Distilling essential oils is a long, expensive process that requires a lot of time and effort for a small amount of oil. Buying essential oils is also expensive, but there is a way you can get the therapeutic benefits of aromatic oils and vinegars quite cheaply at home.
Step 1 - Clean and Sterilize Jars
To begin, you will need a collection of clean, sterilized bottles and jars. You can recycle jam jars, and glass bottles, but you need to wash them thoroughly first in hot soapy water, then boil in a large saucepan for 20 minutes.
Step 2 - Choose Your Aroma
You will need at least one standard American cup of plant material. For your first attempts, use strongly aromatic plants like lavender, rose petals, or rosemary. These will give you an oil that can be put to many uses around the home.
You can use any strongly scented flower petals, and the range is as wide as the scented flowers in your garden. Try jasmine, frangipani, honeysuckle, marigold, or violets.
Step 3 - Choose an Oil
The oil you use should be related to the purpose you have in mind — you can use baby oil or almond oil for cosmetics, safflower or canola for general purposes, and olive oil for cooking.
Step 4 - Fill Your Container
Place the plant material in your jar or bottle. If you are using a bottle, you can push stems of lavender or rosemary into the bottle. Now pour the oil over the plant material, making sure the bottle or jar is full. As a rough rule of thumb, use two cups of oil to one cup of plant material. You don't need to warm the oil before you pour it in the bottle or jar.
Step 5 - Let it Sit
Now cap the bottle or jar tightly and place it in a warm spot. This could be a sunny place on the veranda or windowsill, in a warm cupboard (such as an airing cupboard), or next to the hot water heater. Leave the oil to infuse for a few days, or until the plant material begins to brown.
Take the cap off and sniff — if it is not strong enough for you, strain the liquid, fill the jar with fresh plant material, and pour the oil back over it. Leave it for another few days. Keep doing this until the mixture is as aromatic as you want. If the plant material used is very strong, such as a strongly scented rose or jasmine, you should get a good scent just changing the plant material once or twice.
Step 6 - Store and Use
When the oils are to your liking, strain thoroughly and put in a clean bottle. Keep your aromatic oil in a cool place, or add to recipes for lotions and creams. For example, if you want a rose scented cleansing cream, make up a batch of rose oil and add a tablespoon to a jar of plain sorbolene cream and whip it up. To make a wrinkle fighting night cream, add the contents of six Vitamin E oil capsules and whip them in as well.
For culinary use, put some sprigs of herbs, such as rosemary, thyme or basil, into a tall bottle, and pour over good quality cooking oil such as safflower or olive. You can also add garlic, chilies or whatever seasoning takes your fancy. Leave where the sun can warm the bottles for a couple of weeks.
You use the same method for making aromatic vinegar. Choose a good quality wine or apple cider vinegar and pour it over your herb sprigs. Leave it for a few days in a warm place and you will have a delicious addition to salad dressings.
You will save big by making aromatherapy oils and vinegars yourself. The added benefit is that they will be customized to your liking!