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As essential oils gain in popularity for all of their powerful qualities, they also increase in price. Many people are wondering how to make essential oils themselves. Making your own DIY essential oil recipes can save you money and give you more power to customize the oils you’d like, but the process can be complex and confusing. Below you will find a comprehensive essential oils guide to the process of creating your own organic essential oils as well as some tactics to make the process as smooth and easy as possible!
What Are Essential Oils
Essential oils are a concentrated oil that contains the flavor or aroma of a plant. The healthful properties of each plant are found in the essential oil of that plant used for healing, disinfection, and personal care. Many plants have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties that are carried in the essential oil of each plant.
You can find essential oils in the various parts of a plant. For example, peppermint, basil, and geranium oil are located in the leaves and stems, clove oil is found in buds, while jasmine and rose are found in flowers of full bloom. You can create oils from both fresh and dried plants, and there are benefits to using both. You can find oils in barks, peels, seeds, and skins of plants. Some plants, such as bitter orange and cinnamon produce multiple types of oil depending on what part of the plant is used.
Methods for Essential Oil Production
If you want to reap all of the benefits of essential oils, they must be extracted from the plants. While there are many different essential oils produced commercially, it is possible to make them at home. Many people wonder how are essential oils made, but really it’s pretty straightforward. There are three basic methods of how to make essential oils, with the pros and cons of each highlighted for you.
1. Steam Distillation
The process of steam distillation exposes the plant material to steam that causes the essential oil to evaporate. Once those hot vapors are cooled, there is condensation of both the oil and water vapor. Since oil and water do not mix, it is easy to separate the two substances at this point and bottle the oil for use.
Steam distillation is commonly used because it produces the most oil from the most plant material. But it can be a costly and time-consuming process, as you will need specialized equipment and careful monitoring. Many people see the distillation as an art form and believe that an oil of value is difficult to produce as a beginner at home.
However, if you are interested, you can actually purchase or make your own still for distillation, but it can cost quite a bit of money at the outset. If you are interested in investing in an alcohol still of your own for the steam distillation, there are many available online for a few hundred dollars. It is also possible for you to build your own home still using parts found in a home-brew store or possibly a hardware store. If you are interested in this route, be sure to carefully follow comprehensive directions to ensure your safety.
There are a few ways in which you can create a process similar to steam distillation simply with products found at home, and you can follow those directions in the sections marked “Guide for How to Make Essential Oils Yourself” below.
Pros: Common and ultimately economical
Cons: Expensive at the outset, may not be realistic for a hobby, time-consuming and challenging to master
The second method for how to make essential oils discussed here is expression. Used only for citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, limes, etc. because of their unique qualities. Citrus oils can be easily damaged in the traditional process of steam distilling. The process of expression is also called cold-pressing because this method literally presses the oils out of their peels either by hand or by a specialized machine.
Hand pressing citrus oils is possible, but incredibly time-consuming and labor intensive. A method called sponge-pressing exists wherein the fruit is cut in half, the pulp removed and the peel soaked in water for several hours. After that time, the peel is removed and placed between two flat sponges and pressed continually against a wooden bar set across a bowl to collect the liquid. This method took a lot of work and yielded minimal reward,
Mechanical processes are now in place to remove the oil from the peels. This process is relatively simple, and as a result, citrus oils are pretty affordable. It is important to note that oils created through the method of expression are not technically considered essential oils.
Pros: No machinery or equipment required
Cons: time-consuming, labor-intensive, very little yield, not technically considered essential oils
The third method for creating essential oils is known as extraction. Extraction takes a plant, made of mostly water, and submerges it in a solvent (such as alcohol). The oils of the plant are highly soluble in this substance, and so they are drawn from the plant. After the solvent evaporates, the essence of the plant remains. However, this plant essence (called an absolute) cannot be described as an essential oil, because extraction removes the volatile components that give an essential oil its unique properties.
Pros: Affordable, easy to DIY
Cons: Does not produce pure essential oil; takes time (weeks at least)
Guide For How to Make Essential Oils Yourself
After learning the basics of the three methods for how to make essential oils, you are ready to try a few natural home methods for distilling and extracting the oil from plant material. Keep in mind that these methods are not likely to create a pure essential oil and that you should never ingest them. These methods are also designed by their nature to produce a minimal amount of product.
When choosing plant material look for some that is clean and free from chemicals like pesticides and herbicides. Experiment with a variety of plant material, both dried and fresh. You can use herbs, spices, flowers, and fruit peels as well as barks, stems, and leaves. When storing essential oils, be sure to use dark glass containers and store them in a cool, dark place.
Crockpot Method: Place your plant material into a crock pot filled with distilled water. Be sure that crock pot is about 2/3 full with plants. Place the lid on the crockpot upside down, so the curved design will allow the steam to fall back into the pot. Heat on low for 24 hours. After that time, turn off the crockpot and let it cool. Place into the refrigerator. After another 24 hours, you will see a thin film of oil on the surface of the water in the crockpot. Carefully skim away the oil and place into a dark glass container. Leave open with a cloth over the top for about a week to allow any extra water to evaporate.
Herbal Bag Method: In a cotton or linen bag, gather up plant material. Tie it shut and place in a pot of distilled water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for about 24 hours. Once the mixture has simmered sufficiently, collect the oil off the surface of the water, squeezing the bag of plant material as needed to get maximum oil. Place into a dark glass container and cover with a cloth to evaporate extra water.
Alcohol Method: Soak plant material of your choosing in a sealed bottle of rubbing alcohol for about two weeks. Pour into a bowl and allow alcohol to evaporate. Once the alcohol has evaporated, gather the remaining oil and place in a dark glass container. Be sure not to ingest oil created using this method.
Vinegar Method: Place ½ teaspoon of white vinegar, ½ cup of olive oil and 1 Tablespoon of plant material into a small sealed bottle. Find a warm area, such as a sunny windowsill, to place the container for about three weeks. Shake the whole bottle well twice a day to get better results and keep mixture combined. Strain this mixture with a cheesecloth, saving the liquid in a dark glass bottle for up to 6 months.
Note that these next two processes for how to make essential oils are actually considered oil infusion. These infused oils can create a very healing oil, but many argue that some, like lavender, are not as good as the essential oil. If you are looking for how to make scented oils, the methods below will work well for you. This method of creating oils will last for about six months before going bad.
Slow Oil Infusion Method: Choose an oil such as olive, almond, grapeseed, etc. and fill a large glass bottle. Mix as much plant material into the bottle of oil as possible. Place a lid on the glass bottle and allow it to sit for about three days, shaking every 24 hours or so to mix material. Then, strain the oil through cheesecloth and place it back into the glass bottle. Fill with more plant material and repeat as necessary until it has the desired scent.
Quick Oil Infusion Method: Mix 2 cups of oil of your choice with about ½ an ounce of plant material. Place in a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth. Repeat as necessary for the desired scent, and when finished, place in a dark glass container.
This comprehensive guide should give you everything you need to guarantee success in how to make essential oils at home. Be sure to follow directions carefully and never ingest homemade essential oils for safety. Above all, have fun experimenting with your own essential oils!