Absolute-Aromatherapy Terms

An absolute is distinguished from an essential oil by the method of extraction of the oil from the plant.

Absolutes are extracted using a chemical method of extraction which may include solvents or CO2 extraction. This is usually done for delicate plant material that would be destroyed by steam distillation such as Jasmine flowers. It can also be done to extract fragrances for use in the perfume industry.

For instance, rose essential oil extracted by steam distillation is known as Rose Otto. Rose absolute can be extracted by a chemical process, but the resulting oil is not as sought after as the Rose Otto oil for use in aromatherapy. However, since rose absolute is cheaper to produce it is more sought after for perfume production.

There is also an ancient method of extraction known as enfleurage. This method was developed in France in the 1800s.

Enfleurage involved spreading a fat with no scent onto a glass plate or other flat surface and then covering the fat with the botanical in contact for 1-3 days. Then the botanicals were removed and another layer was added. This was repeated until the fat reached the desired saturation of the fragrance.

Once the fat is saturated it was usually soaked in alcohol to remove the fragrance molecules from the fat into the alcohol. The alcohol would then be evaporated away, and the result was an absolute.

There are only a few oils that are absolutes these days. As I said, these are the plant parts that would be destroyed by the heat from steam distillation due to their delicate nature.

Jasmine flower is only one of those examples. Other absolutes are available. However, no matter how good the solvent extraction process is there is usually some remaining solvent in the absolute. This is why absolutes are not preferred for aromatherapy applications.

In addition, most oils from plants that are so delicate they have to be extracted by solvent are very low yield as far as oil is concerned. This makes them more expensive.

To see just how expensive let’s compare a typical bottle we sell of Lavender essential oil with the same size bottle of Jasmine absolute. A 15ml bottle of Lavender essential oil retails for $17.00 in our store. The 15ml bottle of Jasmine absolute retails for $212.00. You can purchase the largest size we offer of Lavender essential oil for $92.00. That same size of Jasmine absolute will set you back $1343.00.

This is not true of every absolute, and this is just an example of Jasmine absolute. But you can see how the low yield increases the price for the absolute oil.

So now you know the difference between an essential oil and an absolute. If you want to purchase 100% pure essential oils from a company who only sources the oils from sustainable farms and supports small farmers around the world, please purchase your oils from our online shop.

This is one of the main reasons I decided to sell the brand of oils we offer. The wholesaler we get the oils from has been around for over 25 years, and they care about quality and the environment. Please help us support them by making a purchase of your oils from us instead of those huge MLM companies.