distilling essential oils.

September 17, 2001

I have been posting all over, looking for information on distilling essential oils, I am attempting to grow Sandalwood and would like to make oils out of it. Can anyone help me?

Comments (50)

  • Sheila7863

    Robyn Hi I am trying to do the same thing! I did a web search for distilling equipment and came up with a number of web sites selling the equipment, most of them with a basic unit for around $200. Right now I'm trying to figure out how to rig something up at home on my own. Basically the process used in the fields is that they put the herbs in a large container that has holes in the bottom where steam comes up through the holes, rises through the herbs, goes out more tubes where it condenses, and then another container that collects the distilled oil. There's gotta be a way to do that at home, right??

  • robynlacy

    yes! I think so! There is a company in a suburb of Sacramento where I live that sells small stills. BUT for heavens sake, people have been distilling in their homes for centuries! I think that if you want to buy the parts, it would be cheaper to buy the small still. We are dealing with very small amounts of oil here, apparently it takes LOTS of herb to make a LITTLE oil. I was hoping that i could find a way to mickey mouse my own home still. I actually saw a moonshine still on tv awhile ago......made with styrofoam coolers, but, i can't remember what else. i wonder if you could rig a vegetable steamer with a tube to a copperbowl of some type.......let me know! I am glad to finally hear from someone, I have been looking for months and had kind of given up.

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  • suenh

    What about putting a hose on the vent to an old pressure cooker?
    You could raise the plant material out of the water with a metal colander or wire basket.
    It wouldn't build up much pressure if there was a hose on the vent and you used low heat.

  • robynlacy

    That is an interesting thought.........will pressure cookers boil water? I will do some more research.

  • vettem

    There are different types of distillation used depending on what you are trying to do. The type of distillation would depend on physical properties of the compound you are trying to obtain such as at what temperature it is turned into a vapor and other factors. The library may have some basic books for an organic chemistry lab that may give you a better idea of distillation. This may give you a better idea of what would work for you at home. Many colleges and universities have info online through chemistry departments also. The link below is one such site. Yet it is lacking in basic info on distillation. Some safety precautions for distillation.
    NEVER distill in a closed system
    NEVER distill to dryness

    Here is a link that might be useful: handbook

  • robynlacy

    Right on! Thanks Yvette!

  • kerdragon

    I found this post on another forum awhile back when I was searching for information. I was intrigued by Method #2. I don't know if it works, but I plan to try it as soon as I get a good enough harvest!

    Here is a link that might be useful: Re: essential oils

  • robynlacy

    That method #2 looks interesting.....never thought about freezing it!
    Thanks for your help!

    Method #2
    : Another option, particularly suited for human consumption, is solvent distillation. In this method an alcohol is used to extract the essential oils from the plant. Leaves and petals (and sometimes thorns) are use for Magikal purposes. DO NOT USE RUBBING ALCOHOL!!! * In one cup of un-flavored Vodka (or other denatured alcohol) place enough plant matter (petals, leaves, or thorns) to cover the liquid. * Let stand covered tightly for two weeks. * Press the oil from the plant matter through cheesecloth. * The oil and alcohol product you now have is natural rose perfume. * Freeze the liquid you now have for 24 hours. * The oil will freeze, the alcohol will not. Remove the frozen rose oil from your freezer and store in tightly sealed container. * Reserve the remaining alcohol for use again. This is not the easier of the two methods put does deliver a nearly pure essential oil. Remember, one ounce of Rose Oil is a lot of Rose Oil.

  • mywildchild_2000

    I was under the impression that distilling (or owning a still) was still illegal in many US states... or am I thinking the wrong type of distilling....

  • robynlacy

    The WRONG type of distilling! :o) That's fer alcoholic beverages.......left over from the 30's and the fact that a lot of people went blind and such from homemade brews.

  • vettem

    Hi again. In case anyone was interested, the above procedure...solvent distillation would be called an extraction in chemistry terms. An extraction is when a solvent is used to extract what you want. This method #2 sounds like the least expensive and least complicated way to do this at home. Most of you are probably not interested in this info. I did my degree in Chemistry and couldn't resist clarifying this. Most of my experience is in organic synthesis. I am looking to get into natural products chemistry. When I have obtained experience in this field, I will probably be able to be more helpful with this subject. I have distilled a few oils from plants. What I do know is that most of them are really potent and can be irritating to the skin, so be careful depending on the kind of oil it is. I know that eugenol oil extracted from cloves was extremely irritating for about three days and I was really careful to not get it on myself. I would suggest using gloves and not having a bare skin exposed when doing this with stronger substances such as the essential oils that are known to be irritating.

