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Distilling white sage for making essential oils

Distilling White Sage Oil

Sacred White Sage (Salvia apiana) essential oil is a highly prized and beautiful essential oil.

While it is commonly used for spiritual purposes and purification the aroma is so unique it has become a highly sought after specialty essential oil.  

The Essential Oil Company distills small batches of Sacred White Sage to produce the beautiful essential oil. This ensures the quality of this unique essential oil. Instead of distilling for the large corporate market, our small batch distillation is intended for the end user.  For the Aromatherapist and the individual who treasures special unique essential oils.

Master Distiller and Founder of The Essential Oil Company,  Robert Seidel recently permitted us to film this small batch steam distillation of White Sage essential oil.  The plant material is wild harvested and dried prior to distillation.

The White Sage was distilled in a 100 gallon stainless steel steam distillation unit.



Hi, I’m Robert Seidel, President of The Essential Oil Company in Portland, Oregon,  today we’re going to be distilling some Sacred White Sage (Salvia apiana).

Before we start distilling we have to weigh the plant material. This enables us to calculate our percent yield of essential oil from the dry White Sage. 

After weighing the Sage, we fill our retort (the retort is the container that holds our plant material for distillation) and get ready for distillation.

I always stomp on the raw material inside the retort. By stomping on the plant material, we can get more raw material into the retort and close up any "Rat Holes" that might be inside the retort.  "Rat Holes" are air spaces between the stems and leaves of the plant, this often provides an unwelcome escape route for the introduced steam.  This could mean an incomplete distillation and a waste of raw material.

Once the retort is filled, we’re ready to distill the White Sage.  With the lid in place, we connect the lid to the condenser.  The "Bird's Beak" is the pipe which connects the retort to the condenser.  

When everything is connected and sealed, we are ready to introduce the steam which we have generated in a separate boiler.

When the steam first enters the retort, the temperature of the retort is relatively cold, this causes the steam to condense back to a liquid state.  We continually empty the water collecting in the bottom of the retort.  We continue releasing the water, until the system becomes warm enough to stop the condensation of the steam entering the retort.

As the steam passes through the White Sage, it evaporates the essential oils present inside the leafy material.  The steam passes through the White Sage and then enters our condenser. 

Our condenser is a set of vertical tubes which the steam must pass through.  The distillate tubes are surrounded by cooling water which causes the steam to revert to a liquid state.  The distillate steam is a mixture of water and essential oil.  The essential oil is not dissolved in the water.

The distillate exits the condenser as a liquid and enters our Essencier (receiving can).  This is where the essential oil is separated from the hydrosols.  The essential oil of White Sage has a lower specific gravity than that of water.  This causes the essential oil to float on top of the distillate water.

It is now when  we can capture pure essential oil of White Sage. We collect the essential oil and hydrosol into separate containers.

After collection, we permit the essential oil to age, as you would age a fine wine, with some exposure to air.  If there are sulfur compounds in the essential oil, they will evaporate.   If there is water present in the essential oil we can now see the water.  The water  may not have been visible earlier.  Time permits the micro-particles of water which may be present to sink below the essential oil.  It is at this point that we can easily remove the water.  

The essential oil of Sacred White Sage is now ready to be bottled for our valued customers to enjoy.

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