Plants are full of aromatic oils that enchant all our senses on a daily basis. The best part about this is that we can actually extract those aromatic oils and use them anytime. Those aromatic oils are called essential oils. Not only do they smell great, but they also have therapeutic benefits. But most of them can be quite expensive. How about you learn how to make your own essential oil instead of spending so much?
Like any other thing in life, making your own oil comes with ups and downs. It depends on how willing you are to give it a try. Maybe you’re used to spending a lot of money on commercial Aromatherapy essential oils. In that case, maybe making your own oil would be a nice experience. I will explore each side of the essential oils making process in the first part of the article.
I will then continue by giving you all the info and the necessary steps to make your first essential oil. There are many extraction methods out there, but only a few are really affordable and easy to use. Learn how to make your own essential oil and then decide which way you prefer it. Who knows, maybe making oils will become your favorite activity from now on.
Did You Know?
- You can’t just harvest a plant whenever and start extracting its aromatic oils. Almost all the plants need to be harvested early in the morning. After the dew is gone, a plant is at its peak. It’s refreshed and full of aromatic oils. By the end of the day, it will have consumed a lot of oils to protect itself.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Making Your Own Essential Oil
Before getting into more details about the pros and cons of making your own oil, I will explain a bit about what an essential oil is.
An essential oil is the essence of a plant. Essential oils are usually extracted through steam distillation. This extraction method is the only one that gives pure essential oils and it’s not too expensive to make. It’s not expensive for producers that is.
Essential oils can be extracted from leaves, barks, twigs, flowers, and even resins. Citrus rinds are also used to get essential oils. But citrus oils can also be extracted through the cold pressed method too.
The steam distillation of citrus rinds produces oils that are not phototoxic. Meaning, these essential oils can be used on the skin even if you’re about to sunbathe.
Otherwise, other extraction methods will allow those molecules that cause sun sensitivity to make it into the final product. Bergaptene is one of the responsible molecules for causing sun sensitivity (phototoxicity).
But what exactly is the essence of a plant? Plants have this defense mechanism which allows them to survive and reproduce. This defense mechanism lies in their aromatic oils. Each plant secretes certain aromatic oils that are made of tiny volatile molecules.
Each plant produces a small amount of aromatic oils, however. That’s why, when the distillation process takes place, a lot of plant matter is necessary.
Plants have specialized structures or chambers if you prefer. That’s where they store the essential oils. The heat from the steam distillation separates the oil molecules from the water. From steam distillation, we get essential oils and floral waters (hydrosols). Essential oil molecules are heavier than water, so they will always float. But they are not real oils because they don’t contain fatty acids.
There are many extraction methods out there. Some are too expensive even for oil producers to attempt to make them. Certain plants do not yield a good amount of essential oil, so they are never distilled for Aromatherapy purposes. Such is the case of Lilac or Peony, which is quite a shame because they smell divine.
You can, however, learn how to make your own essential oil and fragrance oil from delicate flowers. Find out how in the following part of the article.
The advantages of making your own essential oils
At the beginning of the article, I was telling you there are ups and downs to this type of activity. It all comes down to how much you want to give it a try. Sometimes, it may even be necessary to make your own if you can’t find a specific fragrance or oil where you live. You should ask yourself three things:
- Does it matter more to save money but lose time making my own oils?
- Or should I just continue spending good amounts of money, but gain time instead?
- What do I need the oil for?
Of course, things are not as simple as they seem. You might not see the endeavor of making your own essential oils a loss of time. In which case, this could actually turn into a very nice hobby. Or you really need your essences to be pure and potent to treat various skin problems. For this, you should always buy pure oils from a reputed source.
Here’s why you should try to make your own oils at least once:
- Freedom to make any kind of oil you want.
- Freedom to make as much oil as you want.
- The pleasure of doing it yourself. Especially if you’re a DIY type of person.
- You will know exactly what ingredients and tools you’ve used to extract your aromatic oils.
- You could save big money. You can choose one of the two most simple extraction methods to make large batches of oils.
- You will know for sure that your oils are pure. Depending on the oil, some producers tend to alter their essential oils with synthetic constituents. Or they add constituents from other oils that alter the oil’s therapeutic benefits also.
