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How to Extract Oil from Plants (Plus the Numerous Benefits and Uses)

How to Extract Oil from Plants (Plus the Numerous Benefits and Uses)

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Essential oils are growing in popularity over recent years. Their uses spread across aromatherapy, medicine, pest control, and more – so it’s natural that you’d look at your garden and wonder if you can extract oils from your plants directly.

The good news is, yes, you absolutely can! The process is easier than you think, too, and that’s what I’ll be helping you with today. Let’s get to it. Ready?

Extracted Oils: A Brief Overview

Bottles Of Essential Oils

You may have heard of extractions from plants called essential oils. These liquids have been referred to in several ways. What it boils down to is they are the strongest version of a plant in a liquid form.

It may sound as though these plant-derived oils are light and natural, but they are actually exactly the opposite. Each extraction brings you a concentrated version of the actual plant.

When used in cooking, for example, essential oils have been proven to be 75 times stronger than herbs that have been dried.

Some extractions are used for their scents and others are used for their flavoring abilities. Most extractions have to be combined with what is called a carrier oil (and others must be diluted before use).

A carrier oil is a neutral oil that becomes the base of the extracted oil. Some carrier oils include sunflower, grapeseed, olive, almond, avocado, and jojoba. You can find a variety of packs of carrier oils on Amazon to try out the different oils.

There are different levels of dilution using carrier oils that range from 1-5%. A 1% dilution would be six drops of extracted oil mixed with an ounce of the carrier oil.

What Are Extracted Oils Used For?

Preparing For An Aromatherapy Session

One of the most common uses for extracted oils is for aromatherapy. It can also be used to treat many health-related conditions — but their effectiveness has not been definitely proven.

In many instances, extracted oils are used in cooking as they offer stronger flavors than regular extracts. Here are some popular uses for extracted oils:

1. Keep a Sweet-Scented Home

Choose your favorite fragrance and keep your home smelling fresh all the time!

Rose, bergamot, and even any of the citrus combinations that are used during the holidays will keep a steady stream of that delicious aroma flowing. You will no longer need to spray a fake air freshener to make it smell good in your home.

2. Cure Sleep Troubles

If you have trouble sleeping, you may want to spray some lavender, neroli, or chamomile oils on your pillowcase. You can even keep a container of any of these oils open on your nightstand.

3. Relieve Stress

Relieving stress and anxiety can be achieved by rubbing oil extracts, such as bergamot, lemon, geranium, or sage on your temple area. This is known as one of your pressure points.

Alternatively, if you feel like you are overwhelmed and are beginning to forget things, spraying a light mist of essential oils can give you an instant boost. A quick sniff or spritz of rosemary, peppermint, or basil can help.

4. Gain a Quick Energy Boost

Besides their fresh fragrance abilities, citrus essential oils can give you an energy boost. Try any of the following fruits – grapefruit, orange, or lemon. Peppermint oil has been shown to help you when you exercise as well.

5. Get Creative in the Kitchen

When you use oils in place of extracts while cooking, keep in mind that they are much stronger than extracts so you need much less when adding to a recipe. The shelf life of essential oils for cooking is just a couple of months too, and they should be stored in the refrigerator.

6. Make Your Own Soap

Admittedly, this is a bit out there – but it’d be very fun to do. You’ll get hooked on making your own soap in no time, too!

Believe it or not, the soap-making process is easier than you think. It’s all about mixing the right essential oils, liquid oils, water, and other oils, such as coconut or olive oil. You’ll find that there are many online recipes to follow as well.

How Do You Extract Oil from Plants?

Close Up Of Essential Oil Dripping Into A Bottle

Historically, the practice of extracting oil has been around for quite some time now. Luckily, a few of them you can carry out at home, so no problem.

Some of the most common methods used, for instance, are steam distillation, oil soak, a cold-press method, and distillation by steam.

1. Steam Distillation

This is a process where steam goes through the plant leaves to extract the oils. 

If you plan on extracting plant oils on a regular basis, then invest in a still. You can purchase a still on Amazon for around $100.

