Aromatic Intelligence, General

What are Enfleurage Essential Oils?

The Therapeutic Quality Enfleurage Essential Oils below are very select Artisan Essential Oils™, produced by a small grower/distiller in limited quantities. Shop Enfleurage Oils

Enfleurage is an ancient technique used for extracting essential oils from the most delicate flowers, like Frangipani, Gardenia, Jasmine, Lily, Rose and Tuberose. Enfleurage Essential Oils are extremely rare and there are only a very few producers of this type of aromatic extract.  Enfleurage trays

The Enfleurage technique of extracting aromatic oils from flowers works on the simple principle that fats dissolve essential oils and thereby absorb their aromas. Petals and other fragrant plant parts are soaked in animal fat or vegetable oil which absorbs the fragrance. In the 19th century and early parts of the 20th, pork, lard and beef fat were used though now most producers use vegetable oils like palm oil. The vegetable oil is poured onto glass plates in a wooden frame called a chassis and then the flowers are placed on the vegetable oil and left to release their essentials oils for several days. The process is repeated several more times with the “spent” petals being removed and fresh flowers being added to the plates until the vegetable oil on the plates is completely saturated with the aromatic oils of the flowers. At this point you have a product called a “pomade”, which is simply animal fat or vegetable oil saturated with essential oils. To produce an enfleurage, the pomade is dissolved in alcohol and the essential oils migrate to the alcohol which is then separated from the vegetable oil. Finally,  the alcohol is evaporated to leave pure aromatic essential oil.  The details of the process, especially the final step of evaporating the alcohol, are a closely guarded secret, which is one reason there are so few producers of enfleurage essential oils. In some cases, the secrets of the process have been handed down in families for many generations. The essential oil extractions that result from enfleurage are technically referred to as “absolutes” but this is deceptive since the same term is used to describe essential oils that are extracted with the use of chemical solvents, such as hexane. Our supplier of absolutes extracted by enfleurage uses only Organic Palm Oil and Organic Sugar Cane Alcohol in the extraction process.

To purchase our Enfleurage Essential Oils, click: Frangipani Oil, Jasmine Oil, Gardenia Oil, Lily Oil, Rose Oil, or Tuberose Oil. Or, to see all, click: Enfleurage Oils

Enfleurage tray with tuberose flowers

Enfleurage tray with tuberose flowers

Enfleurage is used on certain flowers because some fragrant compounds denature when heat is applied and almost all fragrance is lost if steam distillation is attempted. Today most essential oils that are extracted from flowers that are too delicate for steam distillation are done so by solvent (chemical) extraction. These oils, extracted by solvents, are called absolutes. The production of absolutes using harsh chemicals, while still quite expensive, is cheaper than the old method of enfleurage of essential oils but, of course, the resultant oil can no longer be considered organic and there is always a hint of “chemical” smell to the aroma of the oil. The flowers that cannot withstand steam distillation for the extraction of their oils but for which enfleurage is appropriate include: Gardenia, Lily, Rose, Tuberose, jasmine, narcissus (daffodil/jonquil), mignonette (birthday flower), neroli, cassie, violet and carnation. Rose and neroli (orange blossom) are also available both as fine distilled oils and as absolutes.

The technique of enfleurage is very labor intensive and requires a lot of plant material and therefore it is quite costly but the exquisite results are truly worth it.  In one study, 1000 kilos of Tuberose blossoms yielded only 801 grams of oil.

We work closely with one small producer in South America who uses a modern version of the ancient technique of enfleurage to produce completely organic oils of Frangipani Essential Oil, Jasmine Essential Oil, Gardenia Essential Oil, Lily Essential Oil, Rose Essential Oil, or Tuberose Essential Oil. On his small farm (and surrounding farms), he grows the flowers and then processes them using palm oil as the fat and pure alcohol derived from local sugar cane. By using all local products, he helps to support the local economy and small farmers and gives employment to indigenous residents.

About Joie Power, Ph.D.

Dr. Power is a retired neuropsychologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. She was an Assistant Professor of Surgery/Neurosurgery at the Medical College of Georgia before entering private practice and has over 20 years of clinical experience in inpatient and outpatient settings. She is both a student and practitioner of alternative healing methods, including herbal studies, aromatherapy, and Chinese Medicine. Her training in the olfactory and limbic systems of the brain gives her a unique qualification for understanding the actions of essential oils and she is an internationally known writer and teacher in the field of aromatherapy. Her approach to aromatherapy weaves together her solid scientific training and strong clinical skills with a holistic philosophy that honors body, mind and spirit.

6 thoughts on “What are Enfleurage Essential Oils?

  1. Dear Charle-Pan,
    I believe the proces of enfleurage in the frames is the most important one. After the mix wit h purest raffined alcohol (rice alcohol should be the best cause odorless) and decantation or centrifugal separation you should use vacum distillation at room temperature to extract the alcohol from the lilac fatless tincture and this should bring the expected results

    1. Thank you for your helpful reply. Your kindness in sharing this information is appreciated and I encourage our customers to visit your website and learn about your natural perfumes … they sound wonderful! (To go to Afredo Dupetit’s website, click on the name in the above reply).

  2. Thank you for the comment; I am thrilled that you were inspired by the article. We would also like to learn more about the method but producers guard their secrets closely. Ivan did find some useful information by searching 18th and 19th century perfumery texts at our university library (some in the rare books section) and since enfleurage reached its highest development in the Grasse region of France, I suspect that a trip there and a visit to some French libraries would also be worthwhile. Good luck – I’ll keep you in mind if I run across any further resources.

    1. Ans says:

      Respected Madam,
      in this article u have also given an idea about the use of palm oil . similarly i came to know about the use of cocnut oil .. I want to know is there any technique by which at the end we can prevent the mixing of fragrances of essential oil and our absorbent oil . and be able to get pure perfume

      1. Dear Ans: Thank you for your question. There is no way to completely remove all traces of the absorbent oil from an enfleurage extraction. When palm oil is used as an extracting agent, the traces that are left in the final product add a subtle earthy note to the essential oils, although to my nose this note diminishes when the product is applied to the skin as a perfume and begins to interact with the natural oils found in the skin. When coconut oil is used, there are also traces left but the initial aroma seems very slightly closer to the aroma of the natural flowers than it does when palm oil is used. Since most of the flowers that are extracted by enfleurage will not stand up to distillation this is not an option for getting a pure essential oil but some of these flowers may be available as CO2 extractions, which are sometimes even closer to a plant’s natural aroma than are essential oils. I hope this helps. Best Wishes.

  3. Charle-Pan says:

    Thank you for this lovely article on Enfleurage. It was one that inspired me to transform my lilac farm into becoming the only producer of Enfleurage in large scale proportions in the US. This year we produced 40 pounds of a 30 day enfleurage of lilac pomade. We sent 5 pounds of our pomade to a processor in Columbia South America, who processed it into the essential oil or absolute of lilac. It is a magnificent, exquisite scent. I would like to learn this step and be able to make the absolute from the pomade that we produce. Our chemist in Columbia will not share his methods, even though I have offered to pay to learn. Can you help me find a school or apprenticeship where I may learn this technique of processing pomade to absolute by hand-artisan methods? Thank you.

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