Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The journey of an oil

I've mentioned my search for the rare Rosemary a-pinene chemotype, and my excitement at locating and importing a wee bit.  This is the story of that oil, as told by the words and pictures of artisan distiller, Chris Burder.

A rosemary hedgerow
First, the rosemary in the field. Rosemary var "Herb Cottage"  I can't judge the height of that fence, but am guessing it's close to a meter (or 39 inches for those who don't think metric.)  (Chris says the fence is 1.2 metres, 47 inches...MY Rosemary might reach 12 inches.) I want to reach out and run my fingers through the blossoms.  Chris mentioned in another conversation "If having trouble with any plant of Mediterranean origin, a thick blanket of mulch is what often makes the difference. At least 6" of firmly packed straw, for example. These plants can't put up with extremes of weather; flood, drought, heat, cold. Here in Australia, it's a must to buffer them against these extremes."

and... speaking of mulching... a shot from last May:

Mulch to be spread.

Friday, Sept 4th

The time frame... and another Rosemary photo Still in the field Sept 4th.

Harvested, wilting
This is the harvested rosemary, waiting for distillation, perhaps my favorite shot of this whole series. You can see some of the mulched Rosemary against the wall.  Somewhere I have a shot of the mulcher shooting out shredded rosemary, but can't find it.

 Someone asked how long the process takes: Chris said, "It will be another 3 days harvesting, 1 week wilting, a couple of days distilling, a day drying (oil), then the BIG unknown - shipping time!"

 But, like any farmer, Chris's schedule is at the mercy of the weather. "A rainy day has put paid to finishing the harvest so I went and cut a small load of firewood hopefully tomorrow..."    I snagged this photo from Chris's website. I doubt the small finch cooperated by posing while he was chopping wood for our distillation, but his mention of chopping wood for the still just brought it home to me how very much of himself he puts into these precious oils.

 After the harvesting, it needs to be chopped fine to load the still  A mulcher works beautifully.  I can't imagine the aroma of this huge stack of shredded rosemary!  and while the Rosemary is wilting, the still needs steam cleaning, to be ready for morning's distillation.

Steam Cleaning the Still

  After the biomass (what a totally inexpressive term for this lovely herb!) has dried slightly, it is packed into a charge for the still.  

Charge ready for loading.

Shall we look at numbers?

from Chris:
Approx 17L hydrosol
Approx 760-770mL oil (exact figure not known until oil dries)

8.25 charges - 33L charge chamber
Total weight of biomass: 106.341 Kg
Approx yield: 7.194 mL/Kg

Note to self: don't do figures after 14.5 hours straight distilling. There's actually only 680 mL approx. with an approx. yield of 6.395mL/Kg (I thought that first figure was too good to be true)

(Exact figure was only 710 mls of oil)   so little for so much labor... two hours of distilling for 100 ml of oil.  Actually, according to Chris, 2 1/2 hours to get the stove up to temperature, 15 minutes to load the first charge, 15 minutes heating the charge until the first condensate runs, 30 minutes distillation, repeat eight times, adding 15 minutes to top up the stove and reach temperature again. One hour to drain the separator, start drying the oil, general fluff-around time.)
The Still - waiting for action
Brief explanation of the photo above...  the large still sits on a burner to heat the water... water brought to boiling on the bottom...the charge is loaded into the top. Steam forces its way through the shredded rosemary and rises through the tube at the top.  The larger cylinder atop the still contains a metal coil (picture a spring,tightly wound) in the center with cold water piped in to quickly chill the steam to create the liquid distillate, hydrosol and essential oil. The coil contains cooling water in it, inside out compared to most condensers. The chilled distillate exits the tube to the left, where it enters the separator shown below.  (I couldn't figure out the use of the huge pot to the right of the still. "A 20 liter stock pot used to boil/sterilize my glassware, beakers, cylinders, etc.")

This is a view into the separator...where oil is separated from hydrosol...  the lighter oil will rise

Nothing left to give.
  And from the separator comes the precious, rare oil, and, nature's overlooked bounty the hydrosol.  and, after the distillation is finished.. we have what is technically known as "spent biomass" ... see it steaming?

Hydrosol exiting the still/separator.

