Steam Distillation


Article at a Glance

Every element of the production process can affect the quality of an essential oil—from planting and growing methods, to how the oil is distilled. Producing quality essential oils requires a thorough knowledge of the plants being used and proper distillation methods. When essential oils are produced with extreme care, the natural benefits of the plant are preserved. The most common method of essential oil extraction is steam distillation, a process that doTERRA ensures is completed under the proper conditions to guarantee the highest quality essential oil.

What Is Steam Distillation?

Distillation is a process that involves separating a substance into its constituent parts based on their boiling points or volatility. This delicate and time-sensitive process requires the correct environment and careful attention to detail in order to protect the integrity of the essential oil’s complex chemical profile. The benefit of steam distillation is that it yields oils that are exceptionally clean and pure. It also allows for collection of temperature-sensitive compounds that may be damaged or altered by other collection processes.

How Does Steam Distillation Work?

In this method, steam is directed through plant material, which vaporizes the lighter chemicals contained within the plants. To start the process, water is boiled and the resulting steam passes through the plant material. The steam carries the volatile aromatic compounds from the plant into a collecting tube, where the steam is cooled and condensed back into a liquid. This process generates two products: the essential oil, which contains lipid-soluble molecules, and hydrosol, which contains water-soluble molecules. These two products naturally divide into two distinct layers that can be separated.
Steam distillation requires careful control of time, temperature, and pressure. These conditions must be fine-tuned for each plant type.
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  • Temperatures typically are between 140–212 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Pressure typically is between 15 PSI and 20 PSI.
  • Time can range from a few hours to several days to fully distill.

Ensuring Quality Through Proper Distillation

By partnering with industry experts around the world, doTERRA is able to ensure that proper distillation practices are followed in the production of all doTERRA essential oils. This is a key step in providing the CPTG Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade® essential oils you have come to know and love. 
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