Steam Distillation (SD)
Traditionally, the majority of essential oils are steam distilled. The plant material is placed into a still; steam is then passed through, which causes the oil to vaporize, the mixture of steam and essential oil then passes through a series of cooling tubes in order to condense the mixture back to a liquid form. This distillate is then traditionally collected in a Florentine flask which further separates the essential oil from the water-based hydrosol. Hydrosols such as Rose or Lavender are often used when a more gentle treatment is needed.
We offer many steam distilled oils but a few of our favourites are … exquisite Organic Neroli from Morocco, Spruce & Fir Oils … fresh and full of boreal energy from the forests of Quebec, and the deep earth aroma of Vetiver from Haiti.
Cold Pressed (CP)
Citrus oils, such as Pink Grapefruit, Orange and Lemon are cold-pressed. Mechanical abrasion is used to pierce the tiny essential oil “cells” on the surface of the peel. The fruit and the peels are then, simultaneously, pressed to create a solution of pulp, juice, natural waxes and essential oil, which is then separated by centrifuge.
Most cold pressed citrus oils contain naturally-occuring compounds called Furocoumarin. These compounds make the Essential Oil photosensitive to sunlight and other UV rays, because of this, avoid using citrus oils directly on your skin. If diluted citrus dermal application does occur, avoid exposing the area to sunlight or sunbeds for 24-48 hours.
An extremely environmentally friendly method, around since the 1990s, uses naturally occurring CO2 as a solvent. Certain substances, like CO2, can exist in a hypercritical state where they are both a gas and a liquid simultaneously. C02 becomes hypercritical at very high pressure and a relatively low temperature of 33 degrees. The extraction process itself takes only minutes, therefore there is no damage to the aroma of the essential oil. The integrity and intensity of the aroma of these CO2 extracts are often superior to steam distilled essential oils. CO2 extracts smell very much like the original plant part because all of the most delicate heat-sensitive compounds are retained.
CO2 extraction creates two different products: Selects and Totals. Select extracts are obtained at lower pressures, contain only volatile compounds (essential oils) and usually have a liquid consistency. Total extracts are extracted at higher pressures, contain essential oils as well as natural plant fats, waxes and plant pigments and are usually thick at room temperature.
CO2 totals often need to be warmed up in order to be blended into another base carrier oil. Recommended percentages of 0.5% -1% can make excellent therapeutic additions to all your aromatherapy blends.
We fell in love with the potency of CO2 extracts since our first sniff! We are still sourcing our CO2’s from the same European team since 1995.
Solvent Extraction (SE)
Certain plant fragrances, such as Jasmine, are so delicate they need to be extracted using solvents such as hexane. The plant material is submerged in the solvent which extracts out a solution of essential oils, natural plant waxes and pigments; then under a low heat the extract solution is placed in a distillation vessel to boil off the solvent, thereby creating a “concrete”. The concrete is then warmed in alcohol to dissolve the essential oils. This mixture is then cooled to cause the nonvolatile & insoluble matter to precipitate out. The alcohol solution is further distilled at a very low temperature until just the ”absolute” is left, giving us the final product. Industry standards dictate the relative safe use of volatile hydrocarbon of hexane and permissible levels of 10ppm; at these levels, absolutes would have to be used in excess to do any harm.