The Mesa Lavender Farms Professional Guarantee:

Our method of distillation and storage ensures you receive the highest quality lavender essential oil possible. The steps we take to prevent heavy metal contamination, oxidation, hydrolysis, and heat, pressure, and light reactions known to degrade essential oils are covered in this article. By the time you have read this article to its conclusion, you will learn that neglecting any of these factors can have a negative effect on the natural composition of lavender essential oil.

We process our plant material at atmospheric pressure instills constructed of food-grade stainless steel[1]. From the stainless steel basket containing the lavender floral material through the stainless steel condenser, the condensate (oil and hydrosol) never comes in contact with any metal other than stainless steel.

condenser to turn steam into essential oil and hydrosol
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As the condensate leaves the condenser and enters the receiver/separator it drops into an inert gas. The receiver is designed to separate the essential oil from the hydrosol[2]. The essential oil flows from the receiver into a darkened glass container filled with inert gas. This container contains a food grade natural desiccant to help absorb any water in the essential oil resulting from the distillation process. When the glass container is partially filled with essential oil, an additional quantity of desiccant is sifted down through the oil to remove any water remaining in the oil.

Receiver seperator
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Containers of essential oil are capped off with inert gas and sealed to prevent loss of any of the more volatile organic compounds that create our essential oils. Once sealed the oil and hydrosol is allowed to age, like a fine wine, for at least three months to allow the volatile organic compounds to stabilize resulting in Mesa Lavender Farms’ exceptional quality essential oil.

Some producers use high pressure and high temperatures to speed the oil extraction process. Such conditions cause decomposition of some of the components of the oil. We distill at atmospheric pressure at an elevation of about 4600 feet, thus our processing temperature never exceeds ~203o F., the boiling point of water at our altitude.

The length of the extraction process, from the time the first drop of condensate drips from the condenser to the time we stop the process affects the final composition of the oil. Our extraction period is consistently 40 minutes ensuring each small batch is identical to the last.[3]

The length of time it takes for the first drop of condensate to emerge from the condenser directly influences the final composition of the oil. It should take no longer than 5 minutes from the time the basket of plant material is lowered into the still for the first drop to emerge from the end of the condenser. If it takes longer, the head of steam necessary to evaporate and force the oil up through the basket is insufficient. Without the proper head of steam, reflux occurs. Reflux occurs when oil drips back into the water in the bottom of the still resulting in hydrolysis of the oil as it mixes with water. This process of decomposition is explained in more detail below.

Why do we only use stainless steel in our process?

Lavender essential oil is reactive and will absorb metals from stills unless made of food grade stainless steel. Some distillers believe copper and other metals sweeten the oil and are satisfied with their product. HAL wants to ensure you receive the true essences of the plant, in an unadulterated form and we take the steps necessary to achieve that goal. More than 100 compounds make up lavender essential oils and many are especially prone to oxidative damage, chemical transformations, and polymerization [4] reactions resulting in loss of quality. Allergic contact dermatitis, e.g. skin-sensitizing problems, is known to be caused by impurities of metals released into essential oils during and after the distillation process. Heavy metal contaminants also promote oxidation of various oil components.

Why do we use an inert gas?

The inert gas we use is heavier than oxygen and as it is added to the receiver/separator and glass collection and storage containers, any oxygen in those containers is pushed up and out. This helps prevent our oils and hydrosols from coming in contact with oxygen. Oxidation like heavy metal contamination can bring about a chemical change of various components of the oil, in some cases causing the formation of free radicals, molecules that are unstable and highly reactive. In essence, oxidation results in a loss of quality and pharmacological properties. Our process helps eliminate these oxidative changes.

Why do we dry our essential oils?

Water molecules in lavender essential oil result in hydrolysis, the chemical breakdown of some of the components of the oil due to reaction with water. In this chemical process, molecules are broken apart with one fragment of the molecule gaining a hydrogen ion (H+) and the other particle gaining a hydroxyl (OH) group. These changes affect to the overall quality of the oil.

Some oil producers freeze their oil to rid it of water. Others leave their essential oils open to the atmosphere to allow the water to evaporate. The concept of freezing is simple; the lavender essential oil is lighter than water and thus floats on top of the water. When placed in a freezer, the oil will not freeze but the water will freeze. Much but not all of the water will freeze in a frozen layer under the oil. Once the container is removed from the freezer, the essential oil can be poured off this layer of ice. Mesa Lavender Farms, however, has found freezing does not completely rid the oil of all of its water as some water droplets suspended in the oil from ice crystals. Since these crystals are not part of the frozen layer of water at the bottom of the container, they flow along with the oil as the oil is poured out of the container. The best way to eliminate all water in the oil is by adding a natural food-grade desiccant HAL uses. This compound only absorbs water and has no effect on the chemical composition of the oil.

In addition to not being effective in eliminating all water from the oil neglecting to replace the oxygen-rich air in the air gap at the top of the container placed in the freezer results in an increase in oxidative changes of the oil. As essential oil cools, the absorption of oxygen into the oil and rate of oxidative change increases.

