Win a deck of Permaculture Playing Cards this week in the Permaculture forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • James Freyr
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Anne Miller
  • r ranson
  • Mike Jay Haasl
  • Dave Burton
  • Pearl Sutton
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Joseph Lofthouse
garden masters:
  • Steve Thorn
gardeners:
  • Dan Boone
  • Carla Burke
  • Kate Downham

making essential oils from home grown herbs

 
gardener
Posts: 2347
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
303
hugelkultur forest garden fungi trees books food preservation bike solar woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi,  
I've been interested and have dabbled in herbal medicine plants for a couple decades but I have not been dabbling much lately.  I've just started to grow some on my land, including a few hundred echinacea, 1/3 of which are three year old plants, and a small amount of lavender, so far. I'm thinking to make tinctures out of the echinacea, but with the lavender, I would like to make an essential oil.  This is also the case with a lot of wild herbs that I could collect.  I'm sure there is some kind of information out there on the web on best ways to extract the oil, but I figured that this might be the best time and place to get a more complete answer with Dr Tilgner's ears and eyes on the forum.  Do I need a lot of fancy equipment?  
 
gardener
Posts: 955
Location: Ohio, USA
172
dog forest garden fish fungi trees urban food preservation solar woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm not the Dr., but the short answer is yes. To get just the oils extracted from the plants it takes lots of plants and this thing that resembles something between an alcohol distiller and a steam juicer, then you get a small amount out of it.  My herbalist friend and I have considered doing this, but the quantities and effort made us decide on other methods.
 
pollinator
Posts: 396
Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
135
forest garden fish fungi trees food preservation cooking solar wood heat woodworking homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you don’t have a steamer you could also cconsider making a tincture. With vodka in a jar worked fine for me and mine.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2306
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
188
books composting toilet bee rocket stoves wood heat homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Any extraction of herbal essences needs a surprising amount of plant material, and some fairly large and sophisticated machinery to extract it. If you are just intending for personal use of small quantities, then you don't need that much equipment, but if you are going commercial you will need something of considerable size and sophistication.

I'm a beekeeper and have been looking at how to make propolis tinctures - there is a fairly basic way for personal use (shake it in a jar of vodka), but there are much better methods to quickly produce consistent high-grade commercial products, using soxhlet extractors.

Here is a crude homemade version. Notice how much lavender he put in, and how small his final yield was. I suspect that better equipment might have given better yield.



This video shows the scale of equipment for a small commercial operation, using what looks like "homemade" technology. About 6 minutes in.

 
master pollinator
Posts: 4402
1017
transportation cat duck trees rabbit books chicken woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A person can just use a crock pot.

Just put the plant material around another container set in the center of the crock pot. Then put the lid UPSIDE down over the crock pot.

When the material heats up, the essential oils rise in steam to the underside of the lid, there it condenses, drips down the concave surface of the lid, onto the knob of the lid (since it is upside down) then concentrates and eventually drips down to the container in the center of the crock pot below.

Whalla; collected essential oils.

...
Alternatively, a person can make this same sort of set up with a roasting pan on the stove with a lid upside down ect.
 
Michael Cox
pollinator
Posts: 2306
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
188
books composting toilet bee rocket stoves wood heat homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Travis Johnson wrote:
Just put the plant material around another container set in the center of the crock pot. Then put the lid UPSIDE down over the crock pot.



Ish... you will waste a lot of the essential oil with a leaky seal, and an inefficient condenser. That arrangement can be improved considerably if you put ice in the upside down lid, to make it a more effective condensation surface.
 
Travis Johnson
master pollinator
Posts: 4402
1017
transportation cat duck trees rabbit books chicken woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Michael Cox wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:
Just put the plant material around another container set in the center of the crock pot. Then put the lid UPSIDE down over the crock pot.



Ish... you will waste a lot of the essential oil with a leaky seal, and an inefficient condenser. That arrangement can be improved considerably if you put ice in the upside down lid, to make it a more effective condensation surface.



That is an awesome idea.

I typically prove something can be done first, whether it be extract oils, or build a homemade piece of equipment for my tractor. After it is proven that it can work, then I work on making it efficient, but putting a bag of frozen peas on the lid is an down and dirty method of efficiency that I like.
 
