This past weekend I traveled about two hours west of Seattle to the town of Sequim for the annual Lavender festival.

I visited lavender fields, met with distillers and wanted to share how the essential oil of lavender is produced using an extraction method known as steam distillation (which I documented in the video below):

 

How Lavender Essential Oil is Distilled

Lavender is processed by putting lavender into a stainless steel pot that heats the lavender with low-pressure steam to 210.5 degrees.  The steam enters the bottom of the pot and heats the lavender essential oil off the plant material as it works its way up (remember that hot air rises).  The distiller I interviewed explained that the hot steam “reverses the boiling point of the oil, making the oil vaporous”.

Both the oil and steamed water are then carried to a condenser where cold water running through a coil in the condenser cools the steam, returning to the oil and flower diffused water to a liquid form called the condensate.

As we know from science class, oil and water don’t mix. Oil is lighter than water, so it rises to the surface of the condensate,  and floats up through a column on the distillation machine, known as the separator.

The lavender essential oil is collected in a beaker affixed to the top of the separator.  The cooled steam becomes lavender water, known as hydrosol, is collected in a separate container and often sold separately.

This distillation machine yields approximately 3 gallons of essential oil or 1,110 5 ml bottles.  It requires 125 cubic foot of lavender – think of an 8 foot pickup truck overflowing with the plant to produce that many bottles.

 

Benefits of Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender™ is one of  the most versatile essential oils and can be used to support a number of symptoms and ailments, including:

  • Reducing anxiety and emotional stress
  • Improving mood
  • Supporting brain function
  • Helping to heal burns (including sunburns), bug bites, cuts and wounds
  • Relieving pain
  • Alleviating headaches
  • Promoting relaxation and sleep
  • Enhancing the skin
  • Supporting Detoxification with powerful antioxidants

 

Resources:

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