Distilling Essential Oils: Freshen Air with Menthol

| 8/15/2012 2:52:39 PM

d.bell2Desiree Bell is inspired by botanicals and natural materials. She is a vegetarian who has a certificate in herbal studies and a certificate from Australasian College of Health Sciences in Aromatherapy. Visit her blog Beyond A Garden.

Peppermint (Mentha ×pipertia) is one of the most widely known mint species in North America. Peppermint, which does not produce seed, is a sterile hybrid of spearmint (Mentha spicata) and water mint (Mentha aquatica). Commercial growers plant peppermint from certified rootstock, and once planted it regrows each year. Most growers rotate peppermint with other crops on a three- to four-year cycle.

Peppermint Field 8-15-2012 

Commercial growers in the northwest harvest and distill their peppermint crops in the months of July and August. After the plant is cut it cures in windows for several days, allowing moisture to evaporate from the leaves. Then the dry peppermint is chopped and blown directly into a distilling tub that is mounted on a truck or trailer.

Peppermint Essential Oil 8-15-2012 

The tub is then taken to a distillery where live steam under pressure is applied to the chopped peppermint in the sealed tub to extract the essential oil. The steam and vaporized oil then pass into a coil where the mixture is cooled and condensed. The water and oil then flow into a separator where the natural difference in density separates the oil from the heavier water.