Michael Cox
pollinator
Posts: 2306
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
188
books composting toilet bee rocket stoves wood heat homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My degree was in chemical engineering. We chengers tend to see the world in a certain way that others find... unusual
 
gardener & author
Posts: 1705
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
282
trees food preservation solar greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The method for making distilled liquor in Ladakh is much as the two of you came up with above: Put the fermented barley wine in the lower pot, suspend a small pot in the top, put another round-bottomed pot on top and seal the join with dough. Start gently boiling the barley wine in the bottom, and fill the top pot with ice or snow brought in from outside. This was a winter process. A friend of mine made some wonderfully apricot-scented hooch by fermenting apricots in a bucket from August (when they were fresh) until winter (hooch-making time), and then doing the same.

A French friend who is into herbal medicine lent us a big copper apparatus for distilling herbal essences. It used a huge amount of fuel and a huge amount of herbs to produce literally one drop of the essential oil. Well, not even a whole drop. She described seeing it used successfully in France in a place where lavender grows wild and huge, so they were distilling from like, a room-full of lavender plants. We didn't have anything like that kind of volume of any herb, so we gave it up and didn't try twice.
 
Posts: 16
Location: Southeastern Minnesota; Zone 4b / 5a cusp
forest garden chicken medical herbs
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We are about ready to try out our copper alembic still for the first time using lemon balm and peppermint as they're producing the most biomass in the garden right now. Anyone have experience with an alembic still?
 
Roberto pokachinni
gardener
Posts: 2347
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
303
hugelkultur forest garden fungi trees books food preservation bike solar woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

We are about ready to try out our copper alembic still for the first time using lemon balm and peppermint

Let me know how that goes, Chaunce.  I'd love to hear about your experiences and the volumes that you put in the still and the amount of oil you produced.

Thanks for all the other replies.  :)
 
Posts: 120
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Rob
A set up like this would be such fun!
Kate
22489839_519420158408390_3898036232809467917_n.jpg
[Thumbnail for 22489839_519420158408390_3898036232809467917_n.jpg]
 
Roberto pokachinni
gardener
Posts: 2347
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
303
hugelkultur forest garden fungi trees books food preservation bike solar woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hmm.  yes Kate, I think it would be.  Where did the image come from?  Is that a copper Alembic still, as mentioned by Chaunce above?
 
Posts: 91
Location: Zone 7a, Paulden, AZ
8
forest garden chicken food preservation
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Distilling essential oils takes some expensive equipment and a lot of material.  Then you need to know how to operate it.  A good quality 5L setup will cost about $700.  Trying to piece together a steam distiller from parts on Amazon will likely end up costing more in the long run (pieces made of cheap glass in China).  This is a process better learned from someone who is familiar with making EOs.  

The crockpot method mentioned in this thread will yield some lavender water maybe (or whatever plant you're using), but not essential oil, and not even hydrosol, which is a nice by-product of essential oil making.  

I suggest finding someone near you who makes EOs and ask to watch before investing in the equipment.  

I am an herbalist and while I use some essential oils, know how to make them (and have watched a friend do so), I would not invest in a steam distiller.  It just would not be cost effective to make my own.

Bonnie
 
pollinator
Posts: 223
Location: Western North Carolina - Zone 7B stoney
58
hugelkultur dog forest garden trees cooking bee wood heat homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As Bonnie has said, creating high quality essential oils is very difficult process.  You can purchase expensive equipment to do this, or you can piece together some parts.  The crockpot method is steam distillation.  You will get lavendar water.  In order to create stronger essential oil, you need to distill the water from the oils.  Think of this as straining the fat from the gravy.  This is a method of manual separation.  There are some tools that you can use to do this, and they aren't too expensive on Amazon.  Here is one that costs 23 dollars with free shipping https://www.amazon.com/Deschem-Water-Receiver-Separator-Essential-distillation/dp/B077C24HMC

The problem with this unit is that it is glass, so you need something to keep it standing.  You need more lab equipment to make this distiller feasible.  A stand costs about 12 bucks, and a clamp about 10 dollars.  You're getting close to 50 dollars just for this single distiller.  There are kits for distilling of essential oils that range in price and quality.  If you are thinking of making a living off of this, then you might consider investing some money in it.  If it's a hobby, I would stick to the crock pot, and 50 dollars for the distiller, stand and clamp.  Once you search for essential oil distillation, you start seeing the sheer number of choices that you do have.  You can also search for DIY essential oil distillation in google, and find some good home setups.  Just remember that a home setup isn't a professional one.  You won't be able to create much volume at once.  
 
