Extraction Processes: Steam Distillation

Extraction Processes: Steam Distillation

It is important to note that essential oils and absolutes are in fact extracted from plant parts and it is essentially a liquefied version of the plant. The extraction process depends upon the plant part from which the oils are being extracted. Some extraction processes used include solvent extraction, maceration, enfleurage, cold-pressing and steam distillation. Wholesaving oils are mainly extracted using steam distillation, cold pressing and solvent extraction and this blog post will cover the process of steam distillation.

Steam distillation is the most popular method of essential oil extraction and uses steam to vaporize the volatile compounds of the plant part. These volatile compounds are then cooled, condensed and collected as the essential oil.

Intact plant parts are added into a large container. Steam is then added to the container which vaporises the volatile compounds in the plant, and this vapour rises to the top along with the steam.

Once it reaches the top, the steam and vaporised plant matter is passed through a pipe into a condensation unit. Cold water is circulated through this unit and the warm water is removed to allow the vaporised material and steam to cool down back into their liquid state.

The now liquefied mixture is passed into a separator as oil and water do not mix due to their different properties and are therefore siphoned off separately.

This final state of oil contains all the properties and phytonutrients possessed by its parent plant.