  • kayt

    I am also looking into distilling and can't find any information - why is it so secretive?

  • robynlacy

    I think that there are a couple of is that the wrong kind of distillation is illegal...the others have to do with like, trade secrets, I think......kind of like secret recipe...or because in order to make any money at it, you have to do mass quatities, and you would learn how to do THAT in college.....those are my guesses! :o)

  • Sheila7863

    I needed a small quantity of peppermint extract last summer. After reading the mint harvesting stuff on the net, I devised a simple method (but VERY tedious and time consuming) at home.

    In a large pan have the herbs simmering. I put a lid on it with the screwoff one hole handle removed. Through the hole I placed two plastic drinking straws stuffed into one another at the end. Downward slightly from the pan I placed a bowl of ice and buried the straw in the ice. Down further from that I had my collecting bottle braced in another bowl with the other end of the straw in it. (Hey it's worth a laugh picturing all this right??) I had to mess around a lot with the temp of the steaming pan and frequently flick the straw to move along the extract. It took me about an hour to get one of those little extract bottles but hey it was a fun experiment!

  • robynlacy

    2 much water to herb did you have simmering and didn't the straw melt in the hot pot?oh and how much herb did it take?
    Cool! thanks for the info........

  • Rapscallion8290

    Hey, hi , I know a method. You take a stone brick and place it in a big pot. Then, you take the herb and put it around the brick, pour in some water to cover. put a bowl on top of the brick. put on a cover and put a stainless steel bowl on top of the cover. turn on the heat. The oils will be the top layer of the liquid in the bowl. the bottom layer will be floral water.

    PS- Don't plan on getting any sandalwood; growing its not so easy, but not only that- it takes over 100 years to reach harvestable size.

  • Rapscallion8290

    sorry, i mean put the lid on the pot. when the vapors hit the lid cooled by the ice bowl, they turn into liquid and drip into the bowl. hope it works! I'm not sure if the brick damages the pot/stove, so use an old pot.

  • CarrieB4U

    I have found several good links with information on Distilling oils,here are a couple of them: (This is precise info on a still for essential oil use)

    Here is one with examples of several different stills for beer, but could easily be adapted for essential oils...Same basic components...

    I did a search on Yahoo with the phrase "Distilling Essential Oils" and came up with several. Try different search engines such as alta vista, google, etc. I am gonna sugest that they make the making and distilling of essential oils an official subject on this board too....Lots of people seem interested. I myself am looking for info on how to make a good Dragon's Blood oil. I know there is both Resin and Powder, and I am not sure which to use. I do know the resin requires a good pure alcohol to extract or "Leech" it from the resin. I found a wonderfull smelling Dragon's Blood oil that I used for years as a perfume. It has a very rich, spicy, sensual scent, but the comapny that sold it, Nuit Unlimited Imports, went out out of business. I really want to find a recipe to make an oil that is close to their Dragon's Blood oil. That is what got me started on this search on the first place! If anyone finds anything that might help me, please send it to me!!!
    Thanks and Have a Great Day!

  • earthworm2

    My brother is interested in distilling essential oils and I essential told him it would be less trouble to just buy them. Just having a still is illegal here - if the law discovers it they don't consider what you use it for, it is illegal to have it - period. That said, my friend had a still and made moonshine and with the high alcohol content it made excellent herbal tinctures.

  • spanishlace

    Robyn, I wonder if it would work to freeze fragrance oil, which has too much alcohol for good soapmaking, and then just separate the essential oil from the alcohol as in the final part of Method 2. Fragrance oils are sold everywhere and not nearly as expensive as essential oils. I will have to try it and see if it will produce enough to be worth while.

  • robynlacy

    I was having a discussion just the other day that kind of relates to this...We were discussing what fo's were made from. I don't think that they are essential oils...They might be, but I don't think so...but hey, try it and see! :o) I mean, i have blueberry fo, and I don't think that that is an essential it?
    Let me know!

  • Chas_BC

    to avoid skin irritation - cut the distilled oil -
    meethod # 2 really is the best; - with a very neutral
    vegetable oil - safflower, canola, (vulgar name'rape'), or
    corn, NOT olive its' much too scented on its' own. Hope this
    helps. p.s. check out a book by a naturopath called Bernard?
    Lust at your library he tells all about any sort of herbal 'extract' you can imagine.

