Extracted oils from plants, fruits, and herbs are growing in popularity. They are used for a number of things, from aromatherapy to medicinal applications to their use in cooking as well as in cosmetics and perfumes.
Plant oil extractions may seem complicated to pursue at home, but it is much easier than you may think.
There are many different ways to extract the oil from plants and the process has to match up to the different types of plants and flowers being used. Each method offers you the best way to achieve the essence of the plant so you are left with the most potent form of the plant.
What Exactly Are Extracted Oils?
You may have heard of extractions from plants called essential oils. These liquids have been referred to in several ways but what it boils down to is they are the strongest version of a plant in a liquid form. It is suggested that essential oils be diluted with water before they reach their application level.
It may sound as though these oils that are derived from plants are light and natural, but they are actually exactly the opposite. Each extraction is bringing 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 using.
As much as you may be tempted, don’t take a favorite essential oil that you have extracted and just add a few drops to your bathwater.
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.
There are different levels of dilution using carrier oils that range from one percent up to five percent. A one percent dilution would be six drops of extracted oil mixed with an ounce of the carrier oil.
What Are Extracted Oils Used For?
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:
- 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 on a steady stream. You will no longer need to spray a fake air freshener to make it smell good in your home.
- 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.
- Relieving stress and anxiety has been 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.
- If you feel like you are overloaded and are even 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.
- 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.
- When you use oils in place of extracts while cooing, 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 and they should be stored in the refrigerator.
How Do You Extract Oil from Plants?
The practice of extracting oils from plants has been a process that has been practiced since the beginning of time. Most of the ways that were used to extract oil from plants are no longer used. There are ways that you can extract oil from plants in your own home.
Some of the most common methods used to extract oil from plants are steam distillation, oil soak, a cold-press method, and distillation by steam.
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 you will need to invest in a still. You can purchase a still online for around $100.
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.
The extraction method places the plant materials in a solvent that is called hexane or you can also use ethanol. The plant is 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.
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 it is referred to as concrete. As the concrete mixes with alcohol you are left with the essential oils.
When you use this process of extraction you will 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. You should put your essential oils in glass jars that are colored (not clear) and placed in dry places that have a cool temperature.
Make sure you don’t put them in a place that is warm or humid.
In the past, one way of extracting oils from the skin of fruits was through the use of special sponges but currently this process is referred to as mechanical separation.
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 are accumulated in a container and used as-is or are combined with carrier oils.
Benefits of Doing 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.
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.
A sweet-smelling spray bottle filled with diluted rose oil would make anyone happy and an array of bottles filled with extract oils from your fragrant herbs will delight everyone who loves to cook.