Some plant varieties can be completely dried (no longer considered fresh) before distillation. Air drying, sun drying, oven drying (also called high-temperature drying), and freeze drying are the most common methods used in the essential oil industry today. Researchers have found that the most successful drying techniques occur slowly, using gentle temperatures, away from direct sunlight. This not only minimizes loss of essential oil, but also prevents alteration of the oil’s chemical structure by UV light or temperature extremes. Appropriate drying techniques should always be used to ensure that the composition of the essential oils most closely matches the composition of the essential oil within the live plant material.

Drying is sometimes avoided because it decreases the overall oil yield of the plant material; however, drying also has some significant benefits. Distillation time is reduced because more plant material can be placed in the distillation apparatus at one time. Additionally, since freshly harvested plant materials have such a short lifespan, drying also increases the timeframe in which the plant can be distilled. Drying also provides the benefits mentioned previously for wilting: it minimizes soil contamination, mold growth, and fermentation.

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