Learn How To Make Your Own Essential Oils

DIY Essential Oils

Making DIY essential oils are easier than you think. You can go the route of buying a copper still, but that is expensive, so we did it with a crock pot!

If you’ve ever used essential oils you know they can be expensive. And sometimes it can be difficult to find the ones you want.

Did you know you can make your own?

Essential oils are the volatile oils extracted from plants (or other sources), typically through steam distillation. You can actually purchase or make your own still for this purpose. I found a nice copper 2 -quart still for around $400; still too much money for me. So I set out to find out how I can make my own oils without the expensive still.

DIY Essential Oils

While you can make your own, beware that most “essential oil” recipes on the internet are really infused oils. It helps to know the difference.

Essential Oils vs. Infused Oils

Infused oils are made by soaking herbs in a particular oil to extract the active compounds. Some botanicals, such as calendula, infuse very well and create a very healing oil. But some, like lavender, are never quite as good as the actual essential oil.

Many essential oils are steam distilled, which involves simmering the plant material to produce a steam, which travels through a tube, which is then run through cold water. The liquid that forms from condensation will be in two parts, a water compound and an oil compound. The water compound is where floral waters, such as lavender and rose water, come from. The oils that rise to the top are essential oils.

Easy DIY Essential Oil Extraction

Using this method, you can extract essential oils from plants you might not normally find oils from. I love mint, chocolate mint being my favorite. But finding chocolate mint essential oil usually left me with flavored oils, not the real thing. I was able to make a small amount of chocolate mint essential oil that was amazing, although it took a lot of plant material for a small amount. Grapefruit mint will be my next experiment.

You can also make blends that aren’t found in nature. I made an oil from oakmoss, lavender, and patchouli. I was able to get a small patchouli plant from my local hydroponics store. The scent was amazing! But like the chocolate mint, the amount of oil yielded was small.

Ingredients & Supplies

  • a crock pot with a lid
  • distilled water
  • enough fresh plant material to fill the crock pot about half full (at least 3-4 cups, chopped)
  • time

Process

  1. Place the plant material in the crock pot and cover with water. The water shouldn’t fill more than ¾ of the volume of the crock pot. Put the lid on upside down. (The concave structure will allow any steam that forms to condense and fall back into the pot. If you don’t have a lid, you can use a plate.)
  2. Turn the crock pot on high to heat the water. Once the water is hot, turn down to low. Simmer on low for 3-4 hours.
  3. After the plant material is cooked down, turn off and let cool. When it is cool, place the inside of the crock pot into the refrigerator. If your crock pot doesn’t come apart, you can place the whole unit in there, or transfer the liquid into another container. Leave it in overnight.
  4. The next day, pull the crock pot out of the refrigerator. A thin film of oil will form on the top and will be hard after cooling. (This is essential oil!) Carefully lift the oil off of the water. Work fast – it will start to melt quickly!
  5. Place this into a bottle and cap. Label contents well. There may be a small amount of water based liquid on the bottom. You can gently heat the oil to turn the liquid to steam, and release it from the oil. Don’t heat the oil for too long as it can lose its potency.
  6. Store in a colored glass container (like these bottles) away from light and heat.

To Use

You can use these oils just like essential oils that you purchase, but they may not be quite as strong as what you are used to. Be prepared to use more than you normally would.

Important Tips

  • It’s best to use fresh plant material rather than dried. Dried herbs will still yield some oil, but fresh will result in more volume. Harvest plant material in the morning after the dew has dried. Discard any dead, diseased, or bug infested herbs.
  • You’ll need at least 3-4 cups of plant material. This will result in a few teaspoons of DIY essential oil. (Now I understand why essential oils are so expensive!)
  • Chop your plant material to increase the surface volume and allow more of the oils to escape.
  • Distilled water is important since tap water can have bacteria or other contaminants that may spoil your mix.

Don’t want to make your own DIY essential oils?

If you don’t think DIY essential oils are for you, don’t worry. DIY Natural uses and recommends the pure, therapeutic grade essential oils from this company. We love their selection, prices, and quality, and think you will too!

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Comments

  1. Great article – thank you! I was wondering how long the EO and floral waters would be good for. I suspect not as long as the stronger EOs purchased online (usually about 2 years I think)

    Thank you!

    • Good question, Cassandra! I’ve never made enough to last more than a few months. I tend to use them quickly! But I would guess you’re right in that they wouldn’t be as good for as long as those you normally buy. I would guess a year, since most DIY projects last about that long. To keep them longer, you can always refrigerate them.

  2. This is very informative, thanks for sharing 🙂 (I live in WNC as well!) I am happy to see you put the link up for Mountain Rose Herbs as an EO option. They seem to offer the most affordable prices and most of their oils are certified organic. It always boggles my mind why people would not want organic oils.

    • Thanks Rivette! Sometimes people don’t care if the oils they use are organic or not. I usually use organic oils myself, but in a pinch, if I’m doing something that I won’t be using directly on my skin, like laundry soap, I will use conventional oils.

