Absolutes? Not Absolutely

the fragrant jasmine blossom

the fragrant jasmine blossom can be steam distilled or an absolute

Straight from Wikipedia I thought this was a good explanation of an absolute:

Used in perfumery and aromatherapy, absolutes are similar to essential oils. They are concentrated, highly-aromatic, oily mixtures extracted from plants. Whereas essential oils can typically be produced through steam distillation, absolutes require the use of solvent extraction techniques or more traditionally, through enfleurage.

So basically absolutes are essential oils derived from solvent extraction or enfleurage.

Enfleurage is a term to describe the extraction process. It can be cold or hot and unfortunately animal fats are used. Right off the bat that turns me off. I’m a vegetarian and have been for nearly 30 years. I don’t wear leather and try to be mindful of everything I buy or consume in my life. I don’t buy absolutes for this reason. This method was created hundreds of years ago specifically for perfumery. I really can’t think of anything worse than mixing botanical substances in hot tallow to extract a scent. Blah. And if you didn’t know –  hoofs and other materials from the bodies of horses, cows and pigs are boiled up to make things like tallow and gelatine.

I’m not even sure if this method is used in commercial production at all.

Adorable cow and calf

Adorable cow and calf

In both instances, once the fat is saturated with fragrance, it is then called the “enfleurage pomade”. The enfleurage pomade was either sold as it was, or it could be further washed or soaked in ethyl alcohol to draw the fragrant molecules into the alcohol. The alcohol is then separated from the fat and allowed to evaporate, leaving behind the absolute of the botanical matter. The spent fat is usually used to make soaps since it is still relatively fragrant.


Then there’s solvent extraction which usually uses some type of chemical to extract the scent. Often hexane is used which some people claim is safe, but I’m not quite sure about that. It’s usually alcohol that’s used and I suppose it’s relatively harmless. When this method is used a “concrete” is formed, which is then soaked in alcohol. When the alcohol evaporates, the absolute remains.

the structure of hexane - from wikipedia

the structure of hexane – from wikipedia

Gasoline has a high amount of hexane but I’m not sure about the origin of the hexane that used in absolute production. I’m unsure if it would come from petrol, or if it would be synthesized in a lab and sold by chemical companies. At any rate, I’d prefer to buy a steam distilled oil, or an oil produced by CO2 extraction which is also called Super Critical extraction. That sounds a bit wrong but the CO2 method seems to be an environmentally friendly way to extract aromatic compounds. I’ll do a separate article on that.



Oils that you may find as an absolute –





Lotus – pink and white






Tomato leaf

Violet leaf



And there are probably lots more too. It’s totally up to you as to what oils you buy but I prefer to choose oils that have a more simple extraction method.

Your thoughts?

oakmoss - is this sustainably produced?

oakmoss – is this sustainably produced?


copyright suzannerbanks 2013

Essential Oils 3% in Jojoba – What are they, and Why?

3% of essential oils in the bottle of jojoba

3% of essential oils in the bottle of jojoba

Oils that are sold as 3% in jojoba are mostly done so because of the cost. These oils are considered premium oils and are beautiful and more expensive than the regular oils like lavender and orange, for example.

These oils are usually sold this way:





German Chamomile

Roman Chamomile


and now also






Violet leaf

Tomato leaf……. and others.

When I was writing my last article I had to think clearly about what ratios I suggested for making a facial moisturiser of essential oil of rose, in rosehip oil. (See Rose and Rosehip – A Winning Combination for Youthful Skin http://wp.me/p2R7rE-cb )

When making an oil blend for a client’s treatment I usually take the dropper out and free pour the 3% blend into the bottle. When making other products I usually use the 100% pure oils, or not at all.

So I thought about it.

thinking....... pic via designthinkingworkshop2011.wordpress.com

thinking……. pic via designthinkingworkshop2011.wordpress.com

Then scribbled ratios, percentages and varying numbers on the page. Then sent a message to my aromatherapist Vicky to ask her opinion.


There is 3% of pure rose oil in each drop (of the 3% in jojoba). Imagine dividing that drop into 100 parts and then times it by 3. Miniscule.


