Goodness! A whole book could be written on just distillation. The novice assumes you put the plant matter into the distiller and steam it up until oil comes out. Well, partly right. The expert knows it is a craft. First of all, you must, absolutely must -- non-negotiable here -- have a stainless steel distiller.
Why? Well, the alternative in the United States is a cheap version made of aluminum. What do we know about aluminum? Well, it is estimated to be one of the leading causes of most modern diseases. It is in a ton of our everyday products. Deodorant and body care, supplements and food, even in our water! Many scientists believe this is one of the leading causes of Alzheimer's, which is estimated to affect 1 in 85 people by the year 2050.
A funny thing happens when you distill essential oils in an aluminum distiller. The aluminum leaches into the plant matter and ends up in the essential oil -- just as it would if the plants had grown with pesticides or weed killers. As essential oils enter the bloodstream and cover every single cell in your body, while crossing into the brain, it matters. I don't want aluminum in my brain. I don't want it on my body. I don't want it in my food, health, or home care. You should not either.
So, now that we know we must have a stainless steel distiller, what's next? Plant Brix Testing -- plants need to be harvested at the optimal time for them, not us. Young Living waits for the harvest time to be upon us and then for a few days will grab a snippet of a plant and test the brix (also know as sugar levels) of the plant. Sometimes this could mean several tests in a day. When the plant levels are right, harvest begins.
Now at this point, most harvesters would take the whole plant. After all, they get paid for the volume. More plant equals more dollars. Not Young Living. They harvest the bloom when the entire plant is not needed. Granted, some plants, the whole thing is needed. There are essential oils in various parts of the plant. If the bark is needed, we use that. If the resin is needed, we use that. If the leaves are need, we use that. You get the picture. Thought and care are going into this, here!
Once harvested, the plants either
a) go straight to the distiller, or
b) as is the case with Melissa, Peppermint, Palo Santo, or Ylang Ylang -- just to name a few -- they have to sit for awhile so the properties of the plant are at their best.
You see, the plant doesn't know it is cut down. It thinks it has an injury. The best way for a plant to heal itself is to amp up the production of compounds to aide in regeneration. With peppermint, it is sun dried for three days to be at peak levels. Here is Gary Young's blog on brix and plants.
Temperature -- a steady moderate temperature and water level which allows steam to rise and convince those little plants to release all their beautiful oils. Time -- time is a big one. Read: HUGE, MONUMENTAL. OIL CHANGING. Most companies will distill for an hour or two. Time is money. Gary tests all the plants to see what their distillation time is and when they will yield the most compounds. Take cedarwood for example. Distilled for a few hours, it yields a handful of compounds identifiable by science to be beneficial. Distilled for over 20 hours, it yields HUNDREDS --- well over 300 --- of scientifically identifiable compounds. WOWZA.
With testing and research, Young Living has determined the exact time to harvest, and the exact hours needed to distill each plant. Once distilled, it is tested in house in our state of the art labs about a dozen different times throughout the purification process, and then it is third party tested to ensure our results our correct.