Enfleurage. This beautiful word, “enflowering” (in French), refers to an equally beautiful process for extracting essential oils from flowers.
Most essential oils are gathered through either steam distillation or expression. Some of the most delicate flowers, however, are not suited to either of these methods, as they will not hold up to steam distillation and will not yield their oils to pressing. But these flowers are also the flowers with some of the most delightful and desirable scents–flowers like gardenia, rose, lily, tuberose, jasmine, and frangipani (plumeria). How can you capture their aromas?
For these flowers, we turn to the ancient technique of enfleurage. But what really is it? It is based on the simple principle that oil dissolves oil–soaking fragrant plant parts (like petals) in oil will cause the oil to absorb their fragrance. This method was popularized in France in the 19th century (this is probably why the name associated with it is a French one), and involved animal fat. Today, most producers of essential oils through enfleurage use vegetable oils, like palm oil or coconut oil, instead.
Either way, the process begins when the oil is spread on glass plates and the flowers are laid on top of it. After a couple of days, the spent flowers are removed and fresh ones added, and the process is repeated several times until the fat is completely saturated aromatic oils, and is now called a pomade. The pomade is then dissolved in alcohol, and the alcohol evaporates, leaving behind the pure aromatic oils, called an “absolute.”
This process is very labor intensive and requires a lot of plant material–in one study, 1000 kg of tuberose blossoms yielded less than 1 kg of oil. However, the results are worth it–in contrast with solvent (chemical) extraction, enfleurage yields an organic, pure, flower aroma, and you can really smell the difference.
To experience enfleurage for yourself try our R3 natural facial oil serum that is made with Organic Rose Enfleurage, and coconut, not palm, oil, to give the skin the highest quality treatment.