Thursday, August 14, 2014

How to Make Essential Oils

Hey Everyone! Lovely week here in Minnesota. It seems like everything starts to slow down in the restaurant business around this time. It is a nice time for everyone to get out of their homes and enjoy the summer one last time before the leaves turn and the temperature drops.

Besides winter our seasons are pretty quick here in Minnesota. As I have mentioned about a dozen times since May, I am growing some pretty wonderful herbs. I got a little excited during planting season and really went all out on my little planters. In the past couple weeks I have noticed they are getting a bit drab in color- I think this is due to the fact that they are out growing their pots and I really need to start using them so that they don't die. It is always so weird with edible and usable plants. You plant them, baby them, make sure they are happy and healthy and then you cut them all down. Obviously you cut them and use them to make wonderful things but it always saddens me a little to see them either away. I have a problem with holding onto things longer than they should be held on to... Now because I haven't been using the herbs in fear I would use them all, they are dying because I am not using them. It is a vicious cycle.

I feel a bit silly talking about my strong need to hold onto my precious plants but I think that most people feel that way about the things they have created around themselves. I feel the same way I felt when I got my first drastic haircut. It took you so long to grow it and it will take time for it to grow again but you always know there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is not the end of the world it is only plants and there is still a bit of time in the season for them to make a small comeback. It is now time for me to give up my apprehensions and just mow some of them down.

To read along and find out how to make your own essential oils click below.

That being said Danielle has created the perfect outlet for me to be able to use some of these lovely herbs before I inevitably dry most of them for the winter. She has inspired me to make my own essential oils at home. She has been a very big advocate for essential oils since I met her. Every time I have a problem she tells me which essential oil would be best to fit the problem. After some research and some trail runs, I can definitely say a lot of the time they work really well. For most of the things I use the oils for I do end up going through them fairly quickly and man after a few trips to the co-op that can get super expensive.  Ever since I started growing my herbs I have really wanted to investigate the process of making your own oils. I feel like it could be a very satisfying process. After some research and some good advice I will now mash together my plan for creating an oil from scratch.

I have not tried this system out yet due to time constraints but once I have done it I will update you all with the outcome and anything that might need tweaking!

Step One: Creating a Distilling Apparatus

So the first step to making an essential oil is making sure you are set up properly. To concentrate the oil in the proper way it must go through a process of distillation. You can purchase distillers on most online shopping sites including Amazon but they can be a bit expensive. I think if you are really going to invest the time in creating your own oils on a regular basis these tools might be more convenient and necessary but for the purposes of just making one or two oils there are sites that guide you into creating your own apparatus at home, using materials found in the house.

Here are a couple links to DIY sites:

Pot Distiller

Teapot Distiller

Step Two: Gathering Materials

The quantity of essential oils contained in a plant varies over the course of the plant's development. Harvesting the plant at the correct time is key. Doing some research beforehand is always a good idea. I plan on using sage. Generally plants in the whole form work best when creating the oils. The best time for sage to be harvested is 75 days after it has been transplanted into my garden. I think that my sage may be a bit over due by about 10 days but I think that if I just use a bit more in the oil making process it shouldn't be a huge deal.

Step Three: Drying the herbs

Drying your herbs allows for a higher concentration of the product to be used when making the oils. Making sure you are drying the herbs slowly helps keep the integrity of the plant material. Drying in shade or even dark rooms help preserve the oils. Distill as soon as possible after drying- you do not want your herbs to over dry.

Step Four: Adding Water and Plant Material to the Still

Use clean water, ideally filtered or distilled and as soft as possible. Simply make sure there is enough water in the still to complete the distillation process. Depending on the plant distilling can take up to a half hour to six hours after the water boils. Add the whole plant material and make sure it doesnt hug the side of the still too tightly. The layer of plant material can be quite thick as long as it is about inches below the top (a foot if it is a large stock pot).  Now close the lid and boil. Most plants will release their essential oils at 212 degrees fahrenheit. Make sure to keep your eye on the still the process should be fairly hands-off, but you will want to ensure that you do not run out of water in your still. If the process is taking longer you may need to change the water in the still.

Step Five: Filter the collected oil

Once your distillation is complete- filtering the oil through cheesecloth can help prevent residues in the oil that might contaminate and spoil the oil more quickly.

Step six: Pour the oil into a container for storage

Do this very quickly. Most essential oils can be kept for at least two years. To maximize the useful life of your oil, keep in a dark glass bottle. Use clean materials to pour the oil into its container and make sure the container is sanitized before using. Store the oil in a cool, dark place.


You will need a lot of plant material to make a little essential oil. If you do not wish to purchase or make a distilling apparatus you may make hydrosols. Although these are not as potent and may not produce the same healing results as the essential oils that have been distilled. To create a hydrofoil you just steep your plant materials in clean filtered water. You then filter out the plant material from the steeped water and you have created a hydrosol ( Rose water is an example of a hydrofoil).

Also, essential oils are very concentrated so using a carrier oil can be important before putting directly on the skin. The best carrier oils are almond and grape seed oils.

I am very excited to embark on my journey to create my own essential oils. I will hopefully follow up in the next couple weeks with some photos and recipes for creating my own oils. Please do let me know if you have any questions and hopefully I have inspired some of you to use those summer herbs for creating something super special.


Ps. Don't forget to check out Danielle's awesome post on treating bug bites with essential oils and getting rid of pesky ticks with essential oils.

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