Learning how to make your own essential oil seems quite appealing, doesn’t it? You don’t even need fancy equipment to start working on it. I’m not going to give you details about the steam distillation process, because it’s a bit more complicated.
I will give you details on two other methods, which are simpler. Steam distillations require specialized equipment and you should only buy it if you know what you’re doing. There’s no need for that now, while you’re still experimenting and getting the hang of it all.
The disadvantages of making essential oils at home
- Sometimes, it can be time-consuming and frustrating.
- First experiments may be a bit more costly. To avoid this part, try making small batches at first.
- Homemade oils don’t have therapeutic properties. If they’re fragrance oils and you use the carrier oil extraction method, they will only lend their aroma to the carrier. If you’re using a solvent like alcohol to extract the oils, they will be less potent than steam distilled essential oils.
Pure Aromatherapy oils are carefully monitored during the extraction process. The tools used there must also be of the highest quality. The time of harvest and the area where the plants grew also matter for the properties and benefits of an essential oil.
A professional knows exactly when the right time to harvest his plants is. Plants won’t yield a large amount of oils if they’re picked in the evening, for instance. Again, if the plants finish blooming, then they might be drained or too old to yield good quality oils.
You might wonder why the plants don’t yield the same amount of aromatic oils throughout the day. It doesn’t matter if there aren’t predators around to harm them. The answer is the sun, which can damage the plant tissue. In such cases, the plant will use its oil reserve to protect itself from extreme heat.
If we were to compare the ups and downs of learning how to make your own essential oil, it would seem it may indeed be a good idea to make your own. But their quality is not suited for Aromatherapy purposes. In this case, you might have to compromise a bit.
Use homemade oils to scent body lotions, perfumes and candles, soaps and so on. And buy pure Aromatherapy essential oils to improve your health.
If you keep all your oils stored in dark, cool and dry places you should be able to use them for a very long time. I am all for making my own oils, when possible
How to Make Your Own Essential Oil in a Step by Step Guide
If I’ve got you convinced it’s a good idea to make your own oils (which I truly believe it is), then keep reading. As I’ve said, there are way too many extraction methods to get essential oils. But I filtered them and chose only those that could be tried at home. They are two methods: 1) the solvent extraction and 2) the infusion method.
You’re about to see how you can make fragrance or essential oils at home with two simple methods. Think about what you want them for and then decide what method would suit your needs. I will help you with tips along the way.
There are a few things you should keep in mind before starting the extraction process:
1) Make sure your plants are all clean and dried, but not overly dried.
2) Also, make sure they’re as natural as possible. Use plants with no pesticides or other chemicals.
3) You can also use fresh plants, as long as they’re not wet. Water increases the risk of bacteria growth.
4) Keep your oils in dark glass bottles, in cool, dark places.
5) Ultimately, remember that your oils will not be good for therapeutic use. They will be less potent than steam distilled essential oils.
For the two extraction methods, I’m going to give you details about, you’ll need:
- Your desired plant matter (citrus rinds, flowers, leaves, twigs or spices).
- Clean, dry cheesecloth to strain the oils.
- Wooden mallet to gently crush your plant matter. This will help release the aromatic oils.
- A dark glass jar for storage.
These items are common for both extraction methods. Each method will need a few other items, but they’re not many. Let’s begin learning how to make your own essential oil:
- The solvent extraction method
This extraction method involves the use of alcohol. It is especially suited to extract the essences of sensitive flowers like rose or Melissa. These sensitive flowers give a very low yield. Normally, you need a lot of plant matter to get a very small amount of essential oil.
This method is the closest you can use to make essential oils. Your own oils will not be as potent and high quality as the steam distilled ones. But it will be good enough to use in your beauty products or diffuser. You can also make citrus essential oils with this method.
You will need:
- Plant matter.
- Pure alcohol (high proof vodka).
- Clear glass jar.
- Rubber mallet.
- Small dark glass jar or bottle.
- Cheesecloth or strainer.
- A wooden spoon.
- A dropper.
Step 1) Dry your flowers (or any other plant parts). Usually, flowers are dried enough when they look wilted.
