Steam distillation of the superficial essential oils: Hypotheses from studies with lavenders and mints

Essential oils used in cosmetics and perfumery are extracted from plant materials by hydrodistillation. Hopefully, improvements in the production of such base materials from self renewing resources will be of some interest to the user industries.

In Tasmania we have made large advances in both botanical and agricultural techniques aimed at producing more reliable materials at lower cost. But the value of such advances in the plantations would be much reduced if the recovery of the oil by distillation did not also make comparable progress. Here we have to break new ground because the orthodox explanations of the process provide no help. We cannot even ascertain the time that a new still will require to extract the oil fron a given herb without actually building the equipment and testing it in the field. This is a serious impediment to the planning and cost estimation of new projects, because unless we know this extraction time we cannot determine the daily handling capacity of the distillery.

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