Production of Essential Oil
By having a portable still we have the flexibility to work with growers in different areas. This gives us the ability to have greater control over the harvesting and preparation of the plant material prior to distillation, an important factor in producing a quality essential oil.
This also gives the grower an opportunity to be involved in the distillation process, establishing a greater link with the grower over the long term. The ability for us to come to the farm has been an advantage in moving our relationships forward with growers for essential oil production.
The diversity of Costa Rica is a great advantage for distillation as it allows us to produce a large variety of oils in a small geographical area. We are also involved with Eco-Agricultural projects with 3 different groups. The potential for essential oil production to contribute to this eco-sensitive system is real and receiving strong support from the grassroots organizations in this country. We have sourced the growers of organic plant aromatics and developed relationships for further distillation project development. This is what makes the best essential oils for health and wellness.
Essential Oil Distillation
Thermodynamics play an important role in the distillation of essential oils. In order to vaporize any liquid, energy in the form of heat must be applied. This energy is termed latent heat. When a vapor is converted back to liquid, what is actually happening is a reduction and release of that latent heat.
In order for a liquid to be vaporized, latent heat must be applied to this liquid until its temperature attains the point where its vapor pressure becomes equal to the surrounding atmospheric pressure. When it reaches this point the temperature will rise no further. However, if heat continues to be applied, the liquid will take up this latent heat and then vaporize at the appropriate rate. At this point the liquid has said to have reached its “boiling point” under the prevailing pressure.
When mutually insoluble compounds such as water and essential oil are present, the total pressure exerted by the mixed vapor then becomes the sum of the partial pressures exerted by each constituent present. This liquid mixture will boil when its temperature is raised to the point where the combined vapor pressure of its components becomes equal to the surrounding pressure.
This being said, it follows that the basic principle of distillation consists of bringing two mutually insoluble liquids (essential oil and water) into contact at a temperature very close to the boiling point of the more volatile of the two, the water. With the addition of a small amount of vapor pressure from the essential oil the combined pressure is equal to the surrounding pressure. At this point the mixture will boil and the oil will vaporize into the passing steam as fast as its requirement of latent heat can be applied from a external source.
When this vapor mixture enters the condenser, it is exposed to a cool surface which again results in a transfer of latent heat, this time causing a reduction in latent heat of the vapor mixture. The result of this reduction is the conversion of the vapor back to a liquid state.
We now have a liquid that is a mixture of the insoluble components found in the still, namely water and essential oil. These liquid components have different densities which allow there separation as a natural state of separation generally occurs. In most instances the essential oil will float to the top, however this is not always the case. Some oils such as Vetiver are more dense than water and thus will settle at the bottom while other oils such as Cinnamon leaf have differing densities, with part of the oil sinking and another floating to the top of the water.
Heat from the Distillation process can at times change the natural compositions found within the botanic and may even manufacture new components of immeasurable benefit. A classic example of this is with Chamomile, which in distillation manufactures ‘chamazulene’, the profound anti-inflammatory component.