  • tahu

    great idea...gonna need a lot of sandelwood to begin with..takes time!

  • eutstars

    I have a silly question. Well, maybe two. First I was wondering what the best way is to remove the oil if you use method 1. I was also wondering what to do if the oil is the same color as the water and you can not see a difference between the two. That sounds odd, I know. But I used method 1 and now I have a container of oil and water. I know that there is oil in there but can not see where it starts. So, I'm not sure how to take out the oil if I can't see where it starts. Anyone else have that problem?

  • Sicko19


    I noticed most of you are talking about $100+ distilling systems. I got mine for about $20 through They're a great place, you have to buy the equipment separately, though. So get a distilling flask (125ml) and a condenser and a collection flask (just get a small erlenmeyer flask with a side arm).

    Here's a basic kit if you're starting from scratch:
    -Distillation flask
    -Stopper for the distillation flask
    -Four feet of tygon or other rubber tubing that will fit over the ports on the condenser
    -Small collection flask (erlenmeyer) WITH A SIDE ARM
    -Stopper for the collection flask with one hole in it
    -Alcohol burner (and alcohol)
    -T adapter for your sink to create a vacuum

    So the best way to steam distill essential oils is as follows:

    Setup your distilling apparatus-
    1. Place a small stainless steel mesh down the neck of the distilling flask and put the herbs in it. Put a stopper in the top of the distilling flask and support it over a heat source (I use a bunsen burner, but a small alcohol burner works great). Slide the side arm of the distilling flask over the end of the condenser.
    2. On the other end of the condenser, put the tube through the hole in the collection flask stopper. Through the other port on the flask, connect a vacuum source (not from a household vacuum! Put a "T" adapter on your sink so that there is a single tube coming out of the side).
    3. There are two ports on the side of the condenser, connect the higher one to a water supply and the other to a drain.
    Now just turn on the heat source and the water supply and the vacuum source and you're set. This goes really fast and is how many pros make oils.

    (Sorry if it's at all unclear, I'm on a different time zone)

    Here is a link that might be useful: {{gwi:62115}}

  • WallyBeaver

    Man, cool info. Thanks very much.
    Is the 'vacuum source' necessary? would I have to leave the water running the whole time i'm distilling?

  • Sicko19

    I always leave the water running... and that's the way it's done in a lab (except they use a small vacuum pump instead of the water system). It tends to keep the oil from evaporating as quickly (keeps it at a lower temperature). You could try it without the vacuum. Or you could put a bucket under the water and use it to water your plants :)


  • SHaley

    The type of distillery you are describing sounds like the canning type for making jelly. There is one made in Germany that has the collander type top part and the bottom which the condensation collects in, then drains out a glass tube which is coming out at the bottom from a rubber hose with a clamp. It works something like a double broiler with a lid materials are mulched up in the top part heat turned on under it causes the steam and then collects in the bottom of the pan. There is another part I am not remembering I will ask this week, if I can get a hold of her. I have a friend that has one of these jelly maker cookers, I will find out from her what it is called. They shouldn't be as expensive as the distillers are. your local hard ware store will carry the glass tubes or rubber see thourgh tubes and a clap that look like those used on a I.V. bag. I will try to draw out a sketch and who ever wants to see the drawing can email me for the drawings. I know someone can build these. useing canner type pots that are aluminium that will stack. drilling out the hole yourself in the bottom at collander size holes. I would say small size holes. rubber washers on both side of the drianing tube holes secured by threaded nuts. Hope this is making sense. Anyway I though I would tell you about it, Just a idea. I wil get the directions from the friend of mine and see how it is used. Please give me a week or so to get all these directons and drawings done. I will email them after I scan them in. I do know that sandalwood is mode only rom the heart wood, no stems or bark or leaves. I love sandalwood oil, but it is too expensive to use liberly.

  • Hermes_Trismegistus

    OH MY GOD!

    Please forgive my alarm. I am training as an organic chemist. Please take almost all of the instructions left on this site with a grain of salt the size of arkansas.

    Everything is made of chemicals, these chemicals love to react with each other.