Drying the oil

Chris mentioned "drying the oil" above.  The oil, fresh from the separator, is covered loosely and let sit on a warm hotplate. convection will remove the heavier water molecules and send them to the bottom of the jar.  The jar is then frozen, and the ice (frozen hydrosol) removed.  Every separator will leave microscopic droplets of water in the essential oil, and, if allowed to remain, the free H2O will drastically shorten the shelf life.  Commercial distillers often use anhydrous sodium sulphate. added to the essential oil overnight, it will remove any water. Pour off the oil, dry the sodium sulfate and reuse.  Chris prefers not to use chemicals if possible.   To test whether YOUR essential oil has been dried by the producer,  to one ml of essential oil, add five ml chloroform.  Shake gently to blend,  and let settle. If water is present, the mixture will turn milky.  If the essential oil has been properly dried, the mix will stay clear.


Canisters for the Oil.
Hydrosols bottled for storage or transport.

Chris shared, on Facebook, "
You're not going to believe this...
The Rosemary oil has already seen more of the world on its voyage to Nature's Gift Aromatherapy than most people see in a lifetime..."
From the farm... To Melbourne... To Sydney... To Guangzhou... To Angeles City... To Ta Yuan Hsiang... To...

To Anchorage Alaska
to Memphis, and then to Madison TN.

And... it arrives:

It's not an Absolute. Shippers really don't know

     and HERE is the precious cargo.

Chris's statement, "This kind of completes it for me... Modern tech like Facebook has allowed me to show you all everything from harvest to delivery... Something you don't see every day." 

Thank you for sharing the process with us, Chris... definitely something we do NOT see every day.  I wanted to share this so you all could see the journey, from plants in the ground, to the wee small bottles that we ship to you.

And.. final step..   upon arrival.  I believe Michelle poured these.  Not sure who labeled them.

Poured, sealed, and labeled.

Ready to start a new journey.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Aussie Oils 8 - Cypress Pine (Blue Cypress)

In Northern Australia, plantations of the Northern Territory are known for growing  Northern   A member of their southern conifer family, Cupressaceae, the Australian Cypress Pine is a large tree with highly fragrant wood.  Through steam distillation of the wood, bark and leaves of these large trees comes an oil that is described by Mark Webb as “rich, resinous, woody, smoky, honey-like and grounding.”  (1)
Australian Cypress Pine - Callitris intratropica.
The composition of the Australian Cypress tree is different from other Australian essential oils, according to Webb.  He explains that when combined with the naturally-occurring resinous compounds of the bark and cambium, an amount of guaiazulene can be obtained.  The guaiazulene content provides the clear, deep cobalt blue color of the oil.   This oil is known as Australian Blue Cypress Oil.  Predominately sesquiterpenoid based as well as containing the guaiazulene, its major constituent is guaiol (20-30%).  Additional constituents are guaienes, selinenes, eudesmols, beta-elemene as well as furanones.  With this combination, it has uses in healing wounds, as an anti-inflammatory and an antibacterial.  (1)
When the heartwood is distilled on its own, a clear, colorless essential oil is collected, with the same physical and chemical properties as Australian Blue Cypress Oil.  Cypressence Clear, as it is known, has the same therapeutic properties, though containing less guaiazulene.  A small amount of clear, colorless oil can be distilled from from the resin rich bark and cambium layer.   The leaves offer a turpentine-like oil with l-lilmonene as its main constituent and of little interest to the aromatic community.  (1)
Photo courtesy of Plant Extracts, Inc.
The Cypressence Clear oil has a softer note than the Australian Blue Cypress, and though both oils are great fixatives in blends, potpourri and perfumery, the Australian Blue Cypress is actually registered for such.  Webb notes that he finds it useful in grounding those that are flighty, nervous or distraught, as he finds it calming.   (1)
Robert Tisserand indicates that this oil is contraindication in all routes to pregnant and lactating women due to the potential for fetotoxicity.  He also indicates it should be used cautiously in conjunction with low blood pressure or in combination with drugs that are metabolized by CYP2D6.)  As well, there is a potential for mild skin irritation above 74%. (2)

(1)Mark Webb.  Bush Sense,  Australian Essential Oils and Aromatic Compounds,  Adelaide, Australia:  Griffin Press, 2000. 
(2)  Robert Tisserand/Rodney Young.  Second Edition, Essential Oil Safety:  Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

My notes:  I have seen this oil recommended for use in wound healing, and an antibacterial and an anti-inflammatory.  Our primary use for it? as a wasp repellant. The wasps here in TN seem to hate it. We have applied it to areas where wasps want to build their nests, with great success.  It is said to relieve the pain of Wasp stings almost immediately.

