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The University of Western Ontario

Faculty of Engineering

CBE 2206a Organic Chemistry 1

Essential Oils and Steam Distillation
Edmund Leung - 250749713
Aaron Alaimo, Andrew Heaslip, Brendan Hewton
Professor E.R. Gillies
October 14, 2014

The purpose of this lab was to perform a steam distillation process and gas
chromatograph to analyze the components of an essential oil. Essential oils are highly
concentrated, volatile oils that can be extracted from aromatic plants. The steam distillation
process extracted basil oil and gas chromatography was used to find the various major
compounds. It was observed during this lab that steam distillation is a useful method for
determining the components of essential oils.

Steam distillation is a process to extract various components of an essential oil. Essential
oils are highly concentrated, volatile compounds extracted from aromatic plants such as berries,
seeds, bark, wood, leaves, resins, flowers and fruit peel. These products are used in perfumery,
aromatherapy, cosmetics, incense, flavours in foods and drinks and household cleaning products.
Extraction can be achieved from distillation, solvent extraction, pressing, and fluid extraction
with liquid CO
. However, steam distillation is the most common method for extracting essential
The purpose of steam distillation is to boil a mixture of compounds at a boiling point
lower than the boiling points of the individual compounds. During the steam distillation process,
substances are volatized at temperatures close to 100C. Substances in these essential oils
comprise of boiling points up to or past 200C. The process initiates by forming vapour in the
apparatus that will pass through a cooling system. The vapour then condenses to form a liquid,
which would contain the oil layer and a water layer. Since most essential oils are less dense than
water, the oil will be the top layer. Therefore, it is easy to extract the oil from the water.
The materials used for this lab are 1 L, round bottom flask, distillation glass ware, heating
mantle, graduated cylinder and a sample of ocimum basilicum oil. A Varian Gas Chromatograph
with 20m Biosil-5 column, FID detector containing He as the carrier gas was used for this
experiment. The column oven was designed to rise from 75C to 200C at 5C /min with a total
run time of 28 minutes.

The first step of this lab was to assemble the distillation apparatus. Next transfer 300 ml
of water to a 1L round-bottom flask. Connect the flask to the distillation apparatus. Heat the
water to boiling until approximately 75 ml of condensate has collected in the graduated cylinder;
transfer the contents of the sample vial into the boiling flask with a pipette. Then collect 25 ml of
distillate. Rinse the vial with acetone and transfer the oil layer from the top of the receiver with a
pipette. Add a small amount of sodium sulfate to dry the oil sample. Run a sample, using 1 micro
litre through the gas chromatograph to analyze the sample.

Figure 1: Steam Distillation Apparatus
There are many different species that is comprised in ocimum basilicum essential oil.
Since they are many components, it is difficult to determine the exact oil for each retention time.
However, it is known that Linalool as the major component should contain the highest percent
composition followed by Engenol and 1,8-Cineol. The rest of the compounds were used based on
how common they relative to the retention times.
Table 1: GC Sample
Retention % Composition Boiling Point Compound
8.070 1.6549 -Pinene
8.270 0.9999 b-Pinene
9.043 7.1059 1,8-Cineol
9.416 4.8169 c-Terpin
10.396 62.0537 Linalool
10.813 5.0852 Myrtenol
11.070 7.3482 a-Cubebene
11.730 10.9354 Eugenol