HOW TO DISTILL MINTaromatic plantsdo-it-yourselfessential oilsteam distillation
The mint species is known and cited by numerous ancient authors for its beneficial therapeutic properties; it is so old that it finds its origins in mythology. It was used anciently in Egyptian civilization, as well as in Greeks and Romans. It should be stressed, however, that the mint of the ancient texts was not Peppermint but other species with similar properties. It was only in 1750, in England, that this hybrid was obtained, a natural cross between spearmint and watermint, which took the name of Mentha x piperita.
This perennial herb with a strong and aromatic smell, adapts well to temperate climate conditions and is quite resistant to low winter temperatures. These characteristics make it suitable for cultivation throughout the Mediterranean area and other similar climates.
Always used for the benefits that it has on the gastrointestinal tract, this aromatic plant is characterized by the presence of an essential oil widely used both for foods and cosmetics, thanks to its delicious, refreshing effect. The benefits of the essential oil are not limited to this effect. Mint, in fact, helps many functions on a physical and mental level; helping stomach and intestines against poor digestion, flatulence and muscle spasms; the airways against mucus, sinusitis, congestion and nausea; as well as our nervous system, reducing mental fatigue and stimulating attention and concentration.
So, how can we obtain our personal mint essential oil, using the seedlings we have in the garden or in the vegetable garden?
Here’s what we need:
- Stems and flowering tops of Mint, about 2 kg
- Running water
- An electric plate or gas stove
Phase 1 – prepare the plant material
The first thing to do is to prepare our plant material. If the flowering stems that we have available come from the plants of our garden, it is good to select the material for distillation, removing the excessively tough or woody parts.
At this point we can reduce the size of the branches if too long, also to facilitate loading into the boiler.
It is good to remember that the mint essential oil is contained in the glandular hairs present on the surface of the leaves, so it will not be necessary to chop the plant material for distillation. It is also useful to keep the stems intact and not use just the leaves. This will guarantee a better homogeneous passage of the steam and avoid the harmful “cork effect” due to packing the leaves too tightly during distillation.
Once we have prepared the plant material, we can load the distiller. First, however, we must add water to the bottom of the boiler until it reaches the level of the specific grid.
At this point, we begin to distribute the stems evenly, creating layers. It is very important to press the material well, especially near the walls of the distiller to avoid empty spaces from forming through which the steam could flow without coming into contact with plant material and consequently preventing proper distillation.
Once the load is filled, make sure that all the twigs are kept inside the boiler, positioning the upper grill on them.
We close the distiller with its hinge and place it on the electric plate or on the gas stove. Position the collector tube and the condenser to the boiler and prepare the rubber pipes for the inlet and outlet of the cooling water (connect the condenser to running water, being careful to connect the pipe for the water inlet in the lower link and the pipe for its exit in the upper part).
At this point, turn on the hotplate or the stove at a high enough temperature to start heating the internal water.
Phase 3 – start the distillation
At 40 ° C, the distiller’s temperature rises quite quickly and already around 85 °- 90 ° C the first droplets of distillate will be seen coming out.
At this point, we can lower the heating temperature of the electric plate / stove and keep monitoring the temperature of the cooling water of the condenser and of the distillate that is coming out, which must remain warm.
Always remember to place the graduated cylinder for the distillate next to a container to avoid losing outgoing aromatic or floral water.
Step 4 – bottling our essential oil
Once the distillation has ended, it is necessary to separate the essential oil from the aromatic water, easily identifiable inside the graduated cylinder.
To do this, just pour the contents of the graduated cylinder inside a separating funnel, let it rest for a few minutes and gradually open the funnel tap, dripping the floral water first and then in a special amber bottle the mint essential oil entirely produced by us!
Learn more with the video:
Phase 5 – maturation and conservation
As with any freshly distilled essential oil, it is necessary that it ripens before you can fully enjoy its fragrance. Try to smell your essence day by day, to discover and treasure all its maturation stages.
Regarding the conservation, the essential oil is a very delicate substance that can easily change and turn rancid, thus losing its natural scent and developing substances that could also be harmful. Therefore, it is important to always keep it in dark glass bottles away from direct light and heat sources.
As we all know, the use of essential oils is done by drops. In fact, their use must be limited to small quantities as these substances are highly concentrated and rich in active molecules, many of which can also have toxic effects. Therefore, when using them it is necessary to do so carefully. Ask experts for advice.
And now all is left to do is to make the most of your personal mint essential oil!
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