What is Distillation?

It is important to know how an Essential Oil is produced in order to appreciate the potency, purity, and efficacy of the product.  The original term “essence” derives from the early practices of separating the bulk “vegetable” from the source of the results of that herb.  This essence is what creates the desired effect of the EO.  Distillation is used to extract the select light aromatic compounds that we want.  The distillation process is finely tuned for each EO.  The process is highly refined and critical to the quality of the resulting product.  This is true for whiskey, perfumes, and other high-value products that reduce large masses of base material to tiny batches of essential distillates.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in their Vocabulary of Natural Materials (ISO/D1S9235.2) defines an essential oil as a product made by distillation with either water or steam or by mechanical processing of citrus rinds or by dry distillation of natural materials. Following the distillation, the essential oil is physically separated from the water phase.

According to Dr. Brian Lawrence “for an essential oil to be a true essential oil, it must be isolated by physical means only. The physical methods used are distillation (steam, steam/water, and water) or expression (also known as cold pressing, a unique feature for citrus peel oils). There is one other method of oil isolation specific to a very limited number of essential oil plants. This is a maceration/distillation. In the process, the plant material is macerated in warm water to release the enzyme-bound essential oil. Examples of oils produced by maceration are onion, garlic, wintergreen, bitter almond, etc.”