Essential oils are produced using extracts of all the parts of plants and trees. These oils have been in production for more than 1000 years now. Oils are produced from some of the rarest plants as well. We usually go to the supermarket, study the package thoroughly and buy the oils of our choice. Have we ever wondered about the process that these ingredients go through to become the aromatic oil that is stored in the dark-coloured glass bottle that we buy? Here is a broad idea about the various methods that are involved in extracting essential oils:
Believed to be one of the most ancient methods of extracting essential oils, this is a process that involved lot of time and cost. Soft flowers like jasmine were first placed on glass that was coated with chassis fat. The oil from the flowers then drips into this fat. The fat gets processed through alcohol to leave out the residue element, which is the essential oil
- Expressed oils
This method is most apt for organically cultivated citrus fruits. These fruits are cold pressed nicely to produce essential oils. This process is simple and doesn’t involve any heat treatment. However, it works best only with citrus fruits.
- Distillation through steam
All original oils have to go through rigorous distillation processes. Plants are subjected to steam treatment. Essential oil, which is extracted this way, is again condensed to give out oil and water separately. This liquid known as floral water is used for preparing various aromas. The oil part is collected in dark-coloured glass bottles and sold as essential oils.
- Solvent Extraction
This is a method which is used in the perfume industry. Plants are immersed in solvents to become a concrete like material. This is then mixed with alcohol in order to produce essential oils. However, in this method, it is not possible to produce original essential oils. By default, certain chemicals like hexane and acetone are added to this. You can find lots of chemical ingredients in your perfumes; therefore, you cannot avoid the use of chemicals in this process as well.
- Fractional distillation and percolation
As the name suggests, fractional distillation is the process which keeps extracting essential oils from plants in various fractions at different levels of boiling. In this method, it is not possible to produce therapeutic oils. Percolation is a process that is similar to distillation; the only difference in both these methods is that, in the former, the instrument is kept upside down.
- Super Critical Fluid Extraction
This is one of the recent methods introduced to extract essential oils in a quicker way. Carbon dioxide is introduced at very high pressure into the huge utensil that contains the plant extracts. This solvent will release essential oils quite quickly than some of the traditional methods.
- Phytonic process
In this method, non-CFCs (non-chlorofluorocarbons) are introduced to plant extracts to produce essential oils. The oils that are extracted this way are known as phytols. This has still not become popular in all the countries.
In spite of so many methods being available, it is highly recommended to purchase those oils that are extracted through steam distillation.