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Small Perfume and Aromatic Distillation Project


Aromatic Plants

Medicinal and aromatic plants constitute a large segment of the flora which provides raw materials for Pharmaceutical, Cosmetic, Perfumery, Fragrance and Flavor Industries. It has been estimated that India is endowed with about 47,000 species of plants and ranks 8th in the world biodiversity.

Medicinal Plant. : The use and market for Medicinal Plants is increasing globally. The international market of medicinal plants is more than 62 billion US dollars per year and growing at the rate of7 % per annum.

As per an estimate of WHO, about 80% of the population in developing countries rely on traditional medicine for their primary health care. Most of the traditional medicines are plant based drugs. Moreover 20% of prescription drugs (20% of US$ 380 billion i.e. 76 billion) are presently derived from plants. Additional market valued US$ 8-10 billion exists for plant based Over-the-Counter drugs and herbal teas.

Globally, the demand for medicinal plants and their derivatives is growing at a rate of 7-15% per annum. Aromatic plants do not have any side effects. The annual growth rate is planned to be stepped to 20% .

Aromatic Plants: - Though such a large number of plants possess aromas, only about 65 plant species have large and consistent demand in the World Trade. They are accordingly cultivated in different parts of the of the world. Global flavor and fragrance market size is about US$ 15 billion. World production of essential oils is estimated at about, 10,000 tones.

Advantages of Cultivating Aromatic Crop

1. Crops are theft proof.

2. Crops are cattle proof& bird proof.

3. Crops can be grown ,even in degraded or waste lands, can be raised even as intercrop.

4. Have low incidence of pests & diseases for most of crops.

5. Crops require less labor for cultivation and harvest.

6. Harvested crop does not require transport or storage area. Field level Distillation converts High volume harvested crops into aromatic oil which has just 2% of crop volume.

7. Aromatic oil is nonperishable, has longer shelf life.

8. Oil can be sold in any market anywhere.

9. Generates higher returns per acre compared to other horticulture crops or Traditional crops.

10. Offers vast potential for further value addition through fractional Distillation.

11. Offer potential for export both as oil & as derivatives.

Advantages for social sector

1. Field level distillation gives employment with-in the village.

2. Gives higher revenue to farmers, gives more stability.

3. Oil being non-perishable, no distress sale' of oil.


Lemongrass is the source of Lemongrass oil which is in great demand in the and is exported in large quantities. The oil is a good source of “ citral” used in perfumery as well as for the production of Vitamin A.


Indian Basil (Ocimum basil) is a short duration aromatic crop which is cultivated on commercial scale in India for the production of valued essential oil containing methyl chavicol (7075%). The oil of basil finds extensive use in condimentary products, cosmetics, toiletry, perfumery and cosmetic industries.


Citronella oil is an important essential oil obtained from perennial Aromatic grass, Citronella (


Palmarosa oil is obtained from the floral shoots and stem of Palma Rosa grass. Motia is the most famous variety of Palmarosa cymbopogon martini stapf. It is used in perfumery, cosmetics and soaps, particularly for flavoring tobacco and for blending of soaps due to the lasting rose note it imparts to the blend.

PATCHOULI (Pogosterrwn Cablin)

Patchouli, originally a native of Philippines, is a perennial, Aromatic herb growing to a height of 60-90 cm. The oil of patchouli is extensively used in Perfumery Industry. There is no synthetic substitute for oil of Patchouli; it increases its value and demand in the perfumery market. Patchouli flourishes in partially shaded areas.


Rose-scented Geranium (Pelargonium species hybrid family: Geraniaceae) is a perennial bushy Aromatic plant growing to a height of 100 cm. It is originally a native of Cape Province (South Africa). This plant differs from ornamental geraniums. The plant has ramified stems with leaves having 5 to 7 sharply denticulate lobes evenly spaced.

They give a strong scent of rose when crushed. The essential oil is present in small oil glands. The leaves and stems are pubescent. Flowers are small and pink in color. The Plant flowers profusely in high altitude areas but sparcely in the plains. Three varieties are recognized namely (i) Algerian or Tunisian (ii) Reunion or Bourbon and (iii) Egyptian or Kelkar. Reunion or Bourbon (Bipuli, Cimpawan) variety is recommended for commercial cultivation.

JAPANESE MINT (Mentha Aroensis}

Menthol mint is an erect, herbaceous medicinal/aromatic plant requiring 60-100 cm annual rainfall. It yields essential oil on distillation. Menthol extracted from menthol oil is widely used in perfumery, flavouring and pharmaceutical industries. It is commercially cultivated in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, etc. It can be cultivated under irrigated conditions of south India on well drained, fertile sandy loam soils having pH of6.0-7.0. Both red and black soils are suitable for its cultivation.

VETIVER (Vetiveria zizanioides)

Vetiver oil is obtained by steam distillation of vetiver (Khus, Vetiveria zizanioides) , a perennial grass. The oil is one of the finest. Oriental perfumes with a persistent fragrance. The oil is used in the manufacture of soaps,' cosmetics, perfumery, soft drinks, pan masala etc. In blended perfumes, oil of vetiver is used and it acts as an excellent fixative for volatile components.

It is known for its cooling properties. Mats, screens and fans made from vetiver roots are sold in the market.

CURRY LEAVES (Murraya Koenigii .S)

Curry Leaf is one of the important spice crops of Indian origin. The leaves are mainly used for in seasoning and flavoring food stuffs. Curry leaf is also used in many Ayurveda and Unani preparations. The volatile oil from curry leaves is used as fixative for heavy type of perfumes. Suhasini is considered one of the most valued variety.

