When you think of aromatherapy and essential oils, what’s the first flower that comes to mind? The chances are high that it’s lavender. It's one of the most popular and easily-recognized scents around. It's not difficult to find, nor particularly expensive. What's more, in many parts of the country, lavender is easy to grow, which means you could save money -- or even make money -- by making your own. Have you ever wondered how to make lavender oil? It's not hard, and there are a number of reasons you might consider it.
First, if you know how to make lavender oil at home, you can get it exactly how you want it. Also, you won't have to wonder about what went into it. You'll learn about essences and infusions as well, and gain mastery of a whole new field of knowledge. You might even find yourself with a new hobby -- or profession.
What Is Lavender Oil?
Lavender oil can mean a few different things, but it generally refers to the essential oil of lavender or an oil infused with it. It’s among the most popular herbal oils, and people have used it for ages. You’ll find it as an ingredient in all sorts of products. Popular examples are soaps, scented candles, massage oils, and lotions.
Lavender oil comes from the buds or flowers of the lavender plant primarily, although the rest of the plant also contains it to a lesser degree. Learning how to make lavender oil gives you a more concentrated form of the flower’s sweet scent and other benefits.
The Benefits of Lavender Oil
Beyond the scent, people use lavender medicinally. But, just because lavender oil comes from a plant doesn't make it 100 percent safe in all forms and at all dosages. Like any medication, consumption of essential oils can be harmful if you're not careful. Here are some safety tips. Please be advised that the contents of this article do not constitute medical advice.
Lavender has antiseptic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. People have used it in various topical creams and soaps for ages. It can help with light burns and small cuts, and it’s a nice addition to shampoo. In skin lotions and massage oils, it also adds a calming aromatherapy effect. Further, lavender oil can help relieve sore muscles and tension headaches. On the flip side, it can irritate the skin and be toxic if consumed, like many essential oils.
Please note that not all lavender is the same. Spike lavender, for example, has an intense scent but doesn’t provide many of the other benefits. For these purposes, you’ll want to use Lavender Angustifolia. Knowing the exact ingredients that go into your oil is the best argument for knowing how to make lavender oil at home.
Lavender flowers are generally safe to consume in small amounts. It’s a common ingredient in calming tea blends and even smoking blends. What’s more, people sometimes use it to flavor food, baked goods, and more. If this appeals to you, you’ll want to use English or French lavender because of their nicer taste.
Please note, however, that consuming lavender flowers in food is not the same as ingesting concentrated lavender oil. First, you don’t always know what the manufacturers put into their oils. Unless it’s food grade, it can be very harmful to ingest. That is why learning how to make lavender oil yourself is wise. However, even with a pure product, significant amounts can cause lavender poisoning.
How to Make Lavender Oil
How to make lavender oil depends on whether you're interested in essential oil or infused oil. They're different products and involve different processes. Essential oils are a natural part of the plant. We obtain them by distilling them. Infused oils have a base of a carrier oil -- usually vegetable oil -- that is combined with plant parts and steeped.
Sourcing your lavender
There are several types of lavender, and two main species. The first is Lavandula Angustifolia, often called English lavender. This type is the most suitable one for making oil. It has long stems with small flowers. The other kind is Lavandula Stoechas or Spanish lavender. It’s a bushier plant and not as good for these purposes.
If you want to buy lavender for extraction, you can look online for vendors or nearby farms. If you’re learning how to make lavender oil for health and beauty products, you’ll want to buy organic plants. Also, make sure to get the right species, ideally Angustifolia.
If you grow your own lavender, the best time to harvest it is when it’s budding. The unopened flower buds retain their concentrated compounds and come off the stem easily. Thus, they keep their scent and other properties longer. Bypass pruning shears are the best tools to use, and you’ll want to cut the stems so that at least two pairs of leaves remain on each. That way, you ensure that they’ll grow back. Also, the woody parts are no good for extraction.
Once harvested, it’s wise to dry it. It’s easiest if you bundle the stems with twine and hang the bundles in a dry, warm place away from the direct sunlight. It can take two weeks or longer for the bundles to finish drying this way, although you can use them earlier if you’re impatient. Drying isn’t crucial. The main advantage of drying is reducing the risk of spoilage, and that you can fit more into each batch. In addition, you can store plants longer for later use or as aromatic decorations.
Making lavender infused oil
First things first, it takes a lot of lavender. And you’ll need a carrier oil, such as olive oil. This oil should be as fresh as possible, to ensure long shelf life. Be prepared for the possibility that your finished oil may not be very potent. Infused oils are a diluted form, but you can make them stronger through repetition.
