Essential oils are a highly concentrated form of plant extracts, made by steaming or pressing various parts of a plant such as flowers, bark, leaves, or fruits. It may take several kilos of a plant to produce a single bottle of essential oil. In addition to creating aroma, essential oils also perform other functions in plants, allowing their beneficial compounds to reach the bloodstream faster than they would simply by consuming the plant. The most popular method for extracting and isolating essential oils from plants is steam distillation.
This process involves boiling the plant material in water and collecting the steam that is produced. The steam is then cooled and condensed back into liquid form, which contains the essential oil. The CO2 extraction process is also used to produce higher quality oils that have not been altered by the application of high heat, unlike the steam distillation process. This method uses food-grade solvents such as hexane and ethanol to isolate essential oils from plant material.
Freshly distilled essential oil does not always have a pleasant smell, because it needs to mature for a few weeks in order to reach its full potential. There is evidence to support the use of lavender essential oil as an analgesic (analgesic), anti-inflammatory and topical antibiotic, so it is very helpful to keep it close to burns and insect bites. The oil and juice that are produced still contain fruit solids, such as peel, and must be centrifuged to filter solids from liquids. The essential oil produced is a very delicate substance that can easily change and become rancid, thus losing its natural aroma and developing substances that could also be harmful.
Cold pressing or distillation are best suited for plant materials that produce low amounts of essential oil, which are largely resinous, or that are delicate aromatics that cannot withstand the pressure and distress of steam distillation. Absolutes are another type of essential oil obtained through a process called solvent extraction. This term refers to the use of essential oils to improve the quality and feeling of health and well-being on a physical, emotional and mental level. These absolutes are very aromatic and tend to be more viscous (some are very resinous and difficult to work with) and dark in color compared to essential oils obtained by cold pressing or distillation.