During the last several years, I have received several
phone calls regarding the distillation of essential oil
plants. People are intrigued with the idea of
distillation and decide they want to grow and distill
plants. Unfortunately, what most people forget is that
what is easily sold, may not be easily grown in the areas
from which they are calling. My advice to prospective
growers is first- know your soil. What is the pH, what
type of soil, what would ordinarily grow. After you
have canvassed your area and seen what grows easily, then
look at aromatherapy books and read. From your
reading, you will find the plants and essential oils that
people want to use. Then match up your soil,
elevation, location (the terroir) with the correct plant, or
plants to grow.
comes the hardest part—finding essential oil plants.
You cannot just go to any nursery and pick out plants or
seeds because they carry plants with what you think is the
correct name. Each plant has a Latin binomial or name
that is its own. This same Latin binomial is given to
the essential oil. But, most plants also have cultivar
types (cv) and you must choose the correct cultivar.
Cultivars are often not available at general nurseries.
For example, here in California, you can go to any nursery
and purchase a Lavender plant that is correctly named
Lavandula angustifolia, the true Lavender. However, if
you plant this out and distill it, the Lavender scented
essential oil will not contain the two chemicals (linaloöl
and linalyl acetate) that make Lavender oil, lavender
scented, in a quantity that is considered therapeutic.
Yes, you will get an essential oil, but it won't be
marketable because of the quality and type of essential oil.
In order to get a quality true Lavender oil, you must first
start with the correct cultivar type of Lavender plant and
then plant it in the best location above 2500 feet in chalky
soil. Then distill it, analyze the essential oil and
if the numbers are correct (at least 40% linaloöl and 20%
linalyl acetate, with no camphor and little to no cineol),
then you can plant out this Lavender as a crop and be pretty
much assured that the Lavender oil and hydrosol will be a
1. Know Your Soil.
2. Location, Location, Location.
3. Water source, type and timing of the water.
4. Choose the correct plant that will match the terroir.
5. Harvest at the correct time.
6. Harvest the correct part.
7. Choose a method of distillation and type of equipment.
8. Choose whether you are distilling for essential oil or hydrosol.
9. Distill with the art and craft of 500 years experience.
10. Bottle and label your sterile hydrosol.
11. Market the product.
There are Lavender plants that are being grown
organically in small plots from Sonoma County, north to
Willits, Alameda in San Francisco Bay, San Francisco, an
urban plot in the middle of San Francisco and from the Bay
Area south to Santa Barbara.
Lavender, Melissa or Rose Geranium hydrosols are
gentle, soft and antiseptic. They can be sprayed on
your towels before use or on your bed linens.
For a true aromatherapy stress relieving indulgence,
spray before bed or nap time and slip between the
gently scented sheets. Spray your night clothes
or your pillows for a peaceful night's sleep.
other parts of the country a giant Peppermint farm/grower is
devoting a small parcel of his crop, particularly to the
production of truly fine
Peppermint hydrosol (can also be called an herbal water).
His still, which is the size of 3 semi-trucks, needs to be
especially adapted for the occasional few barrels of
hydrosol that are taken off.
Peppermint hydrosol is a complete and synergistic balance of
of herbal therapy and aromatherapy. It can be used as a body
spray after a shower for cooling and refreshing stimulation.
The combination of its great natural scent, natural taste
and aromatic therapeutic benefits make this hydrosol a
wonderful and exhilarating mouthwash.
In Missouri, another grower has adapted the basic still
design to the production of fine Red cedar oil and hydrosol
(Juniperus virginiana). This hydrosol is particularly
useful for the cleansing of the air of smelly hospitals.
This Juniper Hydrosol also stops ants in their tracks.
growers are interested in other plants for hydrosol
production. The APP has just recently completed the
distillation of both Mediterranean Bay Laurel (Laurus
nobilis) as a lymphatic tonic or toning aftershave and
Artemisia arborescens, the lovely Blue Artemis used for
serious skin conditions including psoriasis or eczema.
*Call us for this fabulous product.
Regarding the yield of Lavender oil and hydrosol.
It depends on the following factors:
terroir (soil, climate,
age of the plants
time of day of harvest
species and variety, is
it a 'landscape' Lavender or true essential oil
variety of Lavender
are the plants dried or
fresh when distilled
Quantities of hydrosol can be produced from just about
anything if you push too much steam through it. A
quality hydrosol can not be produced from a dried plant, and
a quantity of essential oil can be produced from just-dried
plants. Only the first cutting of the season (late
June or mid July) is used for the distillation even though
Lavender will produce a 2nd set of flowers, the 2nd set will
be loaded with camphor are considered of no use and should
be used only for the dried flower market.
Distilling should be done as soon as possible after cutting
and be processed the same day as it was harvested.
Steam pressure of 7 lb is good although some stills will
accept more pressure. In a well-designed still,
distillation can be accomplished in 30 minutes with the bulk
of the oil coming over in the first 20 minutes. Yield
of oil is .2 to .5% but location and condition of the plants
plays an enormous part. "Landscape" plants will often
produce 1% by weight of oil but it will be camphoraceous
which is not acceptable. Plants on good ground will
produce about 3 tons greenery per acre in their 5th year and
about 1 kilo of essential oil per 250 lbs of flowers.
Lavender oil is characterized by having NO CAMPHOR and
should have a
proportion of linaloöl to esters of 2•1. Although,
some Lavender oils have as much as 40-50% esters with less
linaloöl. Most quality California Lavenders are about
40% linaloöl to 25% esters in the form of linalyl acetate.
Learn to use the hydrosols and add them to your production
line.. jeanne rose