Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Distilling Lavender Essential Oils
Lavender's essential oil is fragrant, concentrated, and expensive. In it's natural form, it can be used to enhance potpourri, added to sachets, used in cooking, or dripped directly into bath water. It is favored in aromatherapy for it's relaxing and tranquil qualities. Observing lavender essential oils being processed through distillation helps one realize why an ounce of lavender oil costs as it does. To make lavender oil, the flowers are harvested when approaching full bloom. Left on the stems, they are loaded into a distiller pot which is then sealed. Steam is applied using low pressure into the bottom of the pot, causing the essential oils to be released from the plant. The steam exits through a tube in the lid of the pot. It is fed through a condenser where it is cooled into a liquid. From there the liquid goes into a separator which divides the liquid into water and oil. The water sinks to the bottom, the oil floats onto the top. The lavender water is drained off and discarded (although sometimes this by product is saved and packaged as lavender water for steam irons and such). The lavender essential oil that remains gathered into a beaker and from there bottled for use. It is interesting to observe the process. Much lavender goes into the process of making a little bit of essential lavender oil.