It has been recommended to leave essential oil open to the atmosphere to allow water in the oil to evaporate. As previously explained if this is done without filling the air gap at the top of the container with inert gas, oxidation will occur. In addition, this procedure results in the loss of the top notes, the most volatile components of the oil which give lavender oil its characteristic properties. The term “top notes” is used to describe the lowest molecular weight volatile components of essential oil first to evaporate when a container of essential oil is opened. The top, middle, and base notes describe how long the scent will last. Top notes typically last from two to twenty minutes while the components creating the base notes can last for up to 24 hours.

Hydrolysis also occurs when the lavender is immersed in water (water distillation). Research in Australia has revealed a specific height (gap) between the boiling water in the still and the bottom of the basket of plant material is required to prevent the splashing of boiling water from coming in contact with the plant material.  The height of the gap is dependent on the diameter of the still. The still we use meets that gap requirement.

When heated the vapors of the volatile components in the plant material are vaporized and carried by steam particles to the condenser. On condensation oil-rich and water-rich layers are formed. When the plant material is added to the water in the pot (water distillation) instead of being suspended in a basket above the boiling water, adulteration of the oil via hydrolysis has already taken place. HAL essential oils are produced by placing plant material in a basket above the boiling water. Steam rises from the boiling water and moves through the plant material carrying the unadulterated oil with it.

As the water in the pot boils, if air space between the basket of plant material and the boiling water is not adequate water splashing into the plant material can result in the hydrolysis of some of the lavender’s volatile components. The amount of space between the boiling water and basket is critical to prevent this problem. The distilling units HAL uses allow us to manage this critical space and consequently prevent the splashing of water up into the basket of plant material.

Some lavender essential oil producers use cohabitation in an attempt to capture the microdroplets of essential oil suspended in the hydrosol. Cohabitation is when hydrosol is returned to the boiler to be redistilled. Mesa Lavender Farms does not use this technique as we are not willing to subject our customers to the hydrolyzed products resulting from cohabitation.

Why does Mesa Lavender Farms protect its oil from the light?

Essential oils have been proven to undergo alterations upon aging that may lead not only to a sensory change but might also “compromise consumer well-being.” UV and ambient light cause photo-oxidation (light damage) and induces a significant deterioration of lavender oil’s biochemical profile. For storage, our oil is maintained in clear glass container in a dark environment. Amber glass offers excellent protection from ultraviolet radiation protecting the product contained inside from photodamage. For that reason, our essential oil is marketed in amber glass containers with a chemical resistant plastic cap.

Our ‘Facial Spritz’ and ‘Lavare’ hydrosol products, and lotion are provided in amber PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottles. This plastic is highly resistant to dilute acids, oils, and alcohols and thus perfect for essential oil. The amber PET plastic containers we use blocks UV rays from reaching light sensitive essential oil products.

Summary:

To produce the true plant essences of lavender, steps need to be taken to prevent oxidation, heavy metal contamination, hydrolysis, heat interactions, and exposure to UV and visible light. If you are looking for a producer of true lavender essential oil who takes the necessary steps to prevent these problems look no further than Mesa Lavender Farms. We provide the highest quality essential oil and lavender products possible found anywhere in the world.

We grow and process our own lavender. We do not purchase and repackage essential oil or hydrosol from other growers. Consequently, the lavender essential oil and hydrosol HAL produces can be limited in quantity but never in quality. We recommend orders be placed prior to harvest season to ensure you receive the amount of product you will need until the next year’s harvest and processing season.

 

References used:

Denny, E.F.K., 2001. Field Distillation for Herbaceous Oils. Denny, McKenzie Associates, Lilydale, Tasmania, Australia. 280 pages.

Hagvall, L., Skold, M., Brared-Christensson, J., Borie, A., and Karlberg, A-T. 2008. Lavender oil lacks natural protection against autoxidation, forming strong contact allergens on air exposure. Contact Dermatitis, 59, 143-150.

Gismondi Angelo, Canuti Lorena, Grispo Marta, and Canini Antonella.  Biochemical Composition and Antioxidant Properties of Lavandula angustifolia Miller Essential Oil are Shielded by Propolis Against UV Radiation. Photochemistry and Photobiology 90 (3): 702–708.

Turek, C., and Stintzing F., 2011. Evaluation of Selected Quality parameters to Monitor Essential Oil Alteration during Storage. Journal of Food Science, 76 (9), C1365-C1375.

Turek, C., and Stintzing F., 2012. Impact of different storage conditions on the quality of selected essential oils. Food Research International 46, 341-353.

Turek, C., and Stintzing F., 2013. Stability of Essential oils: A review. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, (12): 40-53.

Wesolowska, A., Jadczak, D., Grzeszczuk, M. 2010. Influence of distillation time on the content and composition of essential oil isolated from lavender (Lavendula angustifolia Mill.) Herba Polonica, 56 (3), 24-36.

http://web.ist.utl.pt/ist11061/fidel/flaves/sec5/sec52.html

[1] Type 304 (304 Grade)

[2] Also known as floral water and hydrolate

[3] We can run longer if requested.

[4] the conversion of one compound into a more complex product of higher molecular weight