You may read more about, and purchase your own Blue Cypress Oil here.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Aussie Oils - 7 West Australian Sandalwood Oil

Anyone following Mark Webb in the aroma world, or talking to his previous students, have heard them mention “W A  Sandalwood” AT LEAST once.  For me, it has been the ultimate teaser, the one
thing they still had in Australia that I hadn’t tried.  But that is about to end, as Nature’s Gift just received a shipment of this oil that Webb refers to as “a deliciously sweet balsamic woody scent,” that he loves so much he uses it as his personal scent. (1)
Santalum spicatum R. Br., Western Australian Sandalwood, is a small evergreen tree.  The sapwood is pale, the heartwood dark brown.  The oil is extracted from the heartwood and rootball using solvent extraction and vacuum codistallation. (1)
So what is the difference between this Australian Sandalwood and Sandalwood from other sources?  Webb states that if one were to compare constituents of W A sandalwood with East Indian Sandalwood (S.album) – both are extracted from the heartwood and rootball.  They are chemically similar, both contain alpha and beta santalol, that which provides the distinct “sandalwood” scent.  However, W A Sandalwood oil has higher levels of farnesol and alpha-bisabolol than its East Indian counterpart.  Both have been shown to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.  (1)
                                Comparative Chemical Constituents of S. spicatum and S. album:
                  COMPOUND                                           S. spicatum                                          S. album
          Pre-alpha-santalol compounds                      9-10            
          alpha-santalol                                                21-28                                                      50
         alpha-bisabolol                                                4-5                                                            -
         z-alpha-bergamatol                                         5-6                                                            3
         beta-santalol                                                    24-28                                                       24
          farnesol                                                           4-7                                                             -
          bergamatol – like compounds                      17-24                                                           -
          lanceol – like compounds                              2-3                                                            1
  Steffen Arctander, author of Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin, described W A Sandalwood as “soft, woody, extremely tenacious and somewhat balsamic in its delicate sweetness.”  Webb explains that it is that top note that is different from album oil, not as sweet, but a bit resinous like myrrh.  (1)
Image Courtesy of The Paperbark Co.

  Curtin University in Western Australia has done research into the historic use of Western Australia sandalwood oil.  Before the use of penicillin became global in 1946, sandalwood was used in capsules for urinary tract infections and gonorrhea.  Several experiments indicate the anti-microbial effectiveness of Sandalwood.  Some of this experiments specifically cite W A Sandalwood, where as some do not specify which species.  In 1998, W A Sandalwood was shown to be more effective against Candida albicans than Tea Tree.  In 2000, W A Sandalwood showed to have an inhibitory effect against the herpes simplex virus.  (1)
  Traditionally, the antimicrobial attributes have been accredited to the farnesol content, a compound known in floral oils such as Ylang Ylang.  Farnesol makes up 5-10% of the oil content in W A Sandalwood oil.  Promising research indicates other effective uses of this constituent. In 2014, research in São Paulo, Brazil found that Farnesol and geraniol could be promising chemopreventive agents against hepatocarcinogenesis.  Obviously further studies are required, but this is an exciting development.   (2) 
  Santalum spicatum is a known bacteriostat, shown able to hinder the growth of those organisms causing acne and tinea (Stanzl., 1998).   Further investigation of W A Sandalwood’s effectiveness continues.  (1)
  Sydney University research has shown that W A Sandalwood oil has anti-inflammatory properties, supporting traditional use of the oil in this way.  Alpha-bisabolol is accredited for the anti-inflammatory properties of W A Sandalwood oil, ranging in content of 5-10% of the constituent.  In addition, the content of beta-santalene, though normally below 1%, also has anti-inflammatory properties.  Research continues to investigate other historical uses for this wonderful oil.  (1)
    The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration have authorized licensure for the topical and inhaled use of W A Sandalwood.  (1) 
    Robert Tisserand advices of a theoretical drug interaction  between W A Sandalwood and drugs metabolized by the enzyme CYP2D6.  (3)
(1)Mark Webb.  Bush Sense,  Australian Essential Oils and Aromatic Compounds,  Adelaide, Australia:  Griffin Press, 2000. 
(3)  Robert Tisserand/Rodney Young.  Second Edition, Essential Oil Safety:  Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

You may read more about, and order your own Australian Sandalwood here.