It’s best to use dried plants for this, and the first step is to crumble them up lightly. Make sure your hands are clean before you start. If you’re dealing with hard buds, a knife is your best friend, while bloomed flowers are easy to break without tools. Next, place your crushed lavender in a clean, dry jar. Ensure that it’s free from water and contaminants. Now it’s time to pour your carrier oil. The oil should cover all plant matter, but you need to leave an inch or two of air up top so that there’s room for expansion.
Next, you should screw the lid on tight and set the jar in the sun. After around two days, the mixture will have a mild lavender scent, but it’s best to leave it for several weeks. Between three and six weeks will maximize the results. If you want faster results, you can use a slow cooker or double boiler to heat the mixture. However, you must not boil it, as this can shorten the shelf life and distort the scent. You’ll want to keep it between 100 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit, ideally using a thermometer. Using this method, it only takes two to five hours instead of weeks.
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When the mixture has finished soaking, it’s time to strain it. Put some cheesecloth over another jar, or over a bowl, if you want to store it in the same jar you used for soaking. Make sure the filter is clean and free from detergent residue. Pour the mixture and leave it to run through all the way. You can squeeze it a bit to speed things up. When this step is complete, you can discard the leftover plant matter. That’s how to make lavender oil via infusion.
If you want a more potent oil, you can add more dried lavender to the mix and repeat the soaking process. You can do this up to eight times for a strong result, but there’s a limit to how much essence the carrier can absorb. Once you’re happy with the strength of your oil, you can seal the jar and store it in a dark, cool place. Colored glass is optimal since it adds additional protection against light. If you want to extend the shelf life, you can add some vitamin E. Bottles and capsules of liquid vitamin E are cheap and easy to find.
Making lavender essential oil
Now for how to make lavender oil in its purest form. You can extract the plant’s essence in a few different ways, but the most common one is steam distillation. For this, you can use a still like the ones people use for alcohol extraction. If these are illegal where you live, don’t fret. You can use an ordinary slow cooker or cooking pot, as described below.
The first step is putting your lavender in the cooker. Don’t fill it more than halfway. Next, cover it with distilled water. You’ll want to keep pouring until there’s an extra 50 percent compared to the plant mass. It’s important to leave at least around a quarter of the cooker’s volume for the steam to rise. Now you can put the lid on and start heating the mixture. The lid should go upside-down to make a concave surface that leads the condensation back down. Let the solution simmer for three or four hours, then take it off and allow the heat to settle.
That’s the process of how to make lavender oil in a pot, but now you need to get it out of there. To achieve this, you must refrigerate the flower soup you just made overnight. Doing this will cause the essential oil to solidify on top of the water, and you can lift it out. Keep in mind that it’ll melt fast, so you should have your bottling setup ready before you open the fridge. If you get some water in your storage bottle, you can heat it gently or decant it. If there’s plant matter, strain it through a cloth. What’s left in the pot is lavender water, which you can use to spray your home or soak things for a beautiful scent.
Alternative method: alcohol extraction
If the previous method of how to make lavender oil isn’t viable to you, there’s another simple way. All you need is some clean ethyl alcohol or plain vodka. Denatured alcohol, such as rubbing alcohol, is not an option for essential oil extraction.
All you need to do is crumble the lavender into a container and cover it with alcohol. It doesn’t hurt to pour some extra, and you can reuse it for later extractions. Next, cover the top with a piece of cloth or a paper towel, and secure it with a rubber band. This procedure allows for airflow but keeps dust and flies out. After two days, the mixture’s ready. Now, you’ll want to strain through a fine mesh or cheesecloth into a container that can handle some time in the freezer. Freezing solidifies the oil while keeping the alcohol liquid, making them effortless to separate. Move the oil into a dark glass container for storage, use the alcohol for your next batch. That’s how to make lavender oil through alcohol extraction.
How to make lavender oil depends on which type of oil you need. That, in turn, depends on how you intend to use it. Both essential and infused oils will do well in most aromatic oil diffusers. However, essential oils are far more versatile, and you can always use them to infuse a carrier oil or other things. Since lavender has so many popular uses, learning how to make lavender oil at home is a useful skill, and these insights carry over to other plants as well. What’s more, it can be cheaper than buying it. Also, the result makes a great gift.
It’s worth repeating that none of the information provided about its uses is medical advice. It’s important to do your research and avoid any potential hazards. Undiluted essential oil will cause irritation and discomfort on your skin, so you should always use a carrier oil for such purposes. Furthermore, it only takes a drop or two of the essence to get the effects, and more will only be negative. When used right, lavender oil is a great thing to have on hand. Drop some in your aromatherapy diffuser and enjoy the soothing scent.