So, what exactly is an essential oil and how are they made?

Essential oils are potent, volatile and extremely versatile substances derived from plants. They are primarily extracted through careful steam distillation but also through cold pressing in a large distillery on one of the Young Living Farms across the world. The purest essential oils are far more powerful than the botanical from which they were extracted! That is pretty cool, right?


So, seeing how steam distillation is the most common way for essential oils to be made, what exactly is the process of steam distillation? Knowledge = Power, we think, so let’s learn about it. Steam distillation involves three primary steps: Harvest, Steam, Separation.


To produce the best essential oil, the plant has to be cared for and harvested at a precise time under precise conditions. Once it has reached its full potential, plant matter is harvested and packed into the distiller. 


Steam is funneled into the machine where the steam causes small sacs containing essential oils to burst. The oil and water are then funneled out of the distiller into a separator.


The oil is then carried by the steam out of the chamber and into a chilled condenser where the steam once again becomes water. The oil and water are then separated and packaged for us all to enjoy.

Aside from the plant material itself, most important are time, temperature and pressure, and the quality of the distillation equipment. Essential oils are very complex products; each is made up of many, sometimes hundreds, of distinct molecules which come together to form the oil’s aroma and therapeutic properties. Some of these molecules are fairly delicate structures which can be altered or destroyed by adverse environmental conditions. So, much like a fine meal is more flavorful when made with patience, most oils benefit from a long, slow ‘cooking’ process.