In this article, we will explain how to tell if essential oils are pure or fake/adulterated. There are many essential oil brands out there that promise to deliver the value and benefits from their essential oil lines. Most of these essential oil brands though are nothing more than scams. The first part of this article will focus on how to tell if the essential oils you are thinking about buying are pure or adulterated and on the second part, we will explain how to steam distill essential oils at home.
- How To Tell If Essential Oils Are Pure or Adulterated
- Extraction of Essential Oils by Steam Distillation
- How to Make a Simple Essential Oil Distiller
- The Three Variations of the distillation process:
- How to Make Essential Oils at Home
Essential oils are used in aromatherapy and are renowned for their beneficial properties in the body, soul, and mind. Unfortunately, however, there are many adulterated compositions on the market that aim to simply deliver lower quality essential oils.
Below we analyze seven ways to understand if the essential oils you are looking to buy, are pure or fake.
How To Tell If Essential Oils Are Pure or Adulterated
- We observe the essential oil’s imprint
Here are some images that will help you better understand this method.
- Check the price
To obtain just a few grams of pure essential oil, large amounts of flowers or leaves are needed. E.g., for just 10 grams lavender essential oil 5 pounds of this plant is required. The average price of an authentic essential oil is around 12-20 dollars per 10 ml, depending on the type. For example, Bulgarian rose essential oil is more expensive than lavender oil.
- Read the ingredients
On the back of the essential oil package, there must be written the Latin name of the plant from which the oil originates and not just the name we use in our everyday language. For example, Lavandula instead of lavender, citrus instead of lemon, Rosmarinus officinalis instead of rosemary, etc.
Here’s an example of a proper written name.
- Be careful of its packaging
The bottle must be dark blue or brown glass so that the light does not penetrate. Essential oils should also be stored in shady, cool places. Solar radiation and heat alter the composition of the oil. So if you see essential oils not in dark blue or brown glass or on a shelf that’s getting hit by a lot of sunlight, then you know that the essential oil you are about to buy is bad quality.
- What does the essential oil’s texture feel like?
Place a drop on the index finger and rub it with your thumb. A genuine essential oil should slip but must not leave oiliness. Also, for cosmetic use, we need to dissolve it in a special base oil rather than in water otherwise it can irritate the skin, and cause even a burn.
- The essential oils smell plays role
If we burn, on the special oil burner, authentic herbal essential oils we understand the difference in the way we breathe.
- Look for any certifications
If the product is stamped by reliable international organizations such as USDA, Ecocert, The Soil Association, ICEA, etc., it means that the plants from which the distillation took place are organically grown, without suspicious chemicals.
Extraction of Essential Oils by Steam Distillation
In this section, we will explain how to steam distill essential oils at home. There are several ways to extract essential oils from a plant. Distillation is the oldest and still the best method. The process used for the distillation of ethereal oils is steam distillation.
This procedure is based on an 11th-century Persian doctor called “Avicenna” who introduced and documented many medical practices used today including aromatherapy.
Over the centuries the process of distillation and equipment has been perfected and modernized.
Yet the basic idea remains the same.
Steam distillation is a distillation method for compounds that are sensitive to high temperatures. This process involves using the exported steam through a heated mixture of raw material.
Under Raoult’s law, some of the compounds will be vaporized (according to their partial pressure).
The steam mixture is cooled and condensed, usually producing a layer of essential oil and a layer of water. The steam distillation of various aromatic plants and flowers can lead to two products an essential oil as well as a watery botanical distillate (flower water).
How to Make a Simple Essential Oil Distiller
In the trade, there are many ready-made steam distillers for essential oils. These distillers usually cost around 120 – 200 dollars. If you are planning on buying one make sure that you get a steam distiller. The difference from other distillers is that steam distillers don’t boil the plants but send hot steam to them.
If you have plenty of time for creativity you can easily make your own handmade distiller. To make a simple, handmade essential oil distiller you will need 3 main things; a pressure cooker, a copper tube, and a bucket of ice.
Here’s what you have to do:
- Put in the pressure cooker on a heat source and the desired plant in the pressure cooker.
- The plant will boil, then it will steam and it will cool down by passing through the ice bucket and will give you a warm mixture of water and oil.
- The mixture will then be separated in the container since the essential oil is lighter than water. With a spoon, you will get essential oil from the surface.
The Three Variations of the distillation process:
- Distillation with water and steam
- Steam distillation
All of them work in the same basic way.
The process involves using the exported steam through a heated mixture of raw material. Heat is channeled into the alambic and the heat of the steam breaks the fibers of the plant.
