Lemon grass distillation has the potential to be used in other countries to produce lemon grass essential oil. It can be used in soaps, beauty products, insect repellants, culinary dishes, and herbal remedies. The leaves themselves have great healing value when used as a tea for colds, coughs, and congestion. The oil has antimicrobial, fungicidal, and antibacterial properties, making it useful in treating external ringworms, lice, athletes foot, and acne. This article will give step-by-step instructions for the steam distillation process.
The objective of steam distillation is to extract the oil from the leaves. The first step is to dry the leaves for 24 hrs and then cut them in smaller pieces. Cutting the leaves will maximize the surface area of the leaves and will increase oil yields.
The main elements of a steam distiller are the steel pot, distillation column, condenser, source of cold water, and a heat source. The steel pot holds the dried lemongrass and boiling water. In order to keep the lemongrass above the boiling water, you must place a vegetable steamer in the bottom of the pot. Pack the dried lemongrass leaves into the pot. Fill the pot up to the bottom of the vegetable steamer.
Clamp the top to the steel pot securely. Fill a tub with cold water. The water will be used to feed into the condenser. You will need a hose and pump to feed the water in and a discharge hose back into the tub. The discharge hose attaches to the bottom of the condenser. Depending on the size of your tub, you may need to add ice to the water to keep it cool during the condensation process.
Place the pot on a heat source, preferably a gas burner. Gas will boil the water faster than an electric burner and can be adjusted much more easily. Insert a thermometer into the distillation column. The thermometer will allow you to monitor the water temperature in the distillation column. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes for the steam to begin flowing down into the condenser. Once the steam begins flowing, turn on the cold water pump.
To catch the hydrosol (a mixture of essential oil and water), place a glass container under the condenser discharge tube. As the steam cools in the condenser, it will gradually drip into the glass container. Let the distiller run for 2-3 hours, making sure that the pot does not run out of water. You will notice a gradual drop off in the amount of essential oil coming out of the condenser.
In order to separate the oil and water, you will need a glass container with a small neck. Fill the container until the essential oil reaches the neck of the container. At this point you will be able to see the separation of oil more clearly and can skim it off the top by pouring it into another container.