A few days ago I decided that it would be interesting to try to distill violet leaf. To the best of my knowledge, true violet FLOWER essential oil is non-existent. You will possibly find people who sell it, but my guess is that they are either misinformed or dishonest. The LEAF oil is available and is obtained through solvent extraction. The leaf oil is soothing and relaxing, green and earthy at the same time. It is often used in skin care products. So even though I knew there would be no essential oil produced from a steam distillation, sometimes I get some pretty interesting hydrosols. That would be pretty cool in a lotion, if it works...
Originally my thought was to wait until fall when the leaves would be more substantial, but I just couldn't wait. Now it will be fun to do it again at that time and compare the results.
As it turns out, in the spring it is almost as time-consuming to pick a basketful of leaves as it is to pick a basket full of blossoms. The young leaves are still below the flowers, making the picking a little complicated. It took a few hours to do, but it was such a gorgeous day that the time flew. The best leaves were in the woods, along the path.
|There is a full market basket of leaves crammed into that globe.
The first few tablespoons of hydrosol to be produced had an almost melon-y scent. Very interesting and complex. However, over the course of the next 45 minutes, the green bean scent that is typical of leaves with little or no essential oil became more pronounced. Plantain, jewelweed, comfrey, chickweed - all produce a green bean type aroma. In many cases, the hydrosol still has the property we're looking for, especially jewelweed and comfrey.
So the basketful of leaves eventually steams down to about 3 cups worth of green goo. In less than an hour, the steam finds a direct channel through the goo and bubbles up through that one spot consistently. It occurs to me that the distillation is finished, because it is pretty much just steam anymore - not passing through the material, but making a straight shot through it instead.
|If you look just below the clamp and compare it to the picture above, you'll see the mesh plug protruding downward.
It was late, so I left the still to cool and went to bed. This morning the goo had really settled in and was starting to ooze out of the bottom of the flask. There's a mesh plug that is not a tight fit - but it never got pushed out before. Fortunately the goo was pretty intertwined in the mesh... Not my favorite before-breakfast activity, but it all worked out.
I'm very curious to see what happens in a few months with leaves that are not so tender, and also to see if the background fragrance will develop.