Extraction Methods

The extraction of aromatic treasures

A number of extraction processes are used. Below you will find a brief explanation of each one.

Steam distillation

The majority of essential oils are obtained by steam distillation in an alembic. This procedure consists of passing water vapour at low pressure through a tank containing aromatic plants. The steam will naturally capture the essential oil molecules and once cooled in a serpentine, it condenses into a fluid. As a result, we obtain a precious liquid comprised of tow parts – the essential oil and the floral water (hydrosol) whose different densities can be separated with the help of an Essencier or a Florentine vase.

Cold expression

This method of extraction is uniquely used for the zests of citrus fruits. The essential oil (named “essence”) is contained in minuscule pockets that reside on the fruit’s skin. The process, which was originally done by hand-pressing the fruit, is now done with the help of a centrifuge, which separates the essential oil from the skin and the fruit juice.

The absolute

This method consists of macerating aromatic materials (mimosa, jasmine, violets…) under vacuum in volatile solvents (i.e. hexane) that, after evaporating, result in an aromatic paste called a “concrete”. After diluting this paste in ethyl alcohol, the alcoholic solutions are then filtered to eliminate waxy residues and finally concentrated by steam distillation under reduced pressure to eliminate the alcohol. The absolute which is obtained is considered a true aromatic treasure and used in natural perfumery.
Please consult our website if you would like to know more about ancient methods such as “enfleurage” or modern methods like Supercritical (CO2) extraction.
It is important to point out that two plants of the same species will produce an essential oil with a different chemotype depending on where it grows (= different terroir, a french term which means different soil, climate and altitude). For example, the Rosemary Officinalis will have a higher concentration of cineol if it grows in Morocco, camphor if it originates from Spain and verbenon if it comes from France or South Africa.

Enfleurage

Heat enfleurage is used with flower petals that aren’t too fragile (rose petals, for example) which are plunged in an animal grease/fat bath that is reheated several times. Once the petals have released all their essence, they are replaced with new ones until saturated greased is obtained. The result is an enfleurage pomade that can be used as a solid perfume. The same principal occurs with cold enfleurage, but instead the petals are placed on a slab of cold animal grease. This method has now become obsolete due to its high cost.

CO 2 extract (Supercritical)

This technique relies on a CO2 (carbon dioxide) solvent, which is chemically inert, natural, non toxic and affordable. This method of extraction is very interesting but quite expensive and does not give the same olfactive notes as “traditional” steam distilled essential oils. This method is being employed more and more in the aromatic food industry.

Difference between artisan and industrial quality

Divine Essence ® essential oils come primarily from small artisan producers who take their craft to heart and practice artisan distillation methods which follow the traditional rules by way of ancestral know-how.

Artisan distillation:

Certified organic or wild crafted aromatic plants (the highest possible quality of raw materials)
In order to obtain a high quality essential oil that contains all of the required aromatic fractions, a longer distillation process is required which lasts a specified period of time*. The distillation process is done slowly at low-pressure and at the lowest possible temperature.

Industrial distillation:

Conventional cultivated aromatic plants (raw materials sprayed with chemical products such as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.)

The distillation process is shorter resulting in an essential oil that contains incomplete aromatic fractions. The process is done quickly at high pressure and a high temperature. The distillation is therefore “forced” which results in an essential oil of lower quality and possibly contaminated by chemical agents.

* The distillation time may vary from time to time depending on the plant. For example, artisan distillation of lavender flowers last approximately 90 minutes where as the distillation of the clove bud might last up to 24 continuous hours.

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