Steam Distillation, Sedona Updates & Photos!

As some of you know, I was fortunate enough to visit Sedona, Arizona back in October 2021 to work with Clare Licher of PhiBee Aromatics. This experience truly opened my eyes to the magic of steam distillation, and allowed me to witnes aromatic plants in action in ways I had never seen before. Although the landscape of Arizona might be seen as the polar opposite of New England…I have found it to be surprisingly similar. In Sedona, there is an abundance of beautiful flowering cacti, agave, and desert flowers, yet it doesn't lack conifer trees such as pine, spruce, fir, cypress, and junipers- all lovely trees that we have back East! Ever since I returned home from Sedona the first time, I have had an intense desire to learn more about plant distillation, and to put my energy towards working hands on with botanicals in order to create the most vibrant essential oils and hydrosols, while continuing to learn from experience with nature.

When the opportunity came along to return to Sedona for an extended period of time, I couldn’t pass it up! So, I left Rhode Island in early April, and so far have spent the last month and a half in one of the most beautiful places on earth. I am so fortunate for this experience, and to be able to learn from the best teacher and mentor, who has become a dear friend. Clare has given numerous speeches, published articles on essential oils, alchemy, and botanicals, and has been distilling with her husband Max for over 15 years. Together, we have been having a blast (and working hard!), collecting and distilling throughout the past few weeks. So far, we have distilled rosemary, lemon peel, arizona juniper, pinyon pine / chaparral co-distill, ponderosa pine, valencia orange, grapefruit, blue spruce… and Douglas fir, white sage, and Cleveland Sage is in the still as I write this!

To purchase any of these oils or learn more about PhiBee Aromatics, I encourage you to check out their website or click on any of the underlined text above to learn about the specific essential oil! Most of the essential oils are wild harvested from absolutely beautiful locations, where nature does its best work- left untouched to blossom on its own. The rest are cultivated and sustainably harvested from gardens here in Sedona. 

Here are a few photos from recent collection trips! 

Processing blue spruce in Flagstaff, AZBlue Spruce Processing blue spruce in Flagstaff, AZHanging out with a ponderosa pine while collecting!

Flowering prickly pear cactus with honey beeCollection of Douglas fir on the Mogollon Rim

So, what is steam distillation, and how does it work? 

A quote that I read recently that I thoroughly enjoyed, “(Alchemy) is like unto death, which separates the eternal from the mortal '' (Paracelsus). Steam distillation extracts the essence of the plant, the volatile components, producing an aromatic essential oil & hydrosol. One might call aromatics the vital force… distillation produces a powerful, concentrated version of the plant which contains its botanical wisdom along with a multitude of therapeutic compounds. Some essential oils can contain over 200+ individual chemical constituents! In addition to essential oil, the steam distillation process also produces a therapeutic water product, known as a hydrosol- capturing the hydrophilic components of an aromatic plant. Rosewater may be the most commonly known example of a hydrosol that people know and love! For production of essential oils via steam distillation, the plant material must first be loaded into a large chamber, known as the retort. Steam is then generated, which passes through the plant material, creating pressure and heat within the retort.​ This steam volatizes the aromatic compounds, which rise within the steam, until they reach the condenser, where the steam is cooled and forms these two beautiful components- hydrosol ( the water portion), and essential oil! The photo below shows essential oil bubbles floating in the hydrosol after passing through the condenser… as we know, oil and water don't mix, which is why we are left with two separate, but equally beautiful aromatic products. 

My plan is to continue to learn from Clare, gain experience with aromatics and botanical medicine, and return back to the East Coast to put this new knowledge to action, and create magic at home! I thought that the one month mark was a perfect time to provide a more extensive update than I am able to keep up with on social media. I can't wait to continue providing updates as we distill and collect more plants, and have loved staying in touch with some of you over the past few weeks! I hope you get the chance to check out the PhiBee Aromatics website, and order some essential oils that are new to you!  As always, I cant thank you each enough for the support over the years that allowed me to take this step to continue my education and the growth of 42020 Visionaries. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments, or reach out directly if anything has piqued your interest. :)


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