    "Essential oils" and metals will form metal salts and other compounds that are often dangerous and sometimes so nasty experienced chemists will walk out of their job rather than work with them.

    often metals and other substances that are benign in their elemental/commonly occuring state are very, very evil when combined or split apart.

    remember cyanide is only a Carbon (charcoal/diamond/graphite) and a nitrogen atom(80% of the air we breathe) stuck together.

    table salt is made up of Sodium (metal that burns at room temperature on contact with water)
    and chlorine (NASTY WAR GAS)

    I am not saying you would be safe if you knew EXACTLY what you were doing either.

    We chemists are always poisoning, and blowing ourselves up. Its a running societal joke. It happens so much, the route to the nearest hospital is printed on a sheet on the wall of every lab as a matter of course and entire corporations make their living supplying products to help us clean up dangerous messes AFTER they happen.

    the two older common methods of oil extraction are as follows
    steam distillation; 1.boil water to super hot temp.(super heat in pressure)

    2, run superhot steam under pressure into bottom of macerated mix of herb, salt and water mix

    1. collect final vapour and allow fractions to separate in seperatory funnel











    1. dry herb
      2. mix herb with solvent
      3. strain solvent off of herbs
      4. distill and collect solvent
      5. collect oil from flask
      6. re-use solvent

    sounds easy right!!!


    your brain begins to ignore smells when you are exposed to them over time.


    you won't realise when there is a leak.

    and there is ALWAYS a leak sooner or later.

    we use a complicated device called a fumehood to gather the vapour and absorb it into another substance (scrubbing) or vent it into the air outside as fast as it is produced.

    if you don't have one you will soon be on fire.

    we are always starting fires....its an occupational hazard


    labs are generally fireproof!

    your house is NOT!

    Remember, a half cup of alchohol will make a room full of vapour!!!


    its not like in the movies, you don't come out coughing and sooty

    you come out with your skin melting in a solvent fire

    and then come the weeks of infection and therapy that is often worse than the burns.

    if for some reason you still want to try solvent extraction

    denatured means poison (or emetic) added to keep you from drinking them

    evaporating your solvent might HIGHLY concentate those denaturant or form some freaky compound with your oil.

    only use the edible one _ethyl alchohol sold for consumption or in a lab supply house

    and make sure you don't use a flame as a heat source!


    In North America we are almost always using mechanical means NOWADAYS to remove the oils from herbs

    using incredible pressure and microfine screens to squeeze the oils out.

    Most of the old methods are being phased out in countries where there is a workmans compensation type law.

    the other extractions are still performed in countries where you just send injured workers home with a pat on the back and a encouraging word

    places where human suffering is normal and human life is cheap.

    If you want cheap essential oils contact those guys in the foreign countries directly and import. all you have to do is a little research on sources and a little research on import duties.

    and if you find a smaller company they will sell you pretty small quantities.

    I am willing to risk life and limb to further the cause of science so I still do fractional distillations with much wickeder stuff than ethanol.

    are you willing to do so in order to save a couple bucks?

    if the answer is yes buy a book called "the organic chem lab survival manual" by James W. Zubric

    you can pick up a used copy all over the place cheap.

    It is arguably the most popular manual in chemistry (next to the merck reference manual)







    postings like this make me nervous, I don't want to be living next to anyone doing stuff like this in the apartment next door while I sleep.




  • Hermes_Trismegistus

    I had just glanced through the thread when I posted the last reply but the more I read it the less I like the info posted.
    I am about to reply to specific posts;

    "What about putting a hose on the vent to an old pressure cooker? "

    please don't do that....that hole is there to releive some of the pressure as it builds up. You would have a steam powered bomb. the water wouldn't boil until the pressure released(by vessel cracking/exploding) and then with the pressure reduced it would boil all at an instant (

    because the water at high pressure will reach temp. >(more than) 100 deg C. without boiling but when the pressure is reduced the boiling point instantly drops=instantaneous transformation to steam.

    then the room would fill with superheated steam and you would be in a great deal of trouble.


    yes can boil water in pressure just takes more heat energy because as the ambient pressure inside the cooker rises...the boiling point rises proportionally.


    yes Yvette..never distill to dryness (unless you are using an oil bath as heat source...then your only limit is the oil in the bath's smoke point.)


    RobynLacy ????

    In a mixture of most oils and ethanol, frezing will do little good to remove the vast majority of infused product. Almost all of the oil will still have formed a homogoneous mixture with the alchohol

    some plant waxes and the very heavy fractions might settle out but THE MAJORITY OF OILS FORM A stable mixture in the ethanol.

    this is the difference between SOLUBLE and MISCIBLE

    Oils are not salts. they don't dissolve in alchohol They MIX.

