for the production of 1 kg rose oil, approximately 3500 kg of rose blossoms are used.

As you can see, we are really into this stuff.

There's even an annual rose festival that culminates with a Rose Queen competition!


In 2019, over 5000 girls took part, all fighting to become the esteemed Rose Queen. The holiday unites hundreds of thousands of people who gather to celebrate this magnificent flower.

Queen Rose 2019 Veronica Kaneva brightens the holiday with her beauty. Image courtesy of inlife.bg and kazanlak.com.

It makes me smile to watch this pictures because I haven't lived in Bulgaria for the past 5 years. I moved to Denmark for education and found myself a man here. 

A viking, lol. Red beard and everything!


Speaking about red beards. Does Australians have that, too? 


They have another thing though. Tea Tree oil! My first ever essential oil—and first beginner mistake (not diluting) that transformed my face into a human lobster. IT BURNS!


We're talking more about all this good stuff later but check out this Tea tree oil farm.

Tea Tree Oil Farm In Australia

Nature is simply incredible. From this seamlessly "nothing to offer" plantation springs the best remedy against acne.


Another oil that's a little easier to grow is Peppermint. You can find them throughout Europe and North America. Rosemary even more so.


And Chamomile? Just give it some sun and it's gonna grow!


So, when is the place of origin important? 


For essential oils that's extracted from plants—that grow better in specific locations...the place of origin matters.


Lavender essential oil from France and Bulgaria is expected to be better in quality than lavender oil from the USA. 


Rose essential oil from the Rose Valley in Bulgaria will be made from rose blossoms that are superior in quality because of the location’s ideal environment.


Keeping this in mind, along with the fertility of the soil, the genetic differences in the plant, the variety, cultivation practices, and the climate are all important for the end result.


That's why the country of origin is key to notice when shopping for oils.


TODAY'S CONCLUSION?

Knowing how essential oils are extracted leads us to a deeper appreciation and confidence when we start implementing them into our daily life.


It takes a lot of time and resources to give us a bottle of these oils. From growing the plants to extracting their oils – every drop of your essential oil counts!


Also, knowing the different methods will help us better grasp the concept that essential oils and other aromatic products differ greatly in composition. For example, we can’t expect an infusion to smell, look, and feel the same as essential oils.


In addition to all this we've peaked at today, there are so much more to know.


The difference among all the distillation processes and how the process came to be, what by-products of these processes can be used to great benefits, and what other factors can affect the quality of essential oils.


... But it's time to say goodbye for today. I enjoyed our time together and going to miss you until we see each other again tomorrow.


I'm less than 24 hours away though! And armed with a GREAT lesson about the difference between essential oils and carrier oils. You're going to love this one.


See you tomorrow. Same place. Same time!


Your Gal,

Valeria

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