While tea tree essential oil is easily accessible through on-line websites and whole food stores, it can be educational, fun and rewarding to make your own oil at home. It is not nearly as difficult as one may think and can quickly become a great hobby. The one obstacle that comes with making your own tea tree oil is that it can be difficult to buy or come across the leaves. The tree only grows naturally in Australia but it can be grown in certain areas elsewhere as long as the climate allows. This may enable you to buy the leaves from a nursery or distributor. If this is not an option, you can try to track down a supplier who is willing to ship the leaves. Be sure to buy dried leaves so that the oil is safely contained inside. Also, only buy leaves from the melaleuca alternifolia tree. There are many other trees that go by that are considered to be tea trees but will not produce you with the type of essential oil that you are looking for.
Tea tree oil cannot be synthetically made and the process of steam distilling can be daunting at first. There will be an initial investment of buying the equipment but you can then use it with other materials to make other types of essential oil.
What You Will Need
- Dried Tea Tree Leaves
You will need enough to fill up the upper container of your distillation set several times in order to get a substantial amount of essential oil. You want the leaves whole and not cut or damaged in any way.
- Distillation Set
A glass or stainless steel set is best but they will cost more. A distillation set can be purchased from a chemistry lab or on the internet. They can also be rented.
Water will need to be replenished throughout the distillation process.
- Boiling Chips
Boiling chips keep the water from boiling violently and ruining the distillation process. They can be purchased online or wherever you can buy a distillation set. They are a critical part of the essential oil making process and should not be left out.
- Tinted Dropper Bottle
This is what you will be storing your essential oil in. Oils store best in dark glass and will stay fresher longer this way. Try to use one with a eyedropper attached to the lid to make distribution easier. Be cautious if using a bottle that previously held a different essential oil. It can be difficult to completely clean the bottle and remove all the residue and fragrance from the previous oil, which can affect the new oil that will be placed in it.
- Safety Goggles
Protecting your eyes is important when working with steam and a distillation set.
While rare, tea tree oil can irritate the skin if it comes into direct contact without being diluted first.
- Fire Extinguisher
Essential oils are flammable and all have a different temperature in which they will begin to burn. If the distillation process is done correctly, there is no concern for fire. But if the oil does somehow become overheated, it is best to have a fire extinguisher nearby. Water will not put out an oil fire.
Begin by setting up your distillation set. You should read through all of the instructions and become acquainted with the parts and operations of the machine. Place the set on a flat surface that is near an electrical outlet. It should also be out of reach of children and pets for safety purposes. Your fire extinguisher should be nearby. Once the distillation set is ready, put on your safety goggles and gloves.
Pour the water into the boiling container. The container should never be less than 30% full but should never exceed 75%. Connect the container to the distillation unit. You can now add the boiling chips to prevent the water from rapidly moving through the distillation unit and damaging the leaves. Place as many leaves as you can in the upper container of the distillation set without packaging them so tightly that steam cannot pass through them. This may take a few tries to get right. If you put too many, the steam will not be able to extract as much oil. If you put too few, it will take you much longer to distill all of the leaves.
Begin a low water flow into the distillation set’s condense. This is what will enable the oil to go through the tube. Turn the hot plate on and the steam distillation process will start. The plate will heat the water and steam will begin to push through the tea tree leaves and they will start to shrink. The heat needs to stay on for at least 30 minutes but may take up to 3 hours. Most of the oil will escape the leaves within the first half hour but the extra time will ensure that all possible oil was extracted. When finished, shut off the hot plate.
Your container should hold essential oil on the bottom and water on top. Simply pour the water off and safely transfer the oil. You can repeat the process as many times as you would like or are able to in order to get as much essential oil as possible. To repeat, remove the current leaves and replace with new ones.
After all of the oil has been transferred to the dark dropper bottle, store it in a cool and dark place. If properly stored, it should last up to a year.
While time consuming when compared to buying already made oil, this process is rewarding and will guarantee that you are using completely natural and undiluted tea tree oil.