EUCALYPTUS (Eucalyptus' citriodora)

The oil of lemon-scented gum is extensively used in soap, perfumery and cosmetic industries for improving the odor of germicides and disinfectants and also for extraction of aroma chemical citronella. It grows as a tree in forests, the trunks can be used for general construction, carriage building, tool handles, railway sleepers etc. It is a graceful tree of Australian origin naturalized in India.

ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus ofjicinalis)

Rosemary· is basically a Medeterean plant, which grows mostly in Spain, Italy, France, Algeria and Portugal. It is an evergreen herb with aroma and lavender like leaves. The leaves and twigs of rosemary contain essential oil, which is used in perfume and flavor industries. The plant is reported to possess carminative, stomachic, abortive and antispasmodic properties. Rosemary is also used in aroma-therapy. India imports small quantities of rosemary oil.

DAVANA (Artemisiapallens)

Davana is widely used in food flavoring and perfumery industries. Davana twigs are used to impart freshness and sweet fragrance to , garlands, bouquets etc. Davana is a winter season Aromatic herb growing to a height of 30-40 cm; Davana can be cultivated as an irrigated crop in well-drained light to medium textured soils of neutral pH.

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Essential Oil

Essential Oil

Essential Oil Distillation Oil

Essential Oil Distillation Oil

Essential Oil Distillation Oil

Essential Oil Distillation Oil

Essential Oil Distillation Oil

Essential Oil Distillation Oil

Essential Oil Distillation Oil

Essential Oil Distillation Oil

Distillation Process


Distillation is the process of separating different components of a mixture based on the difference in their vapor pressure. The process of steam distillation extracts essential oils from aromatic plants. In principle, when steam is injected into an aromatic herb, it imparts its latent heat to the mass which causes evaporation of oil. Steam and oil vaporize and reach top of the distillation still and then to the condenser together.

There are 3 types of distillation :

1. Water or hydro-distillation

2. Water and steam distillation

3. Direct steam distillation

1. Water or Hydro- distillation: In this method, the material is immersed in water and then distilled. Advantages of this method are -that it is economically cheap. The disadvantages are: i) Difficulty to maintain uniform heating ii) charring of material iii) Burnt odor imparted to the oil. Therefore, this method of distillation is not generally recommended for essential oils.

2. Water and steam distillation: In this method, a perforated bottom separates water and herb. In this method the steam emanating from boiling water passes through the biomass to extract essential oils. Advantages of this method are:

i) Quality of oil produced is better

ii) Cost is cheaper compared to direct steam distillation method.

iii) Very useful for small farmers.

The disadvantages are:

i) It is a slow process

ii) rate of distillation cannot be controlled.

3. Direct Steam distillation: In this method, a boiler -for generation of steam is separately located and the steam so generated is injected into a distillation still containing Aromatic grass. Advantages of this method are: i) Flow of steam is controlled ii) Pressure in the still can be maintained iii) distillation is quicker iv) recovery and quality of the oil is the best.

The disadvantages are: i) requires larger capital investment. ii) Recommended for largescale and commercial oil distillers having 10 or more acres.

Method of distillation:

A distillation unit consists of the following:

1. Still(s) 2. Condenser

3. Receiver 4. Steam Generator

Aromatic herbs are loaded into the stills. The stills are usually made of mild steel and are cylindrical. The still can be of various capacities such as 0.25, 0.5 and 1.0 Ton. Proper packing of the herbs is important in order to avoid channeling of steam. Mter loading, lid of the still is closed to avoid escape (If vapours. Steam generated in the boiler is injected into still at required pressure. The time of distillation depends on the type of herb. The vaporized essential oils are condensed in a condenser. The condenser has tubes through which vapors pass and cooling water circulating in the outer jacket surrounds the tubes. The condenser can be made of mild steel while the tubers are preferably made of stainless steel.

Storage & Quality Control of Essential oil :

The distilled oil should be left to stand for a few hours. Anhydrous sodium sulphate (approx. 3%) is added to remove moisture. It has to be ensured that oil should not contain any moisture before packing. Stainless steel or aluminum drums are used for packing large quantities. Essential oil thus stored should not be exposed to air and sunlight; otherwise there will be deterioration in the quality -of oil.

Quality is Challenge

1. Proper agronomy: Proper seeds, their cultivation and harvesting govern production of essential oils in the grasses ego higher leaves/stalk ratio in citronella and Lemon grass increases oil recovery.

2. Harvesting: Proper time of harvesting of crop results in getting good quality oil. The distillation should be done based on the type of crop. In some herbs it should be done fresh, in others it should be after wilting or after air-drying. For ex. Lemongrass is distilled fresh, Citronella after a day of drying and Patchouli has to be sufficiently air dried before distillation.

3. Proper Distillation: Proper Distillation is very important. A good Harvest will not necessarily give good quality oil yield without proper Distillation or Distillation Plant.

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Zia Ahmed (author) from Kuwait on February 02, 2012:

@Aromatic Distillation is one of the oldest and till today one of the most profitable industry. It will remain so in future.

Ireno Alcala from Bicol, Philippines on February 02, 2012:

I might try your tips one day. Right now, I am able to plant some of the aromatic herbs, like lemongrass which is also used as spice in cooking. It's typical to Filipino household to have such herb.

Thanks for sharing!

grayareas from Sanford, North Carolina on December 05, 2011:

Great article and skillful presentation.

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