Getting to Know Rosemary
Before learning how to make Rosemary essential oil at home, it is best to be familiar with this plant more known as an herb that goes best with strong flavors like lamb, pork, chicken, salmon and tuna. Traditional dishes in Greece and North Africa are cooked with Rosemary. Many people are unaware that rosemary has other uses, especially in the form of essential oil. Whether used fresh, dried or as oil, the minty scent is sweet and refreshing.
Rosemary grows all year round. It is a small evergreen shrub that is related to mint, thus its pine-like aroma and tangy flavor. Rosemary leaves are flat, similar to pine needles, part-green, part-silver in color. It’s a staple herb in the kitchen but centuries ago, it was already known for its health benefits.
The scent and flavor and Rosemary is unforgettable. So it isn’t surprising that historically it was used as memory enhancer. It belongs to the Labiatae family and used to be a native of the Mediterranean. However, it now grows in temperate climates such as those in Europe and America. It is prized both as a seasoning and for its healing properties.
It was common for Greek students to put Rosemary sprigs in their hair as they’re studying, while mourners would throw them in the grave of the deceased symbolizing remembrance.
Rosemary was likewise a symbol of fidelity in old England and became part of costumes, decorations and gifts during weddings.
Rosemary Health Benefits
It was in the 14th century that Rosemary oil was first extracted and used to make Queen of Hungary water, a popular cosmetic used during those days. Later in apothecaries, it was known as a digestive aid.
Not only did it help improve digestion, this herb was also said to be effective in stimulating the immune system and increasing circulation, particularly blood flow to the head and brain that stimulated memory. It is also said to have anti-inflammatory properties and worked against asthma attacks. As a kitchen herb it helps neutralize strong aroma in food like lamb and this same property must help make it an effective mouthwash as well as an air deodorizer.
Rosemary is usually infused in hair care products like shampoos and conditioners because it is known to help strengthen the hair and improve its growth rate.
One of its characteristics is the strong scent, which is distinguishable in honey made from Rosemary’s blue-gray flowers. This makes its oil so concentrated that unlike other flowers or herbs it does not need huge quantities to extract essential oils.
Aromatherapists consider Rosemary essential oil a tonic and astringent. It also has properties effective in reducing nasal and lymphatic congestion. As a mild analgesic, it is known to ease muscular pain. Rosemary likewise has antibacterial properties making it useful as an eco-friendly cleaning agent.
To enjoy its benefits, it will be useful to know how to make Rosemary essential oil at home particularly if you don’t have any fresh plants. If they are available in abundant quantities, knowing how to express the oil can help build a stock for regular use.
Step One on How To Make Rosemary Essential Oil At Home
If you’re decided to extracting your own Rosemary essential oil, you can start by cultivating your own plant. This is one of the aromatic herbs that is easy to grow. Rosemary just needs a lot of sunlight and will grow on the balcony or on deck.
It is important to know that Rosemary oil for cooking is not the essential oil extracted from the plant. While most people use the herb fresh or dried as an ingredient for a variety of dishes, there is Rosemary infused oil that can be used for cooking.
Simply add sprigs of Rosemary to olive oil and use this for cooking. The essential oil is actually aromatherapy oil that is for external use only.
How To Make Rosemary Essential Oil At Home: Two Methods
Knowing how to make Rosemary essential oil at home means being able to enjoy its various health benefits even if you don’t have fresh rosemary available all the time. Extracting essential oils from plants uses a technique known as expressing. This is done through a process called distillation, either with water or steam. This is similar to mountain distilleries used to make moonshine.
The simplest method to express essential oils is via water distillation. All that is needed are the Rosemary leaves and water. Place the water and leaves in a pot and boil. Water distillation is best done under vacuum or reduced pressure so temperature is kept below boiling point. This is especially useful in protecting and preserving delicate plant materials.
Steam and essential oils will rise out of the water and are cooled until it condenses then is collected. What is produced are the essential oil and condensed water that contains plant material essences, which are water-soluble. The floral water is also known as hydrosol.
Steam distillation is a more preferred means of extracting essential oils. This is because the oil extracted is purer and retains most of its properties since it is not diluted in water. The result is often more concentrated and is effective even in small amounts.
The main difference between water and steam distillation is the process by which the oil is collected from the plant. Instead of boiling the Rosemary leaves, the steam breaks open its cells, where the essential oils are stored. The oil, aided by the steam, goes through a cooling chamber and much like in water distillation, essential oils and hydrosol are produced.
The Steps on How to Make Rosemary Essential Oil at Home
Although it looks a bit complex, this method of how to make Rosemary essential oil at home just takes a bit of care and patience to do.
The materials needed for this process are:
- I cup fresh Rosemary
- 2 cups carrier oil
- Slow cooker
- Small sealable glass container (Sterilize the jar by boiling for 5 minutes then air drying)
Pluck the Rosemary leaves, also called a quill, from the stem to collect a cup. Freshly picked Rosemary will emit a wonderful aroma that can fill the room. Dried Rosemary leaves can also be used but some of its aromatic complexity will be reduced.
While any oil carrier can be used, what works best are high-temperature, low-scent oils are preferable. This includes sunflower or safflower oil, which are less volatile than the more common olive oil.
Put the oil in the slow cooker, set to “low” then add the leaves. Turn these gently with a wooden spoon a few times and leave for six hours. Using metal spoons are discouraged because they are reactive and would destroy the plant’s healing properties.
Once the heat is turned off, let the warm oil cool while still inside the slow cooker for an hour before straining it over a bowl. Seal the jar and store it in a dark place. Light causes oils to turn rancid over time.
A simpler alternative of how to make rosemary essential oil at home is by placing a jar filled with Rosemary leaves and oil on a sunny windowsill to let it steep for at least a week. Move the finished oil out of direct sunlight. You now have Rosemary essential oil to use in a warm bath or as massage oil and hair conditioner.
Herbs like Rosemary aren’t just good for cooking or enhancing the flavor of dishes. Many health benefits can be derived from it whether consumed or used externally.