    The mixture will have a single gel will freeze at a single temperature ALL TOGETHER


    YVETTE !?!

    Organic syntheses ?


    Just exactly WHAT were you cooking up... HMMM!???


    "how do you seperate colourless oil and water mixtures"

    Good question...what you need is a seperatory funnel, you will always see a faint cloudy line between the two substances because them form an EMULSION, however even if you didn't, the oil and the water have different indices of diffraction...sooo if you run your finger along the back of the funnel you will see your finger "bend" along the line between the two substances.

    trust me...when you go to do it, you will see the line.


    Sicko...don't use another type of rubber tubing to make connections..TYGON is used because it is chemically inert to most materials..

    other rubbers and latex will be immediately attacked by the oils forming different compounds and contaminating your product.


    its not a T-connector, it is an ASPIRATOR, and it produces a vacuum through VENTURI action, with the water rushing through sucking air along with it.

    and its use is to lower the boiling point of the liquids being distilled.

    that way you can turn the solvent/oil/whatever into a vapour without putting so much heat energy into your mixture that your substances begin to be destroyed/degraded!


    PS. distilling essential oils refers to seperating the various components of the oils

    for instance in "rose oil" there are actually several thousand different chemicals, each providing a part of the character of the odour.


    conversely, banana's smell is due to ONE single chemical.

    what you guys want to do is to remove ALL of the oils, and maybe the waxes.

    So you are really just distilling off the solvent you used to extract the oil


    if one or more of the oils has a lower boiling point/ or forms an AZeOTROPE with the solvent you used, it will come across with the solvent into the receiving vessel and your remaining oils might not smell quite right because you are missing a component.


    It seems to me that a little knowledge is a dangerous encourages people to bite off more than they can chew and then they are a danger to themselves and others

    Thank you for reading my rant...and I hope no one hurts themselves.

    P.s please forgive my poor grammar, I have been in pure sciences for too long and my writing skill are shite!

  • thesloth

    I was reading about these "florasol" essential oils that are extracted using R-134a (the ozone safe refrigerant that they use in car air conditioners these days) at this site.

    It looks like you can extract sandalwood oil this way.

    I think you can buy cans of this refrigerant at an auto supply store (not sure of the purity of safety of this though).

    I also found this place that will ship you a 30 pound tank of the stuff for $125.

    Once again, I'm no expert on any of this... and for all I know it might be extremely dangerous to extract oils this way... but it might be something worth looking into.

  • Venicebeachsurf

    Check out some of Jeanne Rose's books like the Aromatherapy one, it has in it different ways of essential oil extraction!

  • mushbanana

    does anyone know if there is any sort of guide about how much essential oil a certain herb will produce??

  • basilmom

    This is an ancient thread...but after reading it I pray that none of these posters died attempting to distill oils at home.

    Jeanne Roses "essential oils" aren't extrcations...they are infused oils. NOT the same.

    It takes 100 pounds of lavender to make 1 pound of oil. It takes 1000 pounds of jasmine to makes a pound of jasmine EO.

  • Heathen1

    Yes, it is so old... that was ME, by the way... I am RobynLacy in a new disguise! :oD I never did do any herbal distilling, though there is a company near here that sells small stills and herbs to distill... but I gave it up...

  • Thelonius

    If you want a user-friendly, low-tech guide to extraction of essential oils, visit the Intermediate Technology DEvelopment Group's site, where they have a pdf (Adobe) down-loadable leaflet, with text, drawings, the lot. under 'essential oils'

    If you live where it's sunny, you can use the sun as a heat-source, do it out of dors, and avoid worries about fumes -visit

    Here is a link that might be useful: ITDG's essential oils extraction leaflet

  • Lilliputin

    Has anyone ever tried cold pressing herbs/flowers for oil extraction?

    I came across a quick site that had a brief writeup on various methods for extracting essential oils.

    I've seen several of the easier meothds in a few of my aromatherapy books. Next summer I might give the Enfleurage method a go. Especially for some rose oil.

