Ways & How

How to Make Essential Oils

How to Make Essential Oils

Strictly speaking, essential oils are not oils (they don’t contain fatty acids), but highly concentrated plant essences. Everything that is good about a certain plant is basically reflected in its essential oil. So you can use it for personal care, disinfection, or healing. Plants that are made into essential oils typically have potent antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. They include peppermint, tea tree, lavender, lemon, and grapefruit. True essential oils are distinct from fragrance oils which merely mimic the scents of certain plants without retaining their benefits. The former can be difficult to find in certain localities. This can be easily remedied, however, by learning how to make essential oils yourself. Three common methods are used to produce essential oils: extraction, distillation, and expression. Each method features variations on the actual procedure. The variation adopted depends on what is most convenient. Among these three methods, the distillation process is the most complicated, requiring specialized equipment and careful monitoring throughout.



As for the expression method, its product is not strictly classified as an essential oil. This leaves us with the extraction method, which we discuss step-by-step below.

  1. To make your own essential oil through the solvent extraction method, you will need the following: the flowers from which the essence will be extracted (in this case, let us say that we will use roses), 120 proof vodka, a clear quart glass jar with a lid, a small dark-colored bottle, a porcelain-coated strainer, a small glass bowl, and some tight-weave cheese cloth.

  2. Take note that, when making essential oils, you will need pounds and pounds of plant material to make a small amount of essence. Therefore, expect a small yield. Prepare the plant material by using a dehydrator to evaporate its natural water content. In this case, the roses are ready when they start to wilt.

  3. Shred the roses into the quart glass jar. Pour just enough vodka in to cover the roses. Screw the lid tightly, and give the jar a good shake for 3-5 minutes. Place the jar in a dark corner inside the kitchen cupboard, where it can sit undisturbed at room temperature.

  4. About three times a day, take out the jar and give it a good shake for several minutes. Repeat until you see the roses losing color. This could take up to a week.

  5. Wear some protective rubber gloves. Using the porcelain-coated strainer, strain out the plant material from the vodka, being very careful not to spill any liquid. Shake the roses into the cheesecloth and squeeze it out by hand to get every last bit of vodka out. By this time, the vodka will smell terrible—not to worry though, that is just about right.

  6. Using the same vodka, you can repeat the rose soaking method several more times. Just make sure not to waste any vodka with each straining. If needed, you can add a little more to make sure that the rose petals get covered. The more you do this, the more essential oils you will be able to extract.

  7. Once you are done with the rose soaking, strain as usual, but this time, return the vodka into the quart glass jar and seal it up tight. Put it in the cupboard corner again, leaving it undisturbed in the dark for a day or two. By this time, you will see some separation starting to occur: the vodka will separate from the essential oils and other plant materials.

  8. Place the glass jar inside the freezer and let it freeze. Here’s the cool part: vodka does not freeze, so only the essential oils and other plant materials will solidify.

  9. Afterwards, you will have to move fast before the essential oils melt. You will need a piece of cheese cloth laid inside a glass bowl, another piece of cheese cloth secured around a clear canning jar so that it dips inside the neck, another small glass bowl, and a small dark bottle which will hold the essential oil. Have a spoon and dropper ready as well.

  10. Remove the jar from the freezer. Skim the gunky plant material off the vodka and place it on top of the cheese cloth laid inside the bowl. Pour the vodka into the other glass jar with the loose cheese cloth. Move quickly to pick out any frozen bits and place them inside the small dark bottle. The frozen bits are the essential oils. Don’t be surprised if you only harvest a little bit.

As you learn how to make essential oils, you should gain an intuitive feel for the process. This means that, with time, you will be able to produce higher quality essential oil. You will also learn which plant materials are best for extraction and how to minimize wastage.

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