  3. Would this method work for fresh nettles? I have a good patch growing and looking for ways to use them.

    • I’m not sure, Betsy. I’ve never exacted oil from nettles, nor have I used a nettle essential oil. It would be worth a try though. And if nothing else, you’ll have nettle hydrosol, which you can use for all sorts of things, like sunburn. Hmm…now you’ve got me thinking!

  4. Was JUST thinking I needed more rosemary essential oil. And I have a big ole patch of rosemary in my backyard! I hope this works!

  5. How do you “carefully lift the oil off the water” in the crock? Do you use a turkey baster? Is it like lifting the good stuff off of a pot of gravy? Thanks

    • Kind of, Grandma Jean. When it’s cold, the oils will be solid, so they will lift easily off of the liquid part. But they will melt fast, so you need to work quickly! A turkey baster may work, or maybe that pitcher thing that you put gravy in to separate off the fats.

  6. Wonderful article! You made it all so easy for anyone make their own EOs 🙂

  7. I’m just starting out with essential oils and am looking for the best company to buy them from. There are so many, how do you know who is telling the truth? I started by taking a webinar with Aromahead.
    I also took some classes with do Terra ? I’ve seen Young Living, Real Oil and now Mountain Rose Herbs – Help please 🙂

    • I’ve been using oils for a couple of years now. I have some from each of the companies you mentioned but my favorite is Plant Therapy. Excellent prices, free shipping and they do GC/MS testing , which is my standard for whether a company provides good quality.

    • Hi Katie and Joan. I get my essential oils from a lot of different places. I honestly can’t see spending the extra money that Young Living and Do Terra charges for most of my DIY projects. The oils that I get from Mountain Rose Herbs, Aura Cacia and even Essential Depot are just as strong, have been through the same testing for active constituents and are much cheaper. My soap and other body care products turn out fine and are effective. You need to make your own choice based on what you are doing and want to achieve.

  8. Hello, would this method also work for fruits such as oranges, lemos & grapefruit? Woud you use the whole fruit or just the rind/peel? Thanks 🙂

  9. Thankyou so very much for this article, I had recently been wanting very much to make my own oils and thanks to you I now know how! I’m looking forward to having my first ‘go’, thanks again!

    • It’s not hard to do Deb, but it can be time consuming and it can take a LOT of plant material. But to know exactly what’s in your oils and not have to pay a fortune for them is worth it to me.

  10. What do you do with the left over water and herbs? Would they be good for compost. Could I just throw them in the flower bed?

    • I compost most of my leftovers, but you certainly can save the water and use it as a hyrdrosol. It’s not exactly the same, since it still has plant material in it and hasn’t been completely distilled, but it’s close. Just be sure to use it in a few days or refrigerate it.

  11. Debra,

    Thank you for your lovely article. I am very happy to know about the Crock pot! I have just planted a herb garden with Lavender, Rosemary, Sage, Oregon, Thyme and I also have a very old lemon tree. I have used your recipes to make soap. I can use the lavender in the crockpot Correct? I too am interested if I can make oil out of the lemon? And would I add a branch of a Lavender with flower in the soap after I heated it up, (the soap I mean). Thank you Debra!
    “Calli”

    • Sure you can, Calli! I use the water that is left over to make soap all the time. Just strain it and be sure it’s cool. You can use the plant material too, but later, after the trace. You don’t want the lye destroying your herbs. Thanks you, Calli!

  12. Hi. I noted there are several comments with questions that weren’t answered. Could yo please answer them? I, too, am curious to know the answers.
    Citrus : same procedure? What to do with the leftover water? Uses for it?

    • I’m sorry I didn’t answer them sooner, Carol. I work full time and part time, so I usually only have time for this on the weekends. For the citrus, you use the peels. Try to get as much of the pith off as you can. The water will soak into it making the oil extraction harder to do. The left over water can be used like a hydrosol, just be sure to use it in a few days, or you can use it in place of the water when making soap. You could also use it to water plants. I use mine in the garden or compost it a lot.

  13. hey! i found your article quiet helpful. i was wondering if i can make mint EO since i have it in abundance. and i would also like to know if i can use orange or any other fruit peels to extract oil outta them.
    thank you

    • You sure can, Sumaira. Mint essential oil is very easily extracted. I worked on a small amount of chocolate mint in the fall, but I didn’t have enough by the end of the season. I got about 2 drops. Next spring I’ll be doing more. And yes, you can. Citrus oils are easy too, just beware that it does take a lot of plant material.

  14. I love this! I am wondering, though, about my Instant Pot. First of all, I’m wondering if I could use the steam setting, and then the slow cook setting. With either, the condensed water is sealed in the pot and some of it drips back into the pot. I may give it a try….

    • I’ve never used an Instant Pot Amy, but I would think it would work great. If it’s a sealed unit,. you won’t have any steam escaping, so it would all stay contained. Let me know how it works!

  15. I know this is a little bit out there, but what would your suggestions be for trying to make a black pepper EO?

    I see it used it warming salves all the time and I have a big jar of pepper that I could use. Any ideas would be welcome since I’ve never made EO’s before.