How to Extract Fragrances From Plants

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Strongly scented flowers can be used to create perfumes at home.
Strongly scented flowers can be used to create perfumes at home. (Image: she smells the jasmine flowers image by Alexandra Gnatush-Kostenko from Fotolia.com)

There are several different methods of extracting the fragrance, or essential oils, from plants. Enfleurage, a process that uses fat to absorb the fragrant oils from plants, is a method that requires no special equipment and can be performed at home.

Things You'll Need

  • Lard or vegetable shortening
  • Two large dinner plates
  • Duct tape
  • Wax paper
  • Several small glass bottles with tight lids
  • Funnel
  • Straining cloth (muslin, cheese cloth, coffee filter)
  • Rubbing alcohol or high-proof vodka
  • Vitamin E capsules
  • Freshly picked flowers or herbs

Create a Fragrant Pomade

Wash and dry two large dinner plates. Melt lard or vegetable shortening and pour the melted fat into both plates to a depth of 1/2 inch. Allow the fat to cool to a solid state. Cut several crisscross patterns across the fat on both plates.

Avoid patterned rims that can create air gaps between the two plates.
Avoid patterned rims that can create air gaps between the two plates. (Image: spoon and white plate image by Stepanov from Fotolia.com)

Pick your plants. After a flower blooms, the fragrance of the petals begin to fade, so look for newly opened blossoms. If you are picking herbs, pick them before the flowers open. Pick day-blooming flowers very early in the morning. Pick night-blooming flowers after dark.

Always use freshly picked flowers and herbs.
Always use freshly picked flowers and herbs. (Image: Picking Flowers image by Mike Shannon from Fotolia.com)

Spread wax paper on the counter. Place only the portions of the plant that you will be using for your extraction on the wax paper. If you are extracting fragrance from flowers, use only the blossom petals and discard any leaves, stems or other green portions of the plant. If you are using herbs, keep the leaves and flowers, but discard all stems.

Use only the petals from flowers.
Use only the petals from flowers. (Image: fallen flower petals image by redking from Fotolia.com)

Shake two to three inches of flower petals or herb leaves over the fat on one plate. Place the second plate upside down over the first plate so that the petals are covered with fat on both sides. There should be no air gaps between the rims of the plates. Tape the plates tightly together. Set the plates aside in a safe, warm place for two days.

Herb blossoms and leaves can be used for extraction.
Herb blossoms and leaves can be used for extraction. (Image: mint image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com)

After two days, open the dinner plates, remove all the wilted plant materials and add fresh plants, prepared as before. Tape the plates back up again, and allow to sit for another 48 hours. Repeat this process six to eight times until the fat smells very strongly of the desired fragrance. You have created a fragrant pomade.

Create Perfume

Scrape the fat pomade from the plates and place it in several small bottles. Each bottle should be about half full of the fat.

Fill the bottles the rest of the way with rubbing alcohol or vodka. Seal each bottle tightly to prevent evaporation of the alcohol.

Tightly sealed glass bottles are essential for making perfume.
Tightly sealed glass bottles are essential for making perfume. (Image: jar image by Robert Wróblewski from Fotolia.com)

Store the bottles somewhere dark, where it is not too warm, for three months. The bottles should be shaken often, every day if possible, to make sure the contents stay mixed.

After three months, place a funnel into a clean glass bottle. Line the funnel with muslin, cheese cloth, or a coffee filter. Pour the alcohol from the old bottles into the new bottle, using the filter to strain out the fat.

A coffee filter can be used to strain the fat.
A coffee filter can be used to strain the fat. (Image: coffee filter art image by robert mobley from Fotolia.com)

Add a fixative by squeezing out the contents of vitamin E capsules into the fragrant alcohol, one capsule for each 1/4 cup of the alcohol. Shake the mixture well and cap it tightly. If desired, separate the perfume into smaller bottles. Make sure that all bottles have tight lids and are stored away from light and heat. You have created perfume.

Vitamin E is very easy to locate in capsule form.
Vitamin E is very easy to locate in capsule form. (Image: heap of the vitamin capsules. image by wrangler from Fotolia.com)

Tips & Warnings

  • Fixatives slow the evaporation of the volatile essential oils found in perfume. Fixative oils also add their own fragrance to the perfume and should be chosen with that in mind. In addition to vitamin E, there are other oils that can be purchased from the drugstore or perfume specialty shops, including patchouli, oil of cedar, grape seed oil, oil of sandalwood, sweet almond oil, glycerin, and castor oil.
  • Be sure to pick anything green out of your flower petals. The leaves and stems of flowers can carry fungi that will grow between your plates and ruin your fragrance.

References

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