Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The magic of essential oils...

Essential oils without distilling…
We did an experiment the other evening to gather essential oils from the glands on the outside of peppermint using some special gauzes of Dieter’s. Essential oils are usually acquired through distillation and are part of a plant protection system against disease and insects. It is for this reason that essential oils are usually often antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral or very good at deterring insects.

For the method we lined a bucket with canvass bags which have a fine mesh at the bottom. Each one was increasingly finer as they went deeper into the bucket.

Dieter placed a load of ice in the top bag, a big bunch of frozen peppermint from the garden followed by some more ice. We covered it with water and all took a turn at stirring it vigorously for half an hour. The fresh scent of the mint filled the kitchen.

We then left it all to sit, untouched for another half an hour before removing the sacks from the bucket of sludgy black (and not particularly tasty) iced peppermint tea.

When we looked, amazingly there was a fine minty scented black powder on each mesh. Dieter carefully scraped the powder into a small lump and transferred it to another mesh for drying.

The oils are apparently encapsulated in a small waxy shell so that when warmed they are released.

Karen and me have been considering applications for the crystals…added mint to our smoking mix, mint oil in our next batch of Ache Ease.

It was great to see the results but we are yet to work out if the yield of oil was worth the sacrifice of so much mint. We felt like some of the oils contained in the leaves remained in the mint…still, in the absence of a distillery!!!