Nature has provided man with bountiful essential oils which can be used for various therapeutic and healing purposes. These oils are extracted from aromatic plants and used in aromatherapy. Various methods are used to extract essential oil which is found in over seven hundred species of plants.
Essential oils are quite expensive when you buy them from shops. While it is not necessarily simple or easy, it is possible to make your own essential oil at home using certain basic methods. Water and steam distillation process is one of the most effective methods to make your own essential oil.
Pick Your Still
A �still� (yes, just like the kind used to make alcohol) is an apparatus that is used for the process of distillation. Stills designed especially for essential oil distillation are available in the market at costs starting around $350 to - well the sky is the limit!
You can actually make your own essential oil by building a still using the various designs that are available. With a little creativity you can build an excellent still using the basic components of a still: the furnace which is the source of heat, the retort or the tank, the condenser, and the separator.
Pick Your Plants
As you make your own essential oil, it is important to remember that plants that are used for extracting oil must be harvested at the proper time. Harvesting the right type of plant is also essential. Harvesting at the wrong time, harvesting the wrong plant parts, and careless handling can damage the plant and reduce the quantity of essential oil distilled.
When selecting plants for use in making essential oil, it is a good idea to buy plants that are whole and healthy looking. As far as possible, see that the plant is not damaged in any manner. Drying the plant is the next step as you make your own essential oil. Drying may reduce the oil content in the plant but greatly enhances the yield since you can fit more plants into each batch. The drying process must be slow and definitely not under direct sunlight. You can also opt to distil the plants without drying them.
Using The Still
Water must be added to the still tank. Soft water, which is clean and distilled, is preferred for best results. Depending on the quantity of plants, the process of distillation can take anywhere from half an hour to six hours. The false bottom above the water level holds the plants to be distilled. You must add enough water, but not so much that it actually touches the false bottom of the still.
Hydro-distillation is a process used to distil wood, bark, powdered roots and delicate flowers. Here the plants are required to float free in water. As you make your own essential oil, you can pack the plant as such into the still without really cutting them into smaller pieces. After the still is closed, allow the water to boil. You will find most of the plants releasing essential oils at temperatures of 100 degree Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
Monitor the still periodically to check if there is enough water to complete the distillation process. If not, you may need to add in water to complete the process successfully. The distillate passes through the condenser and collects in the separator. Water in the condenser has to be changed too for effective cooling process. The oil collected can be filtered using dry cotton fabric or cheese cloth. Pour the oil in air tight containers for storage.
While you can make your own essential oil using other methods too, the process of distillation is one of the simplest and most effective means of distilling oil from plants.