- Bram van Munster
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Essential oils can be expensive. And sometimes it can be difficult to find the ones you want.
Did you know you can make your own?
Essential oils are the volatile oils you can extract from plants (or other sources). The typical method of extraction is steam distillation. You can actually purchase or make your own still for this purpose. I found a nice copper 2 -quart still for around $400; still too much money for me. So I set out to find out how I can make my own oils without the expensive still.
DIY Essential Oils
While you can make your own, beware that most “essential oil” recipes on the internet are really infused oils. It helps to know the difference.
Essential Oils vs. Infused Oils
Infused oils are made by soaking herbs in a particular oil to extract the active compounds. Some botanicals, such as calendula, infuse very well and create a very healing oil. But some, like lavender, is never quite as good as the actual essential oil.
Many essential oils are steam distilled, which involves simmering the plant material to produce steam, which travels through a tube, which is then run through cold water. The liquid that forms from condensation will be in two parts, a water compound, and an oil compound. The water compound is where floral waters, such as lavender and rose water, come from. The oils that rise to the top are DIY essential oils.
Easy DIY Essential Oil Extraction
Using this method, you can extract essential oils from plants you might not normally find oils from. I love mint, chocolate mint being my favorite. But finding chocolate mint essential oil usually left me with flavored oils, not the real thing. I was able to make a small amount of chocolate mint essential oil that was amazing, although it took a lot of plant material for a small amount. Grapefruit mint will be my next experiment.
You can also make blends that aren’t found in nature. I made DIY essential oil from oakmoss, lavender, and patchouli. I was able to get a small patchouli plant from my local hydroponics store. The scent was amazing! But like the chocolate mint, the amount of oil yielded was small.
Ingredients & Supplies for DIY Essential Oils
a crock pot with a lid
enough fresh plant material to fill the crockpot about half full (at least 3-4 cups, chopped)
Place the plant material in the crock pot and cover with water. The water shouldn’t fill more than ¾ of the volume of the crockpot. Put the lid on upside down. (The concave structure will allow any steam that forms to condense and fall back into the pot. If you don’t have a lid, you can use a plate.)
Turn the crock pot on high to heat the water. Once the water is hot, turn down to low. Simmer on low for 3-4 hours.
After the plant material is cooked down, turn off and let cool. When it is cool, place the inside of the crock pot into the refrigerator. If your crockpot doesn’t come apart, you can place the whole unit in there, or transfer the liquid into another container. Leave it in overnight.
The next day, pull the crock pot out of the refrigerator. A thin film of oil will form on the top and will be hard after cooling. (These are your DIY essential oils!) Carefully lift the oil off of the water. Work fast – it will start to melt quickly!
Place this into a bottle and cap. Label contents well. There may be a small amount of water-based liquid on the bottom. You can gently heat the oil to turn the liquid to steam and release it from the oil. Don’t heat the oil for too long as it can lose its potency.
Store in a colored glass container away from light and heat.
You can use these DIY essential oils just like the ones you purchase, but they may not be quite as strong as what you are used to. Be prepared to use more than you normally would.
Important DIY Essential Oil Tips
It’s best to use fresh plant material rather than dried. Dried herbs will still yield some oil, but fresh will result in more volume. Harvest plant material in the morning after the dew has dried. Discard any dead, diseased, or bug infested herbs.
You’ll need at least 3-4 cups of plant material. This will result in a few teaspoons of DIY essential oils. (Now I understand why essential oils are so expensive!)
Chop your plant material to increase the surface volume and allow more of the oils to escape.
Distilled water is important since tap water can have bacteria or other contaminants that may spoil your mix.
Added info and disclaimer:
On many sites, a high-pressure cooker or a still is recommend, which involves very high risks!!! When a still or pressure-cooker run dry, or the steam can't escape, they CAN and WILL blow up, possibly causing serious injury or death. Unless you know what you're doing, have enough time AND are tired of life: stay away from those things, especially DIY stills.
It amazes me that renowned sites like Wikihow don't warn you about this, so don't try that at home. Seriously, don't... I mean it... Besides the obvious danger, home made stills are possibly even illegal in your area, and owning one can get you in trouble.