- This heat is enough to release the essential oils, which are drifting by the water vapor outside the alambic.
- The mixture of steam and oils is cooled and condensed, usually producing a layer of essential oil and a layer of water.
- Since essential oil and water have different densities, (the essential oil is lighter than water), the essential oil rises to the top.
- The distillation of various aromatic plants and flowers can lead to two products. One is the essential oil and the other is the flower water, which is water in which a small amount of essential oil is dissolved.
Hydrodistillation: is the simplest of the processes and is achieved when the plant is placed in boiling water. While this method is necessary for some plants, especially woody, the distillation of oils from plants such as lavender, works best with the methods of steam distillation as mentioned above.
Distillation with water and steam: it is a process where the plant is placed in the boiler over the boiling water through a mesh or grill as mentioned above, resulting in the steam penetrating more than the plant material, providing greater oil yield than the method of hydrodistillation.
Steam distillation: in this method, the steam is produced in a steam-generator and then imported under the plant. The advantage of this method is that the plant material can be processed more easily, without having to come into contact with the water thus avoiding the alteration of the components of the oil.
How to Make Essential Oils at Home
Equipment and Process of Essential Oils Distillation
- The first thing you’re going to need is the heat source. The heat source which is used to boil water is key to the process of distillation. A lit fire under the still is the oldest and traditional method for heating it. Today, we can also use natural gas, such as propane or butane, as well as electricity.
- A tank to retain the water and just above the water, on a grill, the plant which you are planning to distill.
- The condenser, which gathers steam and cools it, usually with piping, through a tube immersed in cold water or ice.
- The separator, which separates the essential oil from the water vapor. The separator, or Essencier, is one of the most important pieces of the distiller’s device. The separator enables us to separate essential oils from the distillate in a passive way. With the separator, the essential oil is separated from the flower water due to the difference in density.
Harvesting Your Raw Materials
The amount of essential oils contained in a plant varies during the growth of the plant, so it is necessary that the harvest is done at the right time.
This will depend on the type of plant, so you need to do some research to determine when to do the harvest. Harvesting in the wrong places and collecting at the wrong time of day can reduce the quantity and quality of the essential oil.
If you are buying your raw material, you are clearly not in control of the collection process. What you can do is to have a look at the plants and check whether they look healthy or not. If you don’t mind, ask the seller details of the place and manner of the harvest and judge according to the requirements of the plant if it is suitable for distillation.
Drain the plants (Optional)
Drying reduces the amount of oil in each plant, but can significantly increase your yield per batch because you will be able to put more material in each batch. Commercial plants such as lavender and mint are left to dry in the phase after cutting for a day.
The ideal drying method varies from plant to plant, but in general, the plants should not overheat. Drying under shade or even in a dark room minimizes the oil that is lost. Also note that you should not overdry them, and you should not allow the plants to become moist again before distillation. The distillation must take place as soon as possible after the drying process is over.
Add water to your water tank
Use clean water, ideally filtered or distilled. If you are using a manufactured still, follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Otherwise, just make sure you have enough water until the distillation is complete. Depending on the plant and quantity, distillation can last from half an hour to six hours or even more.
You do not need to cut or reduce the plant material, because in doing so you will lose some of the oils. The plant material should touch the side of the tank as little as possible. The layer of plant material can be quite thick, as long as it is under the steam outlet.
Close the still and boil the water. Most plants release their essential oils, at 100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the normal boiling point of water.
Supervision of the Distillation Process
After a while, the distillate will start to fall through your freezer and into your separator. Depending on the duration of the distillation process, you may also need to change the water in the condenser so that the cooling process is still working. Follow the instructions for the specific plant you are distilling.
Filter the oil collection (optional).
Once your distillation is complete you can filter the oil with a dry cotton cloth. Make sure the fabric is dry and clean (residues of detergents and dirt can contaminate the oil).
Pour the oil into a container for storage as soon as possible. Most essential oils are kept for at least two years, but some have an excellent shelf life. To maximize the useful life of your oil, hold it in a dark glass or stainless steel container.
Use a clean funnel to pour the oil into the container, and make sure the container is immaculately clean before pouring oil into it. Store in a cool and dark place.
Decide what to do with Hydrosol.
The distillation process produces the essential oil and Hydrosol (herbal distillate) – the condition for distilled water that collects the separator. Some hydrosols can be used such as rosewater or lavender water.
We hope you enjoyed reading our tips on how to tell if essential oils are pure and our guide on how to make essential oils at home. If you notice any mistake or if you believe that the information provided in this article is false, please contact us and we will study your recommendation. Finally, we would really appreciate it if you share this article with health communities around the internet.
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