Distillation of Essential Oils

Distillation is a process in which a liquid is converted into vapors, and these vapors are then condensed to liquid again. Aromatic plants, flowers, fruits, woods, and berries are used for the distillation of essential oils.

Methods of Distillation 

There are different methods of distillation:

Water Distillation

It is one of the oldest techniques in which plant material is immersed in water. After that, fire is applied to the distillery. The water and the plant material gradually boil and discharge vapors once the temperature rises. These vapors cool down and convert into a liquid upon passing through the condenser. In the final step, essential oil separates from water upon traveling through a Florentine receiver.

Steam Distillation

In steam distillation, a separate compartment is used to create the steam for the process. The generated steam then passes through a jacket or plant material. The plant material releases vapors when heated up. The vapors pass through a condenser, which converts vapors into essential oil. Two layers are formed, one of water and one of the essential oils. The essential oil layer is extracted from water.

Industrial steam distillation equipment is mainly automated. It monitors conditions for the process, for instance, humidity and temperature. It also tracks the data.


This method is mainly used for plants with a meager amount of essence. In this method, flowers are immersed in fats and used directly or dissolved by alcohol to extract absolutes. 

This is an old method and is rarely used now.

CO2 Extraction 

preIn this process, CO2 is converted into liquid under high pressure. This liquid then dissolves plant material at high temperatures. When temperatures become normal CO2 converts into gas and leaves the purest essential oils. CO2 gets removed easily.

No heat is applied in this method, so essential oils made from this method are of better quality as heat can damage the plant material content. Plant extracts obtained with CO2 extraction are thicker with a heavy aroma and spice.

High-quality essential oil distillation 

There are the various aspects that need to be considered in the distillation of essential oils:

  • Water must be pure without minerals. In this regard, springwater is very suitable for distillation as it has no minerals. Water with minerals leads to an extra step of chemical descaler.
  • A low pressure of 0.05 to 0.10 bars must be applied because high pressure can over oxidize the plant material.
  • Airtight containers are used for storage and conservation. A stainless tank must be used as iron and copper tanks can get rusted.
  • Careful monitoring and supervision of every step involved from harvesting to equipment and methods of distillation are the keys for best quality essential oils formation.

Essential oil distillation involves expertise in arts and science and requires a thorough understanding of every step from harvesting to the final product. High-quality essential oils production requires a lot of time and effort.