How Are Aromatherapy Oils Created?

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The ancient art of aromatherapy is connected to both the perfume industry and the natural health industry. Essential oils can be extracted in three basic ways: steam distillation, cold-pressing, and solvent-extraction.

Steam distillation is the most traditional and widely used method of oil extraction. The distillation process begins by using boilers to heat purified water and produce steam. This steam is then passed into a stainless steel chamber containing the plant material. As the plant is heated it releases the aromatherapy oils into the air which mix with the steam and is carried upwards into a system of pipes called the condenser.

The steam is then cooled using cold water and condenses into a mixture of water and essential oils. Next this mixture is transferred into a separation device in which the oil floats to the top of the water and is collected.

Cold-pressed, or expressed, oils are created by mechanically pressing the oils from the rinds of fruit. Only organic fruits should be used in this process of oil extraction because the pesticides used on non-organic fruit will be concentrated in the oils. Although they are not technically essential oils, expressed oils are still deemed highly therapeutic and are generally less expensive than steam and solvent distilled oils.

Flowers containing a small, volatile amount of oil that is not easily extracted using steam distillation are processed by distilling the plant with a hydrocarbon solvent. After this distillation a concrete remains, which is a mixture of essential oil, wax, resin, and plant material. This concrete is then distilled again using grain alcohol to extract the pure essential oil.

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