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How to Extract Essential Oils From Plants

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Essential oils are used for many projects around the home, from scenting candles, potpourri and cooking, to massages and beauty aids. Purchasing essential oils can be expensive, with some oils costing in excess of $100 an ounce. You can extract the oils from your favorite fragrant flower or herb using a number of methods. Some of these methods, such as distilling, can also be expensive, either because you need to buy a still, or figure out how to construct one. There is a much easier method to extracting the essential oils from your flowers and herbs called the enfleurage process.

The Enfleurage Process at Home

Select and pick the flowers or herbs from which you wish to extract the essential oil. For the most successful and fragrant essential-oil extraction, select the flower or herb blossoms that have not completely opened, as the oil in those blooms will be the strongest. The flowers and herbs should be picked as soon as the dew is gone in the morning--this is when the oil concentration is highest in your plants.

Remove the stems from the picked flowers and discard them. Carefully remove the petals from your flower heads or herbs, if possible. If you are unable to separate the petals from the flower head (for example the petals are too small), they can remain on the flower head.

Place about 1/4 cup of tightly packed flower petals and/or flower heads into a plastic storage bag. Using a wooden mallet to gently strike the petals in the bag in order to bruise them, which will help in releasing the essential oils.

Place the flowers/herbs you bruised into a wide-mouth jar and pour 1/2 cup warmed carrier oil over the flowers/herbs. Tightly screw on the lid of the jar and shake the mixture.

Place the jar with the petals and carrier oil in a warm spot, such as a window sill. Keep the jar in the warm spot for 24 to 48 hours, shaking the jar and contents every 12 hours.

Strain the carrier oil in the jar through cheesecloth to remove the flowers/herbs from it. Using this same carrier oil, add to it another 1/4 cup of fresh, bruised flowers/herbs and repeat setting it in a warm window sill for 24 to 48 hours. Again, strain this mixture through cheesecloth. Repeat this process so the original carrier oil has had 1/4 cup fresh flowers/herbs added to it four separate times. After the final straining through cheesecloth, the carrier oil should contain enough essential oil from your flowers or herbs and can be stored in a dark-colored jar that you keep in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight. Remember to label your jars.

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