Sunday, 6 January 2013

Essential Oil Distillation notes

On the frankincense issue you might like to see the blogpost There is a lot of confusion about frankincense but that should clear it up and point folk in the right direction of further reading and research.

On the first/second/third distillation issue this is probably a confusion you will sometimes see online with the process of steam distilling a single oil Ylang Ylang (Dr R. Pappas). Ylang Ylang oil is a favourite with the perfume and natural perfume trade as it is used to capture the rather unruly fragrance of the citrus oils and to echo the aroma of jasmine. That is why the oil is fractionated. Ylang “Complete” is the outcome of a single distillation with no parts taken off to form Ylang Extra, Ylang 1, Ylang 2 and Ylang 3 so Ylang “Complete” is the oil preferred for aromatherapy.

As you may know water is recirculated for a second ‘go’ at distillation to produce Rose Otto because some rose oil components are fairly water soluble.

In practice distillers keep distilling for as long as economic quantities of oils come over as the fuel is costly. So in a frankincense the hydrodistillation can last 2hours, 4 hours six hours or 12 hours according to what you are working with and seeking however with the exception of Rose Otto we are always talking a single distillation.

There are many reasons why organically grown essential oils are preferred but not everyone is prepared to pay the slightly higher cost for the organic certification. Nor does every company welcome the idea of external inspection of what they are saying and doing!

 Dr Robert Pappas.  "My websites are at (which has the largest online database for the chemical composition of essential oils and its completely free) and my sites are all about information and education in essential oils. Starting January 10th I will be teaching The Chemistry of Essential Oils at Indiana University which is the only class of its kind in the country for college credit. If anyone here is in New Albany, Indiana area then stop by IUS one night and give us a visit."


"As Ian rightly says B. frereana is not native to Arabia but is indigenous to Northern Somalia and in particular to the mountainous regions of Somaliland and Puntland.

B. frereana resin does not contain any boswellic acids and contains other pentacyclic triterpenes.

One of the distinct markers for my own steam distiled essential oil extractions of B. frereana essential oil was the presence of alpha Thujene (63%), para cymene (16.3%) and Eucalyptol (2.4%). The distinct markers for my steam distilled essential oil of
B. carteri was alpha pinene (57%), sabinene (11.2%) and limonene (7.8%).

According to taxonomy experts B. sacra is the Boswellia species which is indigenous to Oman and is suppose to be synonymous with the other Somali species known as B. carteri. My gut feeling is that B. sacra and B. carteri oleoresins are not identical as they have different physical characteristics. B. sacra is bright white (similar to B. paperifera) whilst B. carteri is yellow white with a distinct lemon smell due to the presence of limonene and is indistinguishable from B. frereana in appearance.

The samples of frankincense essential oils I tested were freshly distilled by myself from oleoresins obtained from Somaliland from reliable farmers and I have the geographical co-ordinates of the exact regions from where they are grown.

The problem of current published data on frankincense essential oils is that you rely heavily on the middle man who distributes the frankincense oil or raw resin to correctly tell you what species of frankincense they are selling to you. That is where most of the confusion comes in.

One needs to validate the taxonomy of the Boswellia species before undertaking any chemical extractions, unfortunately this is not as easy as it looks. "

Reference Dr A Ali commenting online

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