  • rain420


    Directions for Drying
    TRADITIONAL METHOD: Most herbs are tied in bunches and hung in a warm, dry, shady spot until they crumble easily. Roots are washed, split, and spread in a single layer on a clean surface. The traditional method has two disadvantages; it often requires more room and it takes time a few days to a few weeks for many leaves, stems, and flowers, and sometimes many months for barks or roots. To preserve the aromatic volatile oils in many herbs, the faster drying times are better.
    MODERN METHOD: Place herbs on a cookie sheet or piece of clean window screen in a 95 degrees F oven. A dehydrator can be used as well.

    TRADITIONAL METHOD: Mortar and pestle.
    MODERN METHOD: Coffee Grinder.

    Light and oxygen are the two biggest destroyers of herb flavor and medicinal potency. Store them in opaque glass or ceramic containers, filled full to lessen the amount of oxygen. Use cotton wadding to fill the container if not enough herbs.

    How to Make An Infusion
    Infusions are extracts made from herbs with medicinal constituents in their flowers, leaves, and stems.
    TRADITIONAL METHOD: Use ½ to 1 ounce of dried herb steeped in a pint of boiling water for 10 to 20 minutes.
    MODERN METHOD: Use ½ to 1 rounded teaspoon per cup of boiling water steeped for 10 to 20 minutes.

    How to Make a Decoction
    A decoction is similar to an infusion, except it is made from the roots and bark. Gently simmer the dried herb material in boiling water for 10 to 20 minutes.

    How To Make A Tincture
    Tinctures are extracts made with alcohol rather than water. The standard tincture recipe calls for 1 ounce of crushed dried herb steeped in 5 ounces of distilled spirits for six weeks. Pure grain alcohol can be used (198 proof) or vodka or brandy (100 proof).

  • catherineann

    Anyone of know of any distillers (of essential oils) in the Midwest? I live in Minnesota and would like to observe the process.

  • sheilaschnauzies

    Robyn, first I'd love to know how you managed to find sandalwood to grow - that is my "Holy Grail" of plants that I want to grow!!!

    I have to tell you a funny story about my one experience with distiling essentials from herbs. I researched the net of course and learned that one method was to create steam, then cool it and the oil would separate and voila there you had it. So I rigged this setup for my peppermint where i had water boiling in a pan with the mint. I stuck a drinking straw through a hole in the pan lid. That went through another straw buried in a bowl of ice. That in turn connected to yet another collecting bowl. I fiddled with the setup for a couple hours trying to get the respective bowls at the right height, and actually get something out of the tube! It finally worked, I got about 2 oz. of peppermint good stuff, turned off the whole shebang and said NEVER AGAIN! At least not without proper equipment, LOL!! Good luck!

  • robynlacy

    Well, as you see, the original post was a long time ago... I was never able to get the seed to germinate... I did run into someone who claimed she had gotten some to germinate, along with some tamarind seeds (they need another plant's roots to live on) but she never traded with me... :o( I have spoken with people in India who've told me that most likely, I haven't gotten viable seed. That it's not all that hard to germinate the seed. So who knows.... I did try to get some seed directly from India, but they wanted me to send them cash and even though it wasn't a lot of money, I am not going to send cash overseas.

  • catherineann

    I would very much like to observe the distilling process. Anyone know of any distillers of essentail oils in minnesota, wisconsin, or thereabouts?

  • kristenmarie

    OK so does anyone have any idea about the new carbon dioxide extraction process for essential oils and where one might find equipment for that??? (I figure it's probably pretty darn expensive, but if anyone could send me to a company that has this type of stuff....)


  • juliarichfield_yahoo_com

    The reason this subject is so mysterious is that distilling essential oil is probably one of the most frustrating, fruitless activities a person can pursue. I have been distilling oil in my home for a while now and luckily I am not relying on the oil I make to help me make a living. Yo truly need to actually grow fields/ trees/ huge bushes of the plant you're trying to distill in order to get a reasonable amount of oil.

    That said, if you are passionate (and/ or obsessed)with essential oils and aromatherapy, it will be totally worth the frustration. I tried for years to be craftly and cheap and to make a still myself, using all the old moonshiner methods. Nothing worked. I was being foiled at very turn! So, I stopped being such a scrooge and I saved up the money and bought me a real essential oil still which has proven to be much better quality than the ones I was making myself. Who knew?

    So let's say you have a still- either bought or of your own devising-and you have found a source for loads upon loads of plant material to make this oil distilling thing worth your while, there is another problem that you have- your oil doesn't smell like the oil you bought from the store.

    Why is this? My lavender oil just smells like burnt, wet plant matter! What's the deal?