Fun fact: this is the most popular form of extracting oils from your plants. There are also sites online that give you complete instructions on putting your own still together.

2. Solvent Extraction

This extraction method places the plant materials in a solvent that is called hexane – you can also use ethanol. The plant is then soaked for a period of time in order for the oils to be released but you have to check to see exactly which plants can utilize this process.

Pro tip: it is best for plants that do not normally produce a large number of oils or cannot withstand more pressurized processes.

Once the plant is soaked in the solvent it results in a material that is waxy and is referred to as concrete. As the concrete mixes with alcohol, you are left with the essential oils.

3. Oil Soak

When you use this process of extraction you put your plants into a container filled with your choice of carrier oil. The plant stays in this container for around two weeks.

At that point, you strain the plant and you are left with essential oil. After that, pour your essential oils into glass jars that are colored (not clear) and place them in dry and cool spots, not warm or humid.

4. Cold Press

In the past, one way of extracting oils from the skin of fruits was through the use of special sponges. Currently, this process is referred to as mechanical separation. How do they work?

Cold press machines puncture the rind of the fruit and through centrifugal force, the oil is moved away from the pulp of the plant. The oils accumulate in a container. You can then use the liquid as-is or combine it with carrier oils.

Other Historical Methods

You’ll find that there are many other methods mentioned on how to extract oil from a variety of plants. Most of these are processes that old-timey people used back in the day and might not be applicable in today’s modern world.

Maceration and enfleurage are just two examples to know. Both processes involve soaking the plant material in some form of liquid.

On the one hand, enfleurage includes putting the plant petals in purified layers of animal fat. Then, they used to add flower oil and alcohol to saturate the solution further.

Maceration, on the other hand, is about adding raw plant material to a specific maceration tank. 

The solvent is kept at room temperature for around seven days, or in a sunny location for about three weeks. The heat will gently warm up the carrier oil you used as time passes, extracting the plant matter while at it, too.

Why You Should Do Your Own Plant Oil Extractions

While it may take more time and effort on your part to produce your own plant extractions, you will at least know you are definitely getting a quality product at a lesser cost as opposed to going to the store and buying them.

And saving costs isn’t all, either. If you are an avid gardener and would like to share the joy and beauty derived from your green thumb, extracting oils from your own plants would make a great gift to loved ones!

A sweet-smelling spray bottle filled with diluted rose oil, for example, would make anyone happy. 

On the other hand, bottles filled with extract oils from your fragrant herbs will be a delightful present to those you know who love to cook. Perhaps put together some recipes that use those oils in a scrapbook and throw that in there, too. 

Final Thoughts

Extracting oils from your beautiful home garden might seem like a difficult endeavor, but it’s incredibly rewarding. There are many uses and benefits to doing so, and you also get to do more with your plants this way!

Personally, I find the oil soak method to be the easiest one. Creating essential oils through this method requires only some patience. 

And with the right mix of oils, you will end up with bottles, sprays, and vials of aromatic scents – all of which would be perfect as air fresheners, holiday gifts, and more.

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Michael Hampton

Monday 18th of December 2023

This helps me learn how to get the natural scents I want and need for what I need it for. I started making scent killer for hurting and what I make works better than what you can buy in the store but the only issue I am having is getting and extracting oil from corn.

Theresa Balance

Sunday 5th of November 2023

I am very excited, reading your different ways of Extracting oil the cold press and oil soak, I will try both. I am looking to Extract pumpkin oil for my skin. I will keep you posted.

Thank you, Theresa Balance

Lisa Bridenstine

Sunday 12th of November 2023

That sounds lovely! Best of luck with the process.


Sue Lartch

Sunday 4th of June 2023

The articles are very interesting. Can you give some directions as to how much herbs and oil should be used please. Also, do the plants have to be slightly dried? Thank you


Saturday 3rd of December 2022

Wow! Sounds so simple. . .but in Wisconsin, I guess I my need to grow the plants first. Not a clue on where or how to begin 😥


Friday 10th of June 2022

Can I use "dry leaves" of plants (such as myrtle and henna, etc.) for an Oil Soak?