Jasmines are shrubs and plants belonging to the olive species that originated in Persia, China, and the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains. They grow nowadays in tropical and warm temperate climate zones. Jasmine flowers are mostly white although yellow and reddish-pink jasmine blossoms are popular with gardeners. The small, waxy white flowers of the Jasminum grandiflorum variety exhale a rich, floral aroma in the evenings. Jasmine extract, or essential oil, is a prime ingredient of the world’s greatest perfumes.
Essential oils are extracts from various parts of a plant such as flowers, stalks, leaves, branches, fruit, seed, or bark. Jasmine extracts are the essential oils of the flowers alone. The flowers are picked mostly during the evening or night when their aroma is most intense, though some varieties produce scent in the morning. Jasmine flowers have only a small oil concentration and it may require between 8,000 and 10,000 blossoms to produce one gram of essential oil. They are very fragile and should not be bruised as this would affect the oil’s quality.
Enfleurage is an ancient method of extracting essential oils from delicate flowers like jasmine. It is also expensive and time consuming. Freshly picked blossoms are placed on trays of colourless and odourless animal or vegetable fat. The fat absorbs the aroma over a few hours or days, taking a shorter time when the weather is warmer. The petals are removed and replaced with fresh blossoms. The process continues until the fat is saturated with the aroma. The addition of alcohol, such as ethyl alcohol, separates the fat from the essential oil. The alcohol evaporates leaving the essential oil, or jasmine extract.
Solvent extraction is the dominant method used by the perfume industry to produce essential oils. Blossoms are immersed a hydrocarbon solvent such as acetone, hexane, or di-methylene chloride. The solution is filtered and distilled to concentrate it, creating a thick substance called a “concrete.” This is mixed with alcohol as in the enfleurage method to create an “absolute” and to separate out the essential oil. However, as the solvent chemicals remain in the essential oil, they affect the quality of the extract. This type of jasmine extract is used in shampoos, bath gels, and air fresheners.
Super critical fluid extraction
Carbon dioxide gas liquefies when subjected to high pressure. This is known as its critical point and occurs at temperatures of 31.1 degrees Celsius (87.9 degrees Fahrenheit) and pressures of 78.8 bar (1,142 psi). Liquid CO2 is an inert and non-toxic solvent that can substitute for the hydrocarbons used to dissolve jasmine blossoms, and does so faster. The resulting “concrete” also contains fewer solvent residues. It is mixed with alcohol, making an “absolute” that will separate out the essential oil.
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