distilling herbs

distilling herbs

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Distillation of pine needles

Sunday, October 10, 2010I live in a wooded area and had planned a while  to distil the leaves of pine for essential oil. The weather cooperated this weekend to get back to distil.

For this distillation I had chosen the spruce. I  took some branches of very young trees growing naturally in the forest. With a folding crate full of freshly cut branches I went to work.

left and right spruce and pine
This is the silver fir Albies alba. http://www.bomengids.nl/zilversparren.html
The difference with the pine, which are very common and mostly does well on poor sandy soils, is very obvious.


As preparation for the distillation, I cut the branches into smaller pieces of mostly young twigs with needles.
 After having stuffed the Alembic with freshly cut spruce branches distillation could begin. At a temperature of about 90 degrees Celsius (in the top of the alembic) the first drops came from the cooling bucket
Setting the cooling gave no problems and after more than two hours, I stopped distilling.At that point there was no oil left, and I had six bottles filled with hydrosol.
The amount of spruce branches in the alembic was not weighed. So a exact yield was incalculable. What I know is that I filled the alambic with about 7 liters of spruce twigs and distilled  about 7 mL of essential oil.
The oil had a very surprising pleasant smell. I had expected a more pine-like odor. The spruce essential oil had a citrus odor. If you read the books about it is this true. Fir needle oil contains pinene Santen and over 30% limonene, a terpene that a major constituent of citrus oils. Reason enough for me in the near future to distil more conifer species .