Yes so I’m saying there’s 0.03 drops of rose oil in 1 drop of a blended oil. So if I wanted 1 drop of rose oil I’d have to multiply by 30.


If you multiply by 30 you’d get 90% pure. Now my brain’s fried.

33.3 drops (of the blend) is 1 pure drop…..I think”

So there you have it. How many aromatherapists does it take to do the maths?

Vicky just uses the 3% blends as if they are pure and adds a little more. She does this because she commented on the power and strength these oils seem to have. So even though the oils are far less concentrated, you won’t need as much as a standard oil anyway. But when it comes to recommending ratios I thought I would decide on my own and stick with it.

amplify your aura with a nourishing body oil

amplify your aura with a nourishing body oil

I made an oil for a treatment with a single oil – rose – to test it out. I decided to multiply by 3. If it was pure rose oil I would use the standard ratio, but using the blended oil I’ve decided to triple it:

50 mls of carrier oil

25 drops of pure rose (or less)


75 drops of rose 3% in jojoba


When I made an oil the other day for a treatment I used 3 oils in the blend. I doubled the 3% oil (rather than tripled)  as it seemed to work better:

50 mls carrier oil

Roman chamomile 3 %  12 drops (pure would have been 6 or less)

Bergamot                       12 drops

Frankincense                    6 drops


oh so pretty

oh so pretty voilets – it’s the leaf NOT the petals that are used to make the oil

Often these stunning essential oils that are blended with jojoba in a 3% ratio, are very strong too and so less is needed.

The benefits of having these gorgeous oils is that they are ready made perfumes!

Nothing is a sweeter scent than a few drops of jasmine, rose or neroli.

No alcohol to cheapen the lovey roundness of the oils.

No superfluous packing.

No hidden marketing costs.

Just a little amber bottle full of divine love.


copyright suzannerbanks 2013

Green and Herbaceous – Tomato Leaf and Violet Leaf Oils


Solanum lycopersicum

Tomato leaf essential oil actually exists! I don’t keep it in my library of oils because I’m not really sure that about its therapeutic properties. I was chatting with someone recently and we got talking about ‘fresh scents” and her ultimate smell for representing freshness and green essence was tomato leaf. She couldn’t believe it when I told her there was as essential oil.

In fact I think there is only an absolute of tomato leaf. Absolutes are still included under the essential oil banner but they different because of the extraction process. Often absolutes are from precious or delicate flowers and other medium. Solvents are used in the extraction process and unfortunately because of little or no industry standards, the solvent used can be hazardous or toxic and traces of the chemicals used can be present in the final product. Sometime natural chemicals are used and the process requires a type of change to occur to produce a mass of oily and water soluble parts of the flower or plant. This is called a concrete and it is then mixed with ethanol to extract the fragrant compounds. Filtration helps clean the absolute to create a scent that is very concentrated and close to the plant in its natural form.

So anyway, tomato leaf. Believe it or not, it smells exactly like tomato leaf. It smells green, peppery, and herbaceous. I wouldn’t use this oil in a treatment with a client but I may consider using it with an intention to amplify a scent in a perfume.

Viola odorata

Viola odorata

Violet leaf has a similar story. It’s an absolute. It has an herbaceous, green scent. There isn’t much information the breakdown of the chemical constituents so it is hard to determine what therapeutic properties this oil will have. Once again I wouldn’t be very excited to use this with a client in a body massage but I’m thinking that both these oils could work well on a spiritual and energetic level. The violet flower is an intense purple colour, with a sweet intoxicating yet subtle scent. This colour draws you in when you see it and it relates to the crown chakra, to opening and connecting with universal intelligence. Perhaps the role of the leaf for the pretty little violet flower is to give it support and protection. Could this oil be good for nourishing spiritual growth and giving someone the courage to expose their psychic powers to the world?

oh so pretty

oh so pretty

What do you think?

And what could you use tomato leaf for?

I love the idea of these leaves supporting the fruit and flower and giving us unusual scents to play with. Aromatherapy is an art and I encourage you to explore the infinite possibilities of our scented world.