Extraction Methods of Essential
Oils & Resins
There are several extraction
methods for making resins and extracts from plants, and each will be
discussed briefly below. Some plants contain alkaloids as part
of their chemical composition, and these different alkaloids will
extract into different solvents. For example, Blue Lotus
contains alkaloids that will only extract into alcohol, whereas
Amanita muscaria contains an alkaloid that will extract into water,
but will be destroyed in alcohol. When doing resin extractions
from plants, it is important to know what chemical compounds will
extract into what solvents. The Merck Index is the perfect book for
this; it lists every known chemical compound, and can be a great
help for plant alchemists and modern-day shamans. Strangely
enough, indigenous tribes never needed such references; their
knowledge of plants and the effective use of them is now being
Used mainly to extract essential oils from plants. The plant
material is placed into a still (very similar to a pressure cooker)
where pressurized steam passes through the plant material.
The heat from the steam causes globules of oil in the plant to burst
and the oil then evaporates. The essential oil vapor and the steam
then pass out the top of the still into a water cooled pipe where
the vapors are condensed back to liquids. At this point, the
essential oil separates from the water and floats to the top.
Now, this doesn't sound like a particularly complicated process but
did you know that it takes more than 8 million Jasmine flowers to
produce just 2 pounds of jasmine oil? No wonder pure essential oils
Maceration actually creates more of an "infused oil" rather than an
"essential oil" and is most often used for creating extracts and
resins. The plant matter is soaked in vegetable oil, water, or
another solvent. If it's soaked in vegetable oil, and then
heated and strained, it can be used for massage. Soaked in water or
another solvent such as alcohol will create a much thicker extract
Cold pressing is used to extract the essential oils from citrus
rinds such as orange, lemon, grapefruit and bergamot. The rinds are
separated from the fruit, are ground or chopped and are then
pressed. The result is a watery mixture of essential oil and liquid
which will separate given time.
It is important to note that oils extracted using this method have a
relatively short shelf life, so make or purchase only what you will
be using within the next six months.
A hydrocarbon solvent is added to the plant material to help
dissolve the essential oil. When the solution is filtered and
concentrated by distillation, a substance containing resin (resinoid),
or a combination of wax and essential oil (known as concrete)
From the concentrate, pure alcohol is used to extract the oils or
fats. When the alcohol evaporates, the oil is left behind.
This is not considered the best method for extraction of essential
oils, as the solvents can leave a heavy residue behind, but it's
great for making resins for this very reason.
High Pressure CO2 Extraction:
Only recently developed, this method uses Carbon Dioxide to extract
the alkaloids, essential oils, or resins from the plant when
liquefied under pressure.
Once the liquid depressurizes, the carbon dioxide returns to a
gaseous state, and only pure essential oil, resins, or alkaloids
remain. The Kavalactone paste offered by IAmShaman is an
example of this new technology in action. Before High Pressure
CO2 extraction, and due to the fragility of the kavalactone
alkaloid, this kind of product was never before available.