Essential oil and how it's made? Also, is English purple stemme

barefoot_contessa(5a)March 24, 2009

How do you make essential oil out of your mints?

I have a boat load of English mint, but someone told me that English mint and Penny Royal are they same thing, and that Penny Royal is toxic.

TIA for your info and help.


Sorry for the double post. I forgot to check the box for responses to go to my inbox.

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Hi, see my follow up on distilling medicinal herbs.

Many people confuse essential oils-- pure plant oils extracted by steam distillation, chemical extraction of heavy pressing-- with mascerated or infused oils.

The first (essential oils or EOs) are the true plant oils-- all plants have some oil in small quantities. They are the type you buy in 1/2 oz quantities in the health food store and are highly concentrated, thus used drop by drop-- they can be skin irritants if not diluted in a carrier or base oil and are ALWAYS toxic in high doses. Most aromatherapists/herbalists caution about using them internally. Most essential oils are extracted via steam distillation, a few by chemical extraction or physical extraction (heavy pressing, as in citrus oils). Home distillation-- usually steam-- is possible but not usually commercially economical unless you also own the farm or have access to lots and lots of plant material. While you can build a still at home, it's probably easier to purchase one that you know will work. Again, it takes a lot of plant material to make essential oils, less to make simple hydrosols, which contain the water-loving properties of the plant.

Infused/mascerated oils, on the other hand, can be produced in large batches at home with no more equipment than clean jar and a sunny windowsill. Infused oils will carry all the oil-loving herb properties of the plants but will not be as strong as essential oils. Their value is underestimated by a lot of people because they are so easy to make.

If you simply want a mint oil that you can use for flavoring or massage, macerate the herb in the vegetable oil of your choice, approximately 1/3 volume herb to 2/3 volume oil. Set in a warm, sunny location & shake daily for 2 weeks, then strain the oil. Add more plant material if the oil is not strong enough for your liking (be careful with mints, they can get too "green" & may sting if they sit in the oil too long). This type of oil will last 6 mos to a year depending on what your base oil is-- almond & nut oils will have shorter shelf lives than olive. Oils can be refrigerated to extend shelf life or a little rosemary EXTRACT can be added to prevent spoilage. You can then add the oils to your balms, salad dressings, massage oils and bath & beauty products and know you're getting the herbal benefit of the plant.

Right now on my windowsill (it's only mid-40s here at the height of the day but the jars still warm up), I have quart mason jars of: calendula, chamomile, patchouli, jewelweed, myrhh, dragonsblood, ginger and sandalwood mascerating. I will put these oils into bath & body products I make. This will change as the year progresses and I need different oils. I regularly mascerate garlic, mushrooms, and garden herbs for dressings & cooking. When the St. Johnswort blooms, I head out every morning & pop the flowers into olive oils for a gorgeous red oil that zaps nerve pain & heals small wounds, as well as helps stave off SAD-- so you can use fresh herbs as well as dried, with the warning to harvest them when the dew's dried and if they are too soft/green, let them dry out for a day or so before plunking in the oil.

Okay this is probably TMI-- but good luck.

Oh, wait: Taste the mint: True peppermint (which will have a red stem) tastes like peppermint. Penny royal is strong & rank tasting. I can't find a good web pix of it to send to you but it's typically smaller and lower growing than peppermint.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 4:49PM
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