There is a stand of white Sage just to the right of the orange Calendula flowers in the photo of my herb garden, above. I made the sage smudge sticks last year, and hope to have twice as much sage this year. See the free-form rock goddess watching over my herb garden?
My mad-scientist steam distiller has finally arrived, just ahead of the flowers in my herb garden! I simply could not wait to try it out, even though fresh plants make the most potent hydrosol and essential oil. It could be a month before the herbs are in flower. It is important to harvest each herb for distilling when the plant essence is at its most powerful, and that could be a month away
So, I stuffed the glass vessel with some dried sage from last year, and fired it up!
It was kind of scary to set the heating plate to high and put the glass on it! My favorite thing about it was hearing the fascinating laboratory type gurgles and watching the process happen. I could not look away!
In the end, the pint-sized bottle at the right held the aromatic water (Hydrosol) and the essential oil came out of that little blue spigot into a small, separate bottle. It yielded just under a teaspoon’s size of essential oil. I hear fresh plants yield 2-3 times that amount.
I could have used a little more Sage, but this was the first time I distilled, so I didn’t realize that. The steam passes through the cut up plant material and condenses in the tubes as a mixture of water with essential oil.
The process takes about an hour and a half to two hours. The bulk of the essential oil apparently separates from the plant matter in the first 20 minutes. A little more happens along the way. So, though you could run it three hours before the glass retort boils dry, it really isn’t necessary. In case you are wondering, the water in the boiling vessel receives some back-flow from the plants above it, and gets a little discolored during the process.
The essential oil in the above photo is lighter than the Hydrosol (flower water), so it floats.
I ended up with almost a quart of sage hydrosol and a very small amount of essential oil. I can hardly wait till the fresh sage is ready to distill!