Our Essential Essence Aromatherapy Oils distillery was established in 2011 and has continued to grow since then. We now produce essential oils, hydrosols, creams, lotions, salves and many other products.
When we first became interested in making essential oils, we were just looking to find a use for the herbs, flowers, and shrubs in our garden at home. After some experimentation with smaller distillation apparatus, we soon came to the realisation that the process needed to be scaled up to produce enough essential oil for this labour-intensive process to be worthwhile, both timewise and in terms of cost.
To supply the large number of botanicals we needed for larger scale production, in addition to the raw materials we already had, we reached out to family and friends and local community for appropriately grown organic, pesticide-free leaves, herbs, peels, blossom, wood, bark, roots and resins. With gratitude we accepted all contributions whilst ensuring the plants were a) the correct species, b) were ethically and sustainably sourced, c) harvested at the right time and d) stored under the most appropriate conditions.
After harvesting the raw materials, the main methods we use for producing our essential oils include steam and hydro distillation. For steam distillation the water is heated in a large copper pot with a copper column packed with plant material on top. The water is heated and then the steam passes through the plant material and then through a series of smaller copper pipes. These eventually lead to a coil submerged in cold water which causes the steam inside the pipe to condense and become a liquid again. The liquid then travels out the pipe and is collected in a sterile glass container. For hydro distillation the process is very similar, but the plant material is submerged in the pot of water. The entire alembic still is a closed system to ensure no steam or volatile essential oil is lost prior to condensation.
The liquid collected after distillation contains distinct oil and water layers. Most times the oil is on top of the water but occasionally the oil is underneath the water layer. A separating funnel is used to separate the two liquids which are then treated as two separate products: essential oil and the hydrosol. The essential oil is made of many chemical compounds that give the oil its fragrance and healing power. The hydrosol contains a smaller amount of these volatile compounds which are suspended in the water, along with all the water-soluble compounds from the process. The components of the oils are verified after each batch via testing at an independent laboratory which uses GC-MS to compare all of the types and amounts of the main compounds detected in the oils against international standards.
Although we increased the size of our batches from 2 to 15kg the yield of essential oils varied dramatically and was found to be dependent on many factors, with the main reasons being the type of plant material selected, the age of the plant, the time and method of harvesting and storage afterwards. Typical yields range from 0.5 - 7% based on the weight of the raw material prior to distillation. Essential oils and hydrosols have many uses. We have both available for purchase but also incorporate them in medicines, cosmetics, cooking and other household applications. For some applications we use other methods to prepare products and their intermediates. Tinctures for example are made by immersing entire herbs or flowers in a strong alcohol solution for a long period of time. This is our preferred method of extracting the fragrance from Jasmine flowers as the scent is too delicate and complex to be obtained using steam distillation. Solar infusions are performed by immersing dried flowers or herbs in an oil such as olive oil and then leaving it to infuse over time whilst being exposed to sunlight. This can also be done without sunlight. Infusions of calendula, lavender and arnica are then used to make our salves and creams.
We love what we do at Essential Essence Aromatherapy Oils. The combination of herbalism and distillation produces products with many beneficial characteristics, not only due to the aromatic properties of the essential oils, but also due to the incorporation of entire plant extracts. We are certified to use the Australian Made logo on all the products we make. In the future we plan to continue experimenting and bring you many more hand-made aroma therapeutic botanical products.