Essential Oil Extraction: Main Methods

Of the many methods for extracting essential oils from their raw materials, whether that be plants or fruits, distillation and expression are the two most common processes. Distillation, possibly the most common method, has been practiced for centuries—even since ancient times—and can actually be carried out in a few ways. Expression, on the other hand, is specific to fruits and citrus essential oils. Regardless, each method has its benefits and both are efficient means to extracting essential oils. At RainShadow Labs, we only work with high-quality essential oils and whether they're distilled or extracted through expression, you can rest assured you're purchasing high-grade, therapeutic oils. In an effort to inform our valued customers about how their oils are extracted, we've summed up the two main methods for essential oil extraction. This way, you can make educated decisions as to which oils to buy and even practice extraction on your own—though it's easier said than done. Nevertheless, let's take a closer look at these two common extraction methods.

Essential Oil Extraction: Distillation

Extracting essential oils through distillation has been practiced for thousands of years. In fact, the use of a distillation apparatus, which is utilized for steam distillation, has been around for approximately 5,000 years. 5,000 years later, the process has changed a bit, but still remains essentially the same. In essence, distilling the raw material involves steaming the plant  (can also be done in water), which separates the volatile constituents (what you won't use) and the oils from the plants are then collected. There are actually a few methods within distillation to accomplish this, see below:
  • Water Distillation: Often used for flowers, the plant is directly submerged in water and brought to a boil.
  • Steam Distillation: The most common method, steam distillation involves introducing steam at higher pressures and temperatures than other methods, and is directly forced onto the raw plant material.
  • Water & Steam: With water and steam distillation, the plant is placed above water and the steam is fed from outside of the apparatus.

Essential Oil Expression

Like we said before, extracting essential oils through expression is specific to fruits and citrus oils. Often referred to as cold pressing, this extraction method was originally done by hand and, just like it sounds, cold pressing literally involves squeezing the oils from the fruit rind. Originally, the rind of the fruit was soaked in water before using a sponge to press the rind and absorb the oils. This process is still used today. The term cold pressing refers to the fact that the raw materials are never subjected to heat in this method. Of course, utilizing a sponge is not the only way to extract the oils through expression (or cold pressing). A more modern method, écuelle á piquer, involves placing the fruit on a device with spikes, which then pierces the oil cells of the rind. The resulting oils run down the device and are collected in a basin.

Get Quality Oils with RainShadow Labs

There you have it: the two main methods of essential oil extraction. While each differs and are utilized for different types of oils, they both are effective ways in extracting oils. If you'd like to learn more about each of these methods, be sure to check out the pages below:
  • Distilling Essential Oils
  • Cold Pressed Essential Oils
If you'd like to purchase quality essential oils, be sure to check out our entire selection. If you have any questions or comments, you can contact us here.