Myrtle Distillation (Archive 2016)

Myrtle hydro distillation and absolute production attempt January 2016.

A couple of days ago I noticed a very fragrant bush in my parents garden covered in small white flowers. turns out it is a Myrtle, Myrtus communis Varigata. I decided to see what I could create from it. Their tree was a bit odd though as it started out as a variagated bush and in recent years new leaves were not fully green. lower branches still had variagted leaves. it hasn’t been grafted. The scent was most prominent in the early evening. 
Coconut infused Myrtle blossom


 I decided to use the flowers for my first attempt at an absolute production. I harvested by hand approximately 100 gm of flower heads and pressed them into organic coconut oil. Straight away I realised of course that my lovely high quality coconut oil had it’s own delicious fragrance. However I persevered and impregnated the coconut oil with 2 batches of petals/flower heads. Due to the heat here in summer in NZ the coconut oil is liquid at room temperature so I put in the fridge for the first batch of flowers which I left in for 24 hours. I then replaced with the second batch which I left in for 12 hours. 

I strained the coconut oil and it had a slight cloudy colour and, whilst it still smelt of coconut, there was a sweetness and almost rose blossom like delicate aroma to it. I decided it was not worth progressing and trying to soak in alcohol as I only obtained around 40 ml out of the 200 ml coconut oil. The rest was soaked up by the flowers. I will leave this to harden and use as a perfume as it is.

Myrtle leaves co distilled with lemon verbena hydrosol.
I stripped the branchlets off and mainly distilled the leaves- plus a few remaining flowers and tiny twigs. My small 2 litre still held 375 gm fresh plant material and I added 2.5 litres boiling lemon verbena hydrosol.


This hydrosol was from a commercial distillation and had a pH of 6.5. Once the still was sealed with duct tape and gas turned on, distillate appeared after 2m 45 seconds. For the first 300 ml there was a slight green tinge to the distillate which then turned brown after 20 minutes. 


I continued distilling for 30 minutess and obtained 450 ml. I turned off the heat after 30 mins , just as the aroma coming out started to smell ‘cooked’. The hydrosol had a lovely sweet, slight citrus, slight ‘green’, slight floral aroma. it was noticeably different to the plain lemon verbena which smells crisp and fresh. In Jeanne Roses' book, "375 essential oils and hydrosols", she notes that myrtle hydrosol is toning, astringent, refreshing, removes fatigue. It can be used externally as an eye compress and for sore throats. It appears to have ant inflammatory properties. Myrtle is not mentioned in either of the books on hydrosols by Ann Harman or Suzanne Catty.

Posted: Tuesday 4 January 2022