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How are essential oils made?

essential oil blends styled on a white background with plants, flowers and fruits

what are essential oils?

Essential oils are derived from plant essences. They're extracted from flowers, fruit, wood, leaves, berries, twigs, stems, and resins using either steam distillation, solvent extraction, or expression. These essences are produced by highly specialised secretory cells found in various parts of the plant.

Essences have extraordinarily complex chemical structures, combining chemical elements found in the air, soil, and water, such as carbon and oxygen. It's this unique combination of chemicals found in each plant that gives the essence its characteristic fragrance and therapeutic properties.

how is an essential oil made?

Essential oils are extracted straight from the plant material by using one of these 3 methods.

Steam Distillation

Is the oldest, most established, and truest form of extraction. This is where steam is passed under pressure through the plant material, which causes the globules of essential oils to burst open and release the oil. This oil then evaporates with the steam into another container, cooled, and the two separate. The water distillate that is left behind after the separation is also a valuable by-product and is used as flower water or hydrolat.

Solvent Extraction

Is a process where the plant material is covered with a volatile solvent which in turn dissolves the plant material. It is then heated, and the solution filtered off, leaving a form of paste. Alcohol is then used to help separate the essential oils.


Is used solely for the citrus family. The oil from the citrus fruit lies under the surface of the rind which simply needs to be pressed out and collected. The good thing about expression this way is the fruit juices are not wasted and are made into consumer drinks, etc.

a cup of tea next to a vase of roses


Is another method, but a historical one.

This method was used to extract the finest quality essences from delicate flowers such as rose and jasmine. It was a very labor-intensive process that is virtually obsolete now.

Interesting fact

Did you know that just 10 millilitres of pure Rose Essential oil, will cost around £100 to buy, making just 1 drop worth around £1, maybe even more. This is because it takes well over 500,000 petals or 16,000 rose flowers to make a 10ml bottle of rose essential oil!

"The fine, delicate complexity of essential oils cannot be duplicated synthetically with inorganic chemicals. This is why essential oils affect our moods and emotions and synthetic fragrance oils do not"

- Unknown

Learn more about the benefits of essential oils. Or head straight to my collection of Aromatherapy products to shop now.