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Steam Distillation of Essential Oils

Page history last edited by jbfriesen 9 years, 2 months ago

 Welcome to the Steam Distillation of Essential Oils page!


It occurs to me that the experiment should be more accurately described as the "Steam Distillation of Spices" or the "Extraction of Essential Oils from Spices by Steam Distillation."

I enjoy this lab because it is a very straightforward proceedure that generates some interest because of its natural products emphasis.

This is a good opportunity to discuss the importance of natural product extracts in food, flavoring, and medicine.


Instructor's notes:

  1. The main problem is boiling over of the water/spice mixture. I use the largest round bottom in our glassware kit (500 mL). The students add 25g of spices to a half-filled flask.
  2. If the spices are very finely ground, they will tend to boil over more easily than if you grind your own in a blender.
  3. I have expanded the traditional "eugenol to cloves" experiment to include other interesting spices. I think one can do lemon/orange peels as well. As far as I know one can steam distill any organic substance and obtain essential oils.
  4. The student has to be patient and distill the solution for an hour or so. The longer it is distilled the better the yield. However, the procedure can be stopped at any time. The student will always get something, even if only the first 10 mL are collected.
  5. Analysis is limited the amount of oil obtained. I was excited this year to shoot the samples on the GC. Very interesting! Much better than TLC, UV, RI, and IR we had done before.


Link to experimental protocol:

Fall 2010 Student Handout: Essential Oils

Student Handout:_Essential_Oils.doc 


Chromatography & Spectra:

Fall 2010 GC-FID

Fall 2010 IR

Class UV spectra from Cloves, Cumin, Anise, and Oregano (pdf)

Class GC chromatograms from Cloves, Cumin, Anise, and Oregano


Student Comments 2008: Steam Distillation of Essential Oils

2009 Photos

Student Comments 2009

Photo Gallery




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