Essential Oils Production in Turkey
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Selcuk Acar
Posted on: April 08, 2006

Your site is a very useful site. Thank you for your assistance to everyone. I am an agriculturist as you are. I am good at how to produce herbal plants. What I am not good at is to produce essential oils from plants. I am planning this business as professional. So please kindly answer me in detail. Please also inform me which machines are used to produce essential oils.

Start with Gunther’s 6-volume Essential Oils (out of print but still) available at most larger libraries. I made a Xerox set for my own use back in the 80s. Also visit www.richters.com for specific responses (ask the experts).

I have also written a book on processing, found at www.herbfarminfo.com. Steam distillation is a very simple process. In order to best do this, it is important to understand what you are trying to do. Basically, all oils are dissolved (or go into solution) by a solvent. Most oils do not go into solution with water (or steam), but require something more serious, like hexane or benzene. Some are more simple and can be dissolved with alcohol.

Basic chemistry should be reviewed for a better understanding of these types of processes. Each herb or spice contain a complex of specific essential oils. All are important, some are more preferred than others. Again, the best books on this subject are Gunther’s 6-volume set titled Essential Oils. This will list the boiling points for each oil and which one are important for recovery.

Essential oils are the simplest for extraction and can be dissolved with water. Steam makes this process much more efficient. Basically, you are taking your "mash," or herb product (which has been cut up into small pieces) and putting it into solution with water. The water is then taken to the boiling point, and the steam is then routed and collected into a cooler, where it is condensed back into water (with the essential oil).

The essential oil is dissolved by steam and is removed from the mash, or herb biomass. The remaining biomass might be re-steamed for any remaining essential oil (or not), and then removed and used as compost. The essential oil is now in solution with water. If you know the specific boiling points for each of the essential oils in your crop, the water can then be further moved to make higher concentrations with your essential oil.

For the farm, you can use several 55-gal drums and do some light welding with copper tubing. The copper tube will want to be made into a reflex column, where you wrap an aluminum pipe around it with cold running water. This causes the steam to cool and become a water tincture.

Tincture, by the way, is defined as a specific concentration of water (or alcohol solvent) to essential oil (or oil/fat). And that ratio of water (or alcohol) to oil is.....? For those who can not answer this is why I suggest we all need to review basic chemistry again. As this industry grows, there is now a need for more precision in the way we use terms in the herb and spice trade.

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