Lavender Oil

Information provided by Cheryl Wilson, Seven Oaks Apothecary.

This scanning electron micrograph shows a lavender leaf (Lavandula) magnified at 200 microns.
Photos compliments of the Wellcome Institute, http://www.wellcomeimageawards.org.

The spiky structures on the surface of the leaf are fine hair-like growths made from special epider The spiky structures on the surface of the leaf are fine hair-like growths made from special epidermal
cells called non-glandular trichomes, which are found on a wide variety of plant species. The
hairs keep frost away from the surface cells and break up the flow of air across the leaf surface,
reducing evaporation.

The orange balls are glandular trichomes, which contain the essential oils produced by the plants.Wellcome-Image
These are present on the surface of the leaf as well as the flower. The membranes of the trichomes
keep the oil intact, which is why lavender flowers smell great for so long. Even lavender that has
been dried for years will release the scented oil when these membranes are broken, which is what
happens when it is squeezed. Steam distillation also breaks these membranes. Because the oil is
contained, lavender can be distilled fresh or dried. In fact, the difference in yield is negligible, so most distillers are more concerned about harvesting the lavender when the oil is at its peak than they are about distilling it immediately they are about distilling it immediately.

 

Steam Distillation

  1. Water is boiled.Steam-Distillation
  2. Steam rises
  3. Steam filters through plant material, collecting oils from the plant
  4. Steam collects in the tube.
  5. The shape of the tube directs the steam down into the condenser unit.
  6. The condenser has an inner tube, which collects the steam, and an outer tube, which
    is filled with cold water. The cold water in the outer tube causes the steam to condense
    back into liquid.
  7. The liquid drops down into the separator. Most oil, including lavender oil, is lighter than
    water, so it floats on the top of the separator unit.
  8. The separator unit has a tube lower than the oil, which allows excess water to drain off. This water is infused with the plant
    material and is called hydrosol.
  9. The oil is drained off using the stopcock on the bottom of the separator.

 

Still pictured is purchased from Heart Magic (www.heartmagic.com). Seven Oaks Apothecary uses this still for small batches.

We also use a production-level still for large batches. This still was designed by Mike Bochart (MikesStills.com) and optmized for efficient essential oil production. Info below.

We distill dozens of varieties of lavender, all grown without chemicals at the Helvetia Lavender farm. Visit www.SevenOaks.us to learn more.

Oil-Still