Step 2) Shred (if you have large flower petals) or gently crush your plant matter with the mallet. Add them into your clean jar.
Step 3) Add the vodka. Pour as much as needed, until the plants are covered.
Step 4) Screw the lid on your jar and shake vigorously for 5 minutes or so.
Step 5) Place your jar at room temperature, in a dark and dry place.
Step 6) Shake the jar well, 2 – 3 times a day for as long as it takes for the roses to lose their color (about 5 – 7 days).
Step 7) Strain the content of your jar using the cheesecloth. Squeeze the cheesecloth well until there’s no more liquid left. Don’t panic if your liquid smells nasty, it’s normal.
Step 8)This is the right time to repeat all the above steps if you want your oil to be more fragrant and potent. Use the same used vodka for the next batches, adding a bit more if needed.
Step 9) Once you’re satisfied with the aroma, keep all your strained liquid in the same jar. Let it sit in the same dark place for 2 days. During this time, the essential oil will separate from the vodka.
Step 10) Freeze the jar. Any plant matter or oils will freeze, becoming solid.
Step 11) Now you’ll need to be a bit speedy. Prepare two glass bowls with cheesecloth on each. Pour the frozen content in one, and the vodka in the other. Use the dropper to pick up any remaining frozen bits from the vodka.
The frozen essential oil will start to melt quite fast and you’ll be able to move it into your dark smaller bottle. Store it in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place. Your oil will be good for about 6 months.
Using this method to learn how to make your own essential oil could not be any easier. Of course, if we compare it to the other methods that involve steam or a lot of boiling.
- The infusion method.
This extraction method is perfect for fragrance oils. You could capture all your favorite flower scents using this method. The infused oils resulting from this method will be less potent than the one above. It will also not be a pure essence, because your plant matter will be mixed with a carrier oil (vegetable oil).
But it’s also less expensive than the first method because you’re not using vodka anymore.
- The plant matter (flowers, leaves, citrus rinds, etc.)
- Carrier oil.
- A saucepan.
- Dark glass bottle.
- Mallet or mortar.
- Wooden spoon.
- Heat source.
Step 1) Prepare your plant matter: wash it well and let it dry really well.
Step 2) Gently bruise or crush your plants, but make sure they don’t get cut. You will need to take all the plant matter out.
Step 3) Place your saucepan on the range cooker. Set it at the lowest temperature possible. Add your plants in it and then pour the carrier oil on top, until it covers the plants.
You should use one of the unscented carrier oils. In reality, they have a bit of scent, but it is very faint in some oils. Choose oils like Grapeseed, Watermelon, and Sweet Almond, or Avocado.
Step 4) Let the contents of the saucepan cook on low temperature for 6 hours. Stir them every hour or so, making sure your plants are well submerged into the oil.
You need to let them simmer for a very long time because the plants need time to release all their aromatic molecules. And you want your infused oil to smell as powerful as possible. Some people say you can let them cook half of the time in a day, and continue the next day.
You could also speed up the process by cooking them in the oven. Keep them for 2 to 3 hours. You’d still need to supervise the slow cooking and stir frequently.
Step 5) Once cooled, strain the oil from the plant matter in a clean, glass bowl using the cheesecloth. Squeeze the cheesecloth well until nothing else comes out of it. Store your oil in a dark glass jar, and keep it in a cool dark place. It will be good for at least 6 months.
Imagine the scents you could capture with this simple method! Perfumed flowers like Peony or Lilac would give your lotions, or candles an impressive scent.
The resulting infused oil can be mixed with other essential oils. You can make your own perfume oil with some really nice notes.
Remember though, these oils will not be as potent as steam distilled essential oils. They should never be taken orally! The first method yields essential oils that can also be diffused.
In conclusion, you don’t really have to be an expert to make your own oils. Whether they’re essential oils or infused oils, you have a choice in what type of products you use on your skin and hair.
Making oils can be pretty fun. Once you’ve done it the first time, it’ll then become so much easier. In the end is just a matter of choice, but it’s good to have choices. You never know which one proves to be a life changer.
Do you think learning how to make your own essential oil is difficult? Have you done it, and if so, would you like to share your experience with us? I’d be really delighted to read your stories.