Bonnie Kuhlman
Posts: 91
Location: Zone 7a, Paulden, AZ
8
forest garden chicken food preservation
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here's a pic of a high quality 5 liter setup.  If you look between the green and blue/white attachments to the side of the larger flasks, you will see the piece that William has mentioned.  Here, you see how it is attached to the whole unit.  I'm sure you could figure out how to jerry-rig a setup with this piece to  obtain the EO, but the issue would be fitting.  This unit is made to fit together to catch the EO.  Piece-meal units will likely have a difficult time fitting correctly, therefore losing some of the precious oil.  This is lab equipment that has precise fittings.  

I believe in this picture, we were distilling Yerba mansa root.  That's a 5L flask.  After 3 distillations (you want to do multiple distillations to get all the oil), we had MAYBE half an ounce of EO.  Different plants will have different yields, but you need to know what to expect.  There will always be some hydrosol in the separator and you need to know how to separate this without leaving water in your EO - this is done through a freezing method.  Essential oils are volatile oils that will dissipate rapidly (if you smell them, they are dissipating), so you need to know how to 'capture' the oils without losing much - again, quality equipment is your best investment.  Heart Magic is the distiller we used in this picture and there is good info on their website.

Bonnie
IMG_6365.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_6365.JPG]
Essential oil distillation
 
Roberto pokachinni
gardener
Posts: 2347
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
303
hugelkultur forest garden fungi trees books food preservation bike solar woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi William and Bonnie.  Some great information here.  Thanks for the thorough explanation and the great photo, Bonnie.  Lots to consider.  
 
Posts: 23
Location: Gatlinburg, Tennessee
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I do not show my set up online because I'm always afraid of the sheriff showing up.

I distill oils, and I use a small copper pot still made for me by a professional shiner in Cosby, Tennessee (home sweet forever home). Chemical engineer or not, using a crockpot would be a waste because you cannot have exact control over the heat or the pressure, and I was a little horrified to see an aluminum pressure cooker being used for lavender, as aluminum is reactive and a horrible conductor. A stainless steel pressure cooker would be a better option, but glass is certainly ideal.

The biggest point missed in the examples above is that essential oils and their attendant waters/hydrosols need to be distilled at steam temperatures, pressures and times specific to the plant, and a distillation too hot, too cold, or too long will either ruin the end products, or waste them entirely. This is just as important, if not moreso, than the vessels used for distillation.

The secondary point missed is how to care for your equipment (I only use grain alcohol or vodka to clean with, no soaps or chemicals), and the third point missed is your menstrum. I would never use tap water when distilling; only clean spring or distilled water will prevent a variety of issues later on.
 
Kate Nudd
Posts: 120
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Rob
The picture I posted is from the Boreal Folk Apothecary website..They have a mobile set up,foraging their plants in BC and AB. I've enjoyed looking at their internet sites and reading of their journey. ....Kate
 
Roberto pokachinni
gardener
Posts: 2347
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
303
hugelkultur forest garden fungi trees books food preservation bike solar woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

essential oils and their attendant waters/hydrosols need to be distilled at steam temperatures, pressures and times specific to the plant, and a distillation too hot, too cold, or too long will either ruin the end products, or waste them entirely



Hi Miki, thanks for your post.  It brings several questions to my mind.  Can you elaborate on this please?

For example, what parameters of temperature, pressure, and time would be best for lavender?  

Are there categories of herbs that have specific parameters that a person can use as a baseline/guideline?  

Is there a resource, online or in print, for finding out what parameters as best for specific herbs?    
 
Roberto pokachinni
gardener
Posts: 2347
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
303
hugelkultur forest garden fungi trees books food preservation bike solar woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Boreal Folk Apothecary website..They have a mobile set up,foraging their plants in BC and AB.

 Cool, Kate.  Seems like a pretty cool group of folks.  :)  Maybe I'll connect with them someday.  :)
 
"How many licks ..." - I think all of this dog's research starts with these words. Tasty tiny ad:
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
https://permies.com/wiki/bootcamp
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!