How We Captured Essential Oils From Nature (A Great Experiment for Kids!)

My daughter wants to make real perfume from nature for her science project this year.  I’m learning that she wants to discover the essence of things.

She researches ways to get the fragrance out of the flowers and into little vials for students to guess the essence she’s extracted.  She wants rose, grass, orange, cocoa, and lily to start.

Sweet Smelling Roses

We learn that you can, in fact, capture the essence of something.  You can distill it by creating steam (which picks up the essential oil of the flower) and cooling the steam (which then you can catch in a bowl). The bowl of cooled steam, in theory, will contain water and the oil from the rose.  The oil will separate from the water in the bowl, and we can use that oil for our perfume.  

“Will this work?” we ask my husband.  He’s the one with the graduate degree in chemistry.

“Yes,” he tells us.  I’m so excited!  I’m filled with wonder at the thought of seeing the essential oils.  I’m amazed that you can actually distill a fragrance out of something.  We find easy directions here.   

My daughter fills the pot with rose petals, and we place a brick inside the pot to elevate our collecting bowl.

Then, we let the rose petals simmer on the stove with a bowl of ice sitting on top of the pot.  When the steam hits the icy bowl, it condenses and falls back into our collecting bowl.

This way, we capture the essential oil in the condensed water.

A few hours later, we pour out the collecting bowl.  The top layer of water is oil!  I can’t believe it!  We captured the essence of the rose!

Capturing Essential Oil for Perfume

We can make perfume, potpourri, soap, bubble bath, or anything we want with that wonderful smell of rose.  We immediately move on to capture orange oil. 

I’m amazed at the process of capturing essence.   Distill means to purify–to separate out–that thing I wanted, that one true thing.  It requires such extremes of heat and cold.  In my own heart, I think about the extreme places of pain and joy, sorrow and rejoicing.  I think about times of instability and unrest.  In the midst of this dramatic process, God distills some essential thing.

He does it because that fragrance released can bless a hurting world. 
What thing in nature would you want to capture the essence of?

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