    I think part of it is that the oil needs to sit uncovered for a while, just to air it out. That seems to help quite a bit.
    Also, I was fortunate enough to have a chance to make essential oil of lemon rind in an actual chemistry lab. For those who don't know,citrus zest probably produces the most oil of anything on the planet. It's the most rewarding distillation I've ever had. So int this lab we distilled the zest just like I would have done at home and came away with the same amount of oil. But then we did this extra step where they stuck the oil flask on this weird looking science fiction-y machine that spun the flask around for a couple of minutes very fast. I was told that it would evaporate all the extra water out of the oil, making it pure. WHAT??? I thought it WAS pure after the distillation- that's what distilation is supposed to do, right? Well not quite.
    So I got my oil back and low and behold, there was about 1/2 as much oil in there as there had been before the spinning. It smelled like lemons. Wow. I wish I had a weirdo-science spinner of my own.

    I don't have a spinner. So, I think all we simple people can do is, a few times a day for several days, put a lid on the oil, give it a good shake and then leave it opened to the air. This will give the little remaining water a chance to come to the surface and possibly evaporate.

    ANYWAYS, back to something most people will care about- is where to go to find the still I bought. I have the glass one which is the cheapest ($400)but there are also copper ones and I think they even have a pelican for over a grand. Someday...

    Thanks for reading!

  • friend2

    hi :) ,,can anybody tell me that what type of distillation is the best?
    I've searched the net, and found out that most home distillery use water and steam distillation. Can water and steam distillation be used for most distillation process? Is it ample?

  • cyan

    hi everyone,
    I have been watching this forum for a while, researching and learning by trial and error. The only thing that has come close to giving me oil and hydrosol (which in some cases is more useful than the oil) is the Heart Magic Distiller. You want to capture all of the chemical elements that make up the distinct essence of the plant. I really have to thank Hermes for his warnings because even with the lab set up which is very nicely made and easy to use once you get familiar with the parts and the process, you are still dealing with heat, steam, and possibly injuring yourself or unwary creatures passing by your set up. You have to know what you are doing, how to do it, and what to do if there is a problem. You also have to guard the set-up-to protect other people as much as your end product.

    I started with lavender and realized that I had to grow a lot more-because you need a lot of plant material, and only the blossoms and stems will yield oil. After three years of growing, I have enough bloom to get some good results. I have about 65 plants on a suburban lot, but this spring has been very overcast and the lavedner has not exploded into bloom yet. I have tried rose geranium and that yields a very nice hydrosol, which is valuable for many uses as is. We have been using the boil water for hair and facial rinses with some success. If you want to sell your wares you might have to get a more professional system that you can create larger quantities more efficiently and separate out the oil more completely. I am trying out the Melissa in my garden and some Helichrysum that is a few years old and just about ready. Be careful with the lavender-for all that work you want to make sure that the lavender has a softer, pleasing fragrance, not harsh like some of the landscape variety lavenders in Southern California where I live. A nice augustifolia will give you a more pleasing oil. One of the commercial producers I spoke with told me that he ages his oil for several years. If you don't keep the oil from mixing with the water, it could also ruin your oil. Try to grow Hidcote, Munstead, or Melissa lavender ( a pink variety) for this reason, if you want to distill it for the oil or hydrosol.

    Best of luck in this harvest season with your distilling and other herbal efforts!

  • kaliaman

    Oh dear, such fearmongering.

    I have been creating hydrosols (distilled plant waters) using a stainless steel pressure cooker that was easily converted to a stove top still for many years.

    It is very effective for making small batches and has been completely safe, there has not been a single episode even remotely reminiscent of those promised in preceeding posts. Attaching a tube to the vent whole DOES NOT result in explosion because the open ended tube prevents excess pressure build up.

    Please do not fear a properly converted and used stove still set up, they work great!

    Extraction of essential oils requires lots and lots of plant material and is a more involved not as easily done at home.


  • Cythan

    Check out a book called 'Secrets Of The Still' by Grace Firth. I think its out-of-print, but you can get it on InterLibrary Loan.

  • schmickl

    Hallo, I'am an Austrian engineer, offering know-how
    and all the staff like water steam copper stills to make your own essential oils
    at home. Since 12 years we offer workshops for distilling essential oils, we
    also have a book about distilling the oil.
    This is all in German, but since
    three weeks, the book is also available in english:

    further our seminars - we have english online

    And also 2 small you-tube Videos about homemade essential

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