I found myself on a wonderful Wikipedia ramble at work the other day, and stumbled across a method for extracting essential oils from plant matter called steam distillation.

As there is a lot of bog myrtle (among other things) around at the moment, and I love the smell, I was up for trying this method out. However the only store bought equipment I can find is over £150.

Now looking at the diagrams included in the Wikipedia link, it doesn't look there's anywhere near £150 worth of equipment there. So, I am thinking about constructing my own, as it doesn't look too complicated.


Is this harder than it looks to construct? Has anyone got any previous experience of this that could offer tips? Where would be the best place to source the parts for this?

  • I do not want to get into an edit war over this but if you want to leave some flair that is fine. When phrased properly and paragraphs are used properly most people will infer this on shorter questions like this one. There is no absolute need to keep it and it seemed lacking when I removed the one question that is off topic. Where would be the best place to source the parts for this? is definitely off topic and should be removed. see About:Ontopic
    – Matt
    Oct 20, 2017 at 15:02

1 Answer 1


Steam distillation is used to convert catnip leaves to concentrated catnip oil. There is an Instructable that I've followed in the past to make what they call kitty crack.

It's relatively simple, at least the distillation portion. The leaves are placed in a container on a heat source and water is added. The collection is boiled and the vapor containing water and oil condenses on an inverted lid over the container. Gravity pulls the condensate to the center where it drips into a smaller container on a stand in the middle of the concoction.

kitty crack distillation image

It's using ordinary household materials, including loads of ice! I've forgotten how many times I had to refill the inverted lid due to the heat transfer.

The chemical aspects of the catnip process will be different from your selected herbs, I'm sure and I can't advise that portion, but I suspect you have a few leads for processing the condensate.

I processed about a pound of catnip leaves and recovered a couple grams of concentrated kitty crack, which seems tiny, but they were dry leaves. Your herbs will probably have more oil than dry catnip. Running the same batch of leaves about five times means each sequence will be more water, less oil, but ensures maximum recovery.

I dumped the leaf mush in the yard in view of the security cameras. There was enough catnip remaining in the mush to attract more than a few local felines for a stoner session.

  • 2
    Great answer. The only thing I would add is that each time the shot-glass shaped container gets full, you should remove it from the heat and let the oil/water mixture cool and separate out. Then use a pipette to pull the oil out for bottling. What collects in the shot glass wont be a pure distillate as water will condense against the icy pot cover as well as oil. But once you've got it down to oil and water, time will do the rest. Oct 19, 2017 at 20:07
  • @HenryTaylor Yep, that was my plan - essential oils are all hydrophobic as far as I'm aware and I've got some lovely long test tube-y containers for the mix to settle in.
    – Korthalion
    Oct 20, 2017 at 12:29
  • Thanks for this answer Fred, great little guide you have linked!
    – Korthalion
    